A 3 year art and science participatory project that used Joseph Chamberlain’s passion for orchid growing as a means to engage new audiences in conversations on current cultural, political and global conservation themes.
The project emerged from a period of residency in the Research and Cultural Collections at University of Birmingham and toured to The International Orchid Conference at Kew Gardens, The RHS International Orchid Fair in Malvern and 2019 and 2020 Heritage Open Days at Highbury, the Birmingham residence of Joseph Chamberlain.
Collaborating with world orchid authority Philip Seaton, I ran art and science workshops from a touring display before making a range of ceramic tiles and orchid growing vessels with groups of students from Uffculme School, Dudley College and Birmingham City University. These were inspired by props that appeared in satirical cartoons of Chamberlain during his political career.
Other collaborators included leather plant hanger making with designer maker Deborette Clarke, bread making with artist Albert Smith and fruit tree maintenance with Rob Tilling, who all ran drop in workshops from the touring display.
The vessels were displayed as part of the Heritage Open Day at Highbury (2020) alongside 3 plant specially commissioned plant stands that made architectural reference to public memorials to Chamberlain in Birmingham.
You can read a text on how the project developed here
The project was due to be presented at the University of Birmingham’s Arts and Science Festival 2020 but due to the Covid restrictions this was adapted into the online Silent Orchid Festival and Summer School which run throughout the summer of 2020.
The project was generously supported by Arts Council England, Bruntwood, University of Birmingham, New Art West Midlands, The Research and Cultural Collections at University of Birmingham, The Chamberlain Highbury Trust and The John Feeney Trust.