The idea to up-cycle a couple of tired soft chairs came out of a response to an article I wrote in a local magazine that goes by the name of “Rural”. For some reason the editor has let me loose to write the closing piece and on the last occasion I chose to comment about how disappointing some of our public planting schemes are these days. Low hanging fruit when it came to that great austerity moment.

It received a response, (which is a good thing as occasionally it can feel as though these conversations are rhetorical) from Bob at St Helier Parks and Gardens. He was pleased that I’d shown an interest in the subject matter and wondered whether he could show me what his department were doing. And so started the up-cycling project.

I would suggest that in most instances the public wouldn’t expect too much in the way of creativity from a States department, after all this is the preserve of the private sector, creative destruction and all that.  Well I have to say how pleasantly surprised I was to be proved wrong.

Bob took me on a mini-tour of St. Helier pointing out where the Parish was involved and where private sector contractors were working. The term chalk and cheese comes to mind. It’s probably unfair to overly criticise private sector contractors when they are almost certainly working to a pre-determined budget that needs to show a profit at the end. It does however say a lot about the businesses who hire them and who in turn are unwilling to provide a bit more budget for something that everyone can enjoy.

The rate payers of St. Helier can be very proud of the effort that goes into providing interesting public planting around the town all year round. Last summer they planted up some old baths and put them on public display. This in fact was the inspiration for our chairs.

By investing in a plant nursery the Parish is keeping the horticultural skills this Island needs alive. Whereas in the private sector most of the plants are bought in. Where practical St. Helier parks and gardens start from seed and so the skills of propagating plants, developing a knowledge of the soil and wider plant management skills are maintained. A luxury in the private sector on Jersey these days.

And so the idea of up-cycling a couple of chairs came to mind but there was still one more twist. The parks and gardens team work with a local school called Mont a l’Abbe which caters for young people with learning difficulties. They thought it would be a good idea for these young people to help plant up the “chairs” as part of their activities. And so it came to pass. One of the chairs is full of outdoor plants, whilst the other is focused on indoor varieties.

Throughout this summer at Castle Quay you will be able to see the wonderful results of this collaboration. It will I’m sure bring pleasure to all and it came from a couple of people having a conversation with a positive outlook one what might be done to enhance the lives of the many rather than the few.

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