From dump to amphitheatre

First published in News

A ONCE toxic East Oxford wasteland transformed into a thriving beauty spot is to host its first outdoor theatre performance.

Barracks Lane Community Gardens welcomes two local artists tomorrow to perform their latest shows at the reclaimed public space.

Somewhat fitting for a former dumping site saved by residents, the pieces cover metamorphosis and stories of the changing natural landscape.

A crowd is expected to take in the garden’s debut as a mini amphitheatre, and due to the cold weather are being advised to wrap up warm.

Dance artist Hilary Kneale will give her first Oxford performance of Coat, which tells the story of the elements and the oceans over wild and urban places.

The day will also include Charlotte Kaye’s participatory work, “Portable Shrine”, which involves a combination of dance and charcoal drawings that look at light and darkness..

Open almost every weekend, the garden hosts events, courses and children’s parties, but has never before seen an outdoor show.

Garden trustee Annie Davvy said: “We have had some interesting performances at the garden before but none like this.

“We are very grateful to the artists for giving this as a gift to help the garden fund raise for new beds.

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“We hope it will be the start of new interest in the garden for artists and performers of all sorts. It is a great unusual venue and exhibition or performance space.

“The garden has indeed come a long way in seven years from its derelict and waste strewn origins.”

Residents in Barracks Lane, and nearby Kenilworth Avenue and Cumberland Road, campaigned for more than four years to turn the contaminated dump behind their homes into a usable space.

Delays in securing a lease also saw the area littered with used needles, condoms and empty alcohol bottles.

In 2007 the garden finally opened after a £10,000 decontamination charge was hurdled by determined fundraisers.

Three years later the plaudits rolled in as it won the Community Award from the Oxford Preservation Trust and was runner-up in the “Enhancing and/or preserving biodiversity” category of the Oxfordshire Sustainability and Conservation Awards.

  • Gates open at 1pm for tomorrow’s performance which starts at 2.30pm. Tickets are priced between £5 and £10, with proceeds going towards restoration of the flowerbeds.

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