Honest Leaders Admit Mistakes
Hannah Ward, Sculpture & Environmental Art
Streets Ahead is a £2.2 billion, 25 year Private Finance Initiative contract between Sheffield City Council and the Public Limited Company, Amey, to maintain the city’s roads, pavements, streetlights, and trees. Over the last five years 5,500 street trees have been felled and another 12,000 are to follow (overall that’s 50% of the city’s street trees). The majority of these trees are healthy and causing no damage to the roads or pavements and the tiny sapling ‘replacements’ are not sufficient. “Although renewing street trees is vital work, to cut down so many in such a short space of time is ecological vandalism.” – Save Sheffield Trees
Having grown up in Sheffield, this is a subject close to my heart. My family and friends have been directly affected by the environmental vandalism and the way in which the police have dealt with them as protestors (at one protest there was 33 officers and 20 security staff for one tree). Not only are we fighting an environmental battle but also a social injustice.
I travelled back to Sheffield to attend a large protest march in the city centre and collect information and materials that I could use in my work. I returned to Glasgow with hundreds of twigs from condemned trees, sawdust from felled trees and many photos. I also managed to ask many local people how they felt about the situation.
The work that I have made for degree show is a simple display. Scattered on the floor of the gallery space, under a spotlight, are a handful of delicate metal twigs, cast from trees that are condemned to be cut down. They have been cast in silver, although in the future I would like to cast them in steel so as to link them to the steel industry that Sheffield is so famous for. I have also created and displayed a book, composed of photographs and text that together communicate my understanding of, and my reaction to the extreme felling from an environmental standpoint. This contemplative work questions the value of street trees and the necessity to protest for both their and our survival.
This issue is serious and I believe that people outside of Sheffield need to be aware of it as similar felling is currently happening in a number of cities across the UK. To spread the word throughout degree show I have created pin badges with the phrase ‘honest leaders admit mistakes’ on for people to take and wear. I hope for this to encourage conversation about the felling and raise awareness and support for the cause.