AFTERMATH - a new collaborative community project at St James's
Last year, the community of St James's grew and harvested our own wheat. The endeavour was recorded in the Daily Bread project; a blog of 31 'posters' exploring topics that arose in each season. From wheat genetics, Middle Eastern history, Medieval philosophy, the botany of grasses, William Blake, poetry, eco-theology, and much more.
In 2021, artist (Sara Mark), poet (Diane Pacitti), and scientist (Deborah Colvin) are facilitating a sister project: AFTERMATH: Weeds and Wilding.
In 1940, St James's was reduced to a near ruin in the first phase of the London Blitz. The bomb-site was rapidly colonised by 42 species of 'weeds' which were identified and listed by Prof Edward Salisbury, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.
A video representation of these seeds by Sara Mark and Pat Livingstone (composer) can be seen here.
A selection of these 'weeds' have been sown in the box that previously grew our wheat, and members of the St James's community from Gloucestershire to Dorset, Sussex, Essex, Leicestershire and across London have sown their own seed mixes. We await an aftermath of prolific, resourceful and resilient plants that previously flourished in chaotic and precarious times. We hope to rediscover their gifts of flourishing and fruitfulness as God's hope in these post-pandemic days.
Are you a Crafter, Sewer, Artist, Gardener, Botanist, Theatre-maker, Traveller, Author, Historian, Scientist, Story-teller . . . ? You are warmly invited to participate!
As you can see, the scope is very broad; we hope you are as excited as we are!
A paper by Prof Edward Salisbury on the flora of bombsites was published in the journal Nature in 1943 here.
In 2020 at the height of the global pandemic, Seth Denizen published a paper reflecting on weeds as allegory here.
He demonstrates how Salisbury’s analysis stays within the parameters of empirical science and is based on an ecology that tries to see the world from the plant’s point of view. It concludes with ‘the bombing produced plants that specialise in catastrophe and are far better at it than the cities in which they live.’
Quoting Walter Benjamin, Denizen invites us to consider that ‘allegories are, in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things’ - from within the physical space of allegory, Salisbury invited his audience to see the broken Savoy Chapel as the rosebay willowherb saw it: as pure futurity.
For Walter Benjamin, allegories ... (like ruins) ... appear in the aftermath of a process of destruction, in which the specificity or individuality of the world is broken apart in order to be reconstituted within a new narrative. In a ruin, ‘history has physically merged into the setting’.
See our AFTERMATH blog for project updates
If you are inspired by this project and would like to support the work of
St James's as we emerge into a new Aftermath, please donate by texting SEED and the amount you wish to donate to 70460 e.g. SEED5, SEED10 or SEED15
to donate £5, £10 or £15, plus the cost of one standard rate text message.
There is more information about how to support St James's here: https://www.sjp.org.uk/donate.html
Click here to see the proposal and scope for the project.
Click here to download a PowerPoint presentation including themes, and potential projects and collaborations.