Friday, 4 July 2014

StoreyG2 takes on Freeman's Wood debacle as an artistic project

One of the many protest signs at Freeman's Wood

The Storey Gallery organisation has changed its name to StoreyG2, to reflect the fact that has not been running exhibitions in the Gallery at the Storey, which is also known as the Storey Gallery, since its funding from the Arts Council was cut in 2012.

StoreyG2 has now shifted its focus to concentrate on projects in public spaces. Its current project is called 'Landed (Freeman's Wood)', and is funded by Arts Council England, Lancaster City Council, and Lancashire County Council.

John Angus of Storey G2 tells us: "Over the past several decades, place-making has become a common pursuit of both urban planning and public art. This activity has generally focussed on improvement of design and access. We aim to extend this work by raising awareness of the ownership of land, and its effects on places and on people’s lives."

'Landed' will explore the issue of land-ownership and its significance for people and places. It is centred on a plot of land between the River Lune and Willow Lane in Lancaster, known as Freeman’s Wood, 'where the interests of the local community have collided with those of global capital.'  The project will run throughout this year, with artworks from commissioned artists Layla Curtis, Goldin and Senneby, and Sans Facon expected in early 2015. More artworks will be commissioned from local artists, we hear.  You can read more about the project here.

Freeman's Wood
Originally the area was a private landfill site for the Williamson linoleum factory on St George's Quay, during a period somewhere between the 1840s, when the factory was established, and 1930. Once the site was full, it was given a covering of earth and planted with trees to stabilise the ground. James Williamson died in 1930 and local legend has it that he had given the area over to the local community for recreational use prior to that. It has many mature trees now. The wood has been used by local people for walking and recreation for generations and they have regarded it as common land, but ugly, high, steel fencing was installed around it in 2012, resulting in trapped deer, public unrest and reports in the local press.

At that time tree felling took place to erect the fence and within the site in open breach of the Council's Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).  The developers' appeal against the TPOs was not upheld (see previous news: Freeman's Wood - TPO upheld at Appeal Hearing).

Global links
The land is owned by property investment company The Property Trust in association with their partners, development consultants Satnam. The Property Trust Group is headed by PT Holdings Ltd, a company registered in Bermuda with a huge number of subsidiaries worldwide. The director of the UK development company for the site is Punjab-born Kuldip Singh Dhillon, a polo-playing friend of Prince Charles, (who affectionately knows him as 'Sooty'.)  His son Satnam plays polo with Prince Harry. This patch of land has direct links to global economic, political, and social networks.

Land Ownership
Land ownership is a hidden area of UK social and economic structure. It is a primary source of money, power, and influence. In the UK just 0.6 per cent of the British people own 69 per cent of the land. When it comes to land ownership, Britain today is a more unequal country than Brazil - in Europe only Spain has a more unequal distribution of land ownership than the UK, a legacy of the fascist Franco regime.

John explains: "The project will focus on this particular plot of land as an illustrative example through which the abstract topic of land ownership can be addressed. Storey Gallery / Storey G2 is commissioning artists to lead an investigation of this plot, to research and explore land-ownership and its social effects, and to produce art works which communicate and stimulate thought about these issues.

"We will collect local people’s stories of the past, and their wishes for the future. We will seek out people who have used this land – the dog walkers, footballers, cyclists, den-builders, nature watchers, etc. We have already received interest from local residents, artists, and community groups. We also plan to reach a global audience via the internet."

You can find out more about the project at

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