ANYBODY with a Somerstown connection, past or present, is invited to add their handprint to the Forest of Somerstown community art project on Saturday 27 November.
Free cake, free hot drinks, a DJ and free winter wreath-making craft, for adults and children, will be on offer at the public open drop-in session, on the corner of Earlsdon Street and Melbourne Place, any time from 11am to 3pm.
“If Somerstown means something to you then we want all your family, friends, work mates, school mates, and anybody else you can of, to come and join us,” said Cllr Darren Sanders, cabinet member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness.
The Somerstown community’s painted handprints will form the leaves to fill the bare trees of the Forest of Somerstown mural – an important part of Somerstown Street Gallery which is bringing to life the site boundary surrounding two tower blocks that Portsmouth City Council is bringing down.
Somerstown Street Gallery is an ambitious community art initiative using artwork by local street artists, school children, charities, youth clubs, professionals and amateurs to decorate the hoardings around Horatia House, in Meriden Road, and Leamington House, in Earlsdon Street.
Non-toxic hand paints will be made available at the session as well as hand washing facilities.
Local residents, artists, and service users of Aldingbourne Trust visited the site on Saturday 20 October in order to create the background scenery, with over 25 volunteers filling the space with flowers, trees and animals in anticipation for this week’s public event.
Samantha Parkinson, who lives in Frank Miles House, Somers Road, said: “I sat there for four hours and all I could think about, while I was painting, was how amazing it was to be part of this fantastic project.
“Thanks so much for allowing me to take part in making the Forest of Somerstown.”
Longbridge House resident Ann Ray said: “It was a pleasure to be a part of this project to help brighten up the community where we live.”
See the latest plans and tell the design team what you think
At the same time that everybody, from the youngest to the oldest, is adding their handprint to the painted trees; the whole Somerstown community will also be invited to a free public open drop-in exhibition, at the same venue. Visitors to the exhibition will have the chance to look at all the latest plans for the hundreds of new homes, as well as the green space and play areas, that could replace the blocks.
The design team will be on hand to answer local people’s questions about the plans, to find out what they like about them and to listen to their suggested improvements.
“We want to hear from you what you think about the direction the plans are going in,” Cllr Sanders added.
“The community has led the way on this project from the beginning and we want that the continue.
Add your artwork to Somerstown Street Gallery
The council is also appealing for more local artists, schools, charities and community organisations to come forward to work with them in decorating other parts of the hoardings with their local artwork.
Somerstown artist Skyla Swan launched Somerstown Street Gallery with a stunning 30m Somerstown-themed mural, which she painted on the Park Street stetch of the Horatia House site boundary, just metres from where she lives and grew up.
“My grandparents watched me from their garden while I painted the mural,” Skyla said.
“It made us really proud to have made the area in which I grew up brighter and more cheerful.”
The site boundary also includes Somerstown Self-Portrait Gallery – nearly 650 self-portraits by local children and adults.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be add your artwork to Somerstown Street Gallery.
An exciting opportunity to improve Somerstown
The project to carefully, and safely, bring down the blocks is progressing well and is due to be completed in the second half of next year. The council is working with a community panel to put together plans to improve the site, and the wider area, for the people who live there, after the blocks have come down.
The council and the community panel have said that they will create a high quality, sustainable, mixed-use urban neighbourhood.
The community panel – which is at the centre of both the deconstruction and redevelopment projects – includes local people, resident groups, businesses, people who used to live in the blocks, schools and charities from Somerstown and the surrounding area. The group has been meeting every month since March 2021.
If you would like to join the community panel; call Tim Raw on 07901 100537 or email email@example.com
The council also hosted lighting workshops, public open drop-in sessions and play and plant events in the area surrounding the blocks this summer to find out how people wanted the area improved.
Find out more
Go to www.horatialeamington.portsmouth.gov.uk to find out more about the project.
On the website you can watch project videos and find every document relating to the deconstruction of the blocks and the redevelopment of the area.