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With Us All – Sufra and Sean Roy Parker

A glasshouse commissioned for a community garden in the heart of the St. Raphael estate

About the project

With Us All is a community commission to build a glasshouse in an edible garden. 

The community partner is Sufra Foodbank and Kitchen – a Brent-based charity who run the edible garden. It was established in 2013 to address the causes and consequences of impoverishment in the community. We have been working with them on the commission since the 2022 Brent Biennial.

With Us All timeline

With Us All began as part of the 2022 Brent Biennial. It developed slowly, using our community partnership framework. It is designed to understand the needs and desires of a community before moving forward to develop a brief and choose an artist.

Over six months workshops took place to develop a brief for a permanent artwork for St Raphael’s Edible Garden and select the artist to create it.

The sessions involved staff from the garden, volunteers and residents from St Raphael’s estate. The workshops were facilitated by A’lshah Waheed, with the curator of the 2022 Brent Biennial, Eliel Jones. Together the group chose artist Sean Roy Parker (known as Roy) to create the artwork. His proposal centred around creating a small structure in the garden to help deepen people’s relationships with the space.

Sean Roy Parker asked:
“What happens when we look closer? How does connecting with our (more-than) human neighbours affect our sense of place and self? Who speaks when we are silent? Can we look up when we feel down?”

From proposal to co-creation

Roy developed his proposal further in 2023, looking at potential sites within the garden and meeting the community to understand how they use the space.

Over the summer of 2023 open workshops were held to bring the local community into the design of the project.

Digging Up Words

On Saturday 26th August, the first workshop for With Us All took place at St Raph’s Edible Garden. The workshop session was led by writer Priya Jay.

During the workshop, Priya asked the attendees to look, listen and smell closely and carefully. They tuned in to different senses and scales, observing the growing plants, as well as what lies under them, around them and above them.

Priya encouraged everyone to write love letters to the plants and compost, give thanks to the tools, and write from the perspectives of animals and insects. The group wrote on found materials throughout the garden in chalk pen: scrap paper, plant labels, pots, seed trays and wheelbarrows. These fragments were left for others to encounter, or for the rain to wash away.

Tasting and Healing

The second workshop, Tasting and Healing, was run by artist Izzy Johns. Participants took a tour of the garden, learning about the different healing benefits of the plants they encountered. Regrouping in the yurt, everyone shared memories related to plants and discussed their own experiences of using plants for healing.

Afterwards Izzy lead participants through making healing balms from ingredients that can be found in St. Raphael’s edible garden. The finished balms are kept in the glasshouse where anyone in need can use them.

Making and Building

The culmination of the workshop series was a 3 day workshop of building and making. A small group of participants, all local community members, were led by artists and makers Hannah-Lily Lanyon and Jack Narbed, learning woodwork and fabrication skills.

Each lunchtime hot meals were cooked by artist Sean Roy Parker using surplus donations and ingredients from the edible garden and shared by all in the garden.

The participants’ new woodworking skills were then put into practice in making furniture, including shelving, a desk and a bench – all made to measure specifically for the glasshouse.

Workshop participants later came to the glasshouse opening to see their creations in place, and to see their names that are now etched into wood of the glasshouse.

Building the Glasshouse

Running alongside the final workshop was the construction of the glasshouse itself. The glasshouse is made up almost entirely from recycled sash windows which were assembled according to designs by Sean Roy Parker. The fabrication of the glasshouse was led by Chris Prempeh with assistance from Sean Roy Parker, project curator Christy O’Beirne and apprentice Om Majithia. It took the team 10 days to construct the glasshouse structure in the grounds of St. Raphael’s Edible Garden.

Unveiling

On the 4th of November 2023 the glasshouse was unveiled to the public as part of a community celebration at St. Raphael’s edible garden. There was music from Goblin band, speeches by Sean Roy Parker and local community leaders, and hot food and drinks. It was a wonderful experience to see so many from the local area come together to witness the opening of this new community resource in the edible garden.

Accessibility consultation and support for this opening event was provided by Quiplash.

Below you can listen to the audiocassette created by the With Us All team that tells the story of the glasshouse’s creation and gives prompts for creative exploration. This cassette lives inside the glasshouse and is ready to be played by visitors, adding a soundtrack to the space.


About the artist

Sean Roy Parker is a writer, cook, gardener and visual artist based at Michael House co-living project in Shipley, Derbyshire. He practises slow, low-tech crafts and landwork. He uses leftover consumer debris and natural abundances. Roy is a self-taught fermentation enthusiast and soil builder. He redistributes matter through labour exchange, favours, artswaps, community meals and teaching.

In his ongoing project Fermental Health he writes and leads workshops on the lifecycle of materials, complexities of interspecies responsibility, and problem-solving through collaborative action.

fermentalhealth.substack.com