The work being undertaken for Documenting Britain is focused on one locale within Glasgow. Project M will attempt to examine an urban area and its people and see if different narrative strands emerge from that work.
Andrea and The Children's Wood
This project starts by skirting around the edge, crossing the River Kelvin and dipping a toe into Maryhill. Some call this area North Kelvinside, where residential developments of the late 19th century crossed the river and were established on old estates, just south of the growing burgh of Maryhill.
Queen Margaret Bridge takes us into Maryhill on this southern edge; although historians may debate the boundaries, the residents know their insurance premiums change with this G20 postcode.
A couple of minutes walk takes us to the Children’s Wood where Andrea volunteers. With an extensive background in youth and community work she is dedicated to passing on her knowledge and learning to a younger generation. Along with numerous other volunteers, she helps children to have fun in the outdoors of their city. Work and learn, explore and play in a small patch of wild within an urban environment.
Yet the Children’s Wood sits within contended land. Part of North Kelvin Meadow, local residents established an area for the community from old disused playing fields. For many locals, it is an important open green space comprising allotments, a community orchard, a wild meadow and a wood. The Council want to sell off the meadow and build houses. Local residents want to keep their wild green land. They are opposing the Council, fighting to keep their much-loved– and used–space.
The Children’s Wood itself sits on an old tennis court, where nature seeps in, takes back and re-establishes itself from the built and the man-made. This is where Andrea helps run classes in outdoors skills for children. Groups come from all over Maryhill and even beyond. Nurseries come with children and parents, schools with their teachers, drop-in groups at the weekend too. They learn skills known to previous generations of children but sometimes little used in today’s measured childhood experiences. They plant, cook on open fires, tell stories, look for birds and flowers, use tools to cut and to build, create and play. Outdoors, next to the tenements of Maryhill, children can run free and play free, where they are not told to not climb the trees or not build a den.
Visiting schools have integrated their visits into their curriculum with groups returning independently. Local children who live alongside the greenery of Maryhill Canal and the River Kelvin, but who have never walked or played there, discover new ways of enjoying themselves in this community wild space. Little seeds of experiences that are planted, which may develop, may influence ideas and outlooks.
Andrea believes that her volunteering work in The Children’s Wood offers experiences that encourage resilience and confidence, that children focus better and experience (new) ways of (old-fashioned) playing. In our individualistic society, Andrea offers a dedicated contribution for a collective good - she gives inner city children the experiences they might not realise are actually available to them. In this little bit of wild in urban Maryhill, kids have fun, leaving with experiences that will remain with them throughout life.