I took my little girl to the launch of The UP Garden at the end of October. It was so great to see the place teeming with families doing the arts and crafts workshop, with others exploring various parts of garden such as the tyre maze planters, or the mud pit area. Two local residents wandered around playing music on their violin and guitar, one of whom had helped me with some carpentry for the mural. Knowing all the work the volunteers have put into the space it really was a joy to see it come alive like that, and it was great to chat to so many of the people I have met while painting the mural there.

I initially came across The UP Garden on social media, and one day while walking to Forest Gate station I took a detour and popped my head over the gates to see the space. I loved the idea of this huge derelict yard being transformed by volunteers for the local community. I had painted a couple of murals recently so I decided to reach out and see if perhaps I could add some colour to the space.

After chatting with the project founder Suz, I discovered the nursery my little girl attends will get to use the space too, so that gave me some extra motivation to get involved.

Originally from Ireland, I moved to Forest Gate just over two years ago, fittingly in search of a garden of my own, although I have been living in London for almost 15 years. My work explores interactions of colour, shape, texture, and form, through both contemporary and traditional techniques, including digital and analog collage, cut-outs and mark making, with the final compositions often then painted onto canvas.

Although I come to art from a graphic design background my recent work has been more abstract than this mural, but I had an urge to do something typographic for this, so I guess the outcome is somewhere in-between the disciplines. The concept came from a conversation I had with Suz about the colourful graphic way finding I had seen on the footpaths on the way to the garden, which lead me to think of the song The Only Way Is Up, by Yazz (originally sang by Otis Clay). Although not a massive fan of the song, or at least not the famous version, the title captured the kind of positive message I wanted to communicate, and it just developed from there.

I am told that over 165 visitors came to the launch, who between them planted over 250 plants (covering over 100 different species). Later in the afternoon, there were some speeches with one from a resident ofthe estate that The UP Garden is in called Yvonne who beamed:

"I've lived here for many years, with no garden of my own, and had to look over this huge space filled with huge overgrown weeds so no one could get in. Now I can enjoy my morning cuppa in the fresh air sitting on these chairs donated and upcycled by our own community!".

Another resident called Vikram commented,

“It is nice to have a community garden, and garden with other people. Through the volunteer sessions before the launch, I met Kelly who lives on the estate and also really likes gardening. We both have lived here about 20-30 years, but never met. Now we built planters together... filled them... planted them.”

I’m excited that my little girl and her pals from the nursery will have such a fantastic space on their doorstep to explore, learn about plants, bugs, growing vegetables and just have fun running around. I’m looking forward to seeing the garden develop and evolve while spending time with my little family here.

This Sunday 4th of December, The UP Garden has a Wintertide event happening from 10am–12pm. Everyone is invited to help plant bulbs for colourful blooms in the new year and there’ll also be urban nature themed crafts for the little ones alongside live music for all. Lots more info on TheUP Garden links below.

The UP Garden

Website: https://www.theupgarden.org/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theupgarden/

Andy Mac Manus

Website: https://andymacmanus.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andymacmanus/