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Nottingham Castle

The Revamped Sneinton Market and Orchard

8 December 11 interview: Al Needham

"Even if people don't respond to art, they can understand and enjoy an apple tree in blossom"

Sneinton Market: it’s the oldest of its kind in Nottingham, having clocked up 150 years of service with fruit and veg stalls, plants, clothing, bric a brac, antiques, groceries, lace and all that good stuff. But, on the other hand, it’s also the newest market in Notts, after a huge regeneration of its square. And no mere re-laying of slabs either; the revamp has been the result of a huge collaboration between the market, the Council, and local artists and art groups.

The centrepiece of the new market is Orchard, a major new commission undertaken by the award-winning Neville Gabie, whose CV includes the relocation of a two-ton iceberg from Greenland to a park in Cheshire, compiling a massive collection of photos of goalposts across four continents, and being artist in residence at the Halley Research Station in Antarctica. This time, he’s gone a bit pastoral with a range of permanent, temporary and participatory projects which involve the planting of apple trees of 100 different varieties – not only in the square, but into Sneinton and St Anns, in an attempt to create an urban orchard, tie the market even tighter to the community, and make a contribution to the sustainable food debate.

The project reaches a highpoint from Friday 9 December, with the Orchard Symposium at Nottingham Contemporary; a day-long event that investigates how food is bought and sold in cities and how that effects the use of urban space. Meanwhile, the Surface Galley across the road from the market opens its Orchard Exhibition, featuring a series of new documentary photographs by Oliver Dalby, a series of curated meals and installations from Rebecca Beinart, a mobile apple press by Mathew Trivett, a new volume of writings by Wayne Burrows. It also features night-time projections by Neville Gabie in the market itself made in collaboration with Broadway and Trampoline.

The market opens the next day, with workshops and demonstrations, and the weekend culminates with an Orchard Feast at Stonebridge City Farm. All of this is free, but you’ll need to book for the Orchard Symposium – check the Orchard Sneinton website to reserve a place.


Market Coordinator Wendy Honeyman-Smith and artist Neville Gabie on Orchard and its deep, deep roots in Sneinton...

So how did an open market end up working with an artist - and vice versa?

I was commissioned to work with the architects Patel Taylor on the design of the new market square.

Wendy: Sneinton Market has had quite a lot to do with art; the Apples and Pears and Crafty Wares markets by Curiosity.Haus were successful, and they’ll be coming back this year. Other artists will be selling and exhibiting here, and we are working with Surface Gallery on publicity. There’s a strong arts community in St Ann’s, Sneinton and the Lace Market; the Orchard project was commissioned to reflect that.

Is this a definite attempt to step away from the puffa-jacket, three-Crazy-Frog-thongs-for-a-fiver image that markets have?

No, we like Crazy Frog thongs as well.

All new shopping areas try to get at least a bit arty and conceptual when they start, but they get dated very quickly. Is this why you settled on something more natural?

Wendy: To me, an orchard in an urban setting could be seen as conceptual – but there are loads of people round here who are passionate about food, and growing, and I don’t think they see it that way.

Neville: Within a stone’s throw of the Market square are a number of allotments in Windmill Hill and St Anns, the city farm, the wildlife trust and numerous individuals dedicated to changing the fabric of the area for the better. Many are concerned with issues of food supply and developing local produce. Historically, Sneinton was the wholesale market for fresh produce for the city. The planting and growing of apple trees was adopted to reflect what is already happening.

Wendy: During the community consultations, many people wanted to see more greenery, to see the urban area softened a bit. I like the idea of being able to follow a green route out of the City to, for instance, the river. I think we’re on our way to being able to do that now.

Neville: Improvements to the physical fabric of a market are a positive step, but unless you engage and involve the wider community in the future use of the square then what value is all the investment?

What’s the relationship between Sneinton and apples?

Wendy: Well, we’ve always sold apples – and before the Enclosure Acts of the 1850, Sneinton and St Anns would have been farmland, leading up to the orchards in Mapperley and Lambley, and eastward to Southwell. Therefore, Sneinton was the natural place for a fruit and veg market.

Neville: Supermarkets now stock, at best, as little as six varieties of apple, mostly imported; the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale holds over 3,000 varieties. The planting and adopting of 108 different varieties is an attempt to re-introduce choice and difference.

Wendy: I’ve found out a lot about apples during this project. Did you know that they never reproduce accurately unless they are grafted onto stable root stock? Otherwise they make endless varieties of themselves, like people.

Do you not worry that such a strong art presence might put off certain people from using a working market?

Wendy: It might with some people. But then, you don’t have to read trees as art. Everyone can recognise and appreciate trees, there were trees here before, and they were loved by the businesses on Bath Street, so they have been retained.

Neville: I think the art presence in the square is very subtle; even if people don't respond to art, they can understand and enjoy an apple tree in blossom.

Wendy: I think the Orchard project works on many different levels; when the marketplace is busy they will provide a backdrop, and when the square is empty they will help define the space.

What are your future plans? What’s the goal for the market, and Orchard?

Our future plans are quite ambitious. The City Council have supported our plans one hundred percent. Apart from the traditional Saturdays and Mondays, we have a student market planned for Wednesdays, and ‘Something for the Weekend’, a jazz-cafe type of Friday evening market. We want to see the square become a hub – for buying and selling, for community, art and fresh, local food. The legacy of Orchard will be the trees, and the opportunity we have had to really think through with a lot of other people how we would like to see the space used.

Neville: Orchard will not have been a success if in ten years time the trees have not been adopted, maintained and enjoyed by the community.

Orchard, 9-11 November, Sneinton Market


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