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The Greater London Council
Maygrove Park Gallery
Burgess Park Gallery
Tavistock Square Gallery
Noel-Baker Gardens:
Noel-Baker Gardens Gallery
Opening Day Programme

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Greenham Common
Greenham Common Gallery
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Castle Park Gallery
The Greater London Council
Potted history    GLC year of peace    Selected London Peace Parks

The GLC originated from a Royal Commission of 1957, which recommended the creation of 52 new London boroughs as the basis for local government. In turn, it was recommended that the London County Council be replaced by a strategic authority with responsibility for public transport, road schemes, housing development and regeneration. In fact, only 32 new boroughs were created; others – such as Spelthorne, Epsom, and Caterham – argued to be excluded fearing increased local taxation. In the end, Greater London covered the counties of London and Middlesex plus parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent and Surrey, and the county boroughs of Croydon, East Ham and West Ham. The first GLC election was 1964 and resulted in a large Labour majority. Over the next twenty years the majority swung from Labour to Conservative and back again, until May 1981 when the Labour party won a narrow victory with a majority of six. .

Immediately after the election Ken Livingstone, dubbed 'Red Ken' by some tabloid newspapers, became leader of the GLC and set about establishing his new administration

With a background in politics, particularly in housing management, Livingstone’s socialist principles resulted in a number of radical policies and positions, most notably the ‘Fares Fair’ campaign to reduce bus and London underground fares through subsidy, and more strident anti-conservative gestures such as the time in the 1980s when he arranged the display of a billboard of London's rising unemployment figures on the roof of County Hall - the GLC headquarters - directly across the Thames from the Palace of Westminster. Under Livingstone, the GLC pursued a variety of radical, but widely popular, measures: sponsoring an "Antiracist Year," providing city grants to such anti-nuclear groups as "Babies Against the Bomb", and declaring London a "nuclear-free zone". Such provocations earned him and his colleagues the ire of the Conservative government, and in 1983 the Cabinet agreed to abolish the GLC and devolve its functions to the boroughs. The arguments were set out in the white paper Streamlining the cities, and despite the popularity of both Livingstone and the Council, the GLC was abolished at midnight on March 31 1986. Exactly 14 years earlier on that date CND protesters embarked on a 56-mile Easter march from London to Aldermaston, Berkshire. As they departed, the black banner carried on the first march to Aldermaston in 1958 was hung around the plinth of Nelson's Column.

Despite being suspended from the Labour Party for five years, Ken Livingstone was re-admitted to the party and stood as the official Labour Party candidate for Mayor of London in the June 2004 elections, which he won

1983 GLC year of peace
1986 UN year of peace

The year 1986 was declared by the United Nations to be the International Year of Peace. Although the GLC would be wound up that year, the momentum of its anti-nuclear campaigns was sustained through support for CND, and a publicity and poster campaign that declared London to be a ‘nuclear-free city’. These schemes had been initiated in 1983 through the GLC Peace Year, which saw six large murals – on the theme of ‘Peace through Nuclear Disarmament’ - started in locations throughout London. Furthermore, many of the London boroughs within the GLC committed resources that year to create public spaces dedicated to ‘peace’. These were manifest in a network of small, public parks and gardens dotted across London, which espoused the idea of peace. Examples include:
Maygrove Peace Park (NW6); Burgess Park (SE17); and the Noel-Baker Peace Garden (N19).

Selected London peace parks
Possibly the largest of these open public spaces is in south-east London.
Burgess Park is in Southwark, off the Old Kent Road. Once covered in a labyrinth of houses and industrial buildings, it now provides a green respite for the citizens of Southwark. In the early nineteenth century, the Grand Surrey Canal ran through the park; this has now been filled in leaving only a scattering of industrial relics. After the Second World War, the site was slowly cleared of housing and light industry. By 1982, under the impetus of the GLC schemes for open and communal green spaces, nearly half of the 56 hectares had been created as parkland. Upon the demise of the GLC it passed over to the London Borough of Southwark, but was taken on by the Groundwork Trust in the 1990s.

One small section of the larger park is known as
Chumleigh Gardens - a relatively new name applied when the Friendly Female Society's Almshouses in Chumleigh Road were converted into offices for Southwark's Park Ranger Service. Formally opened in 1995, Chumleigh Gardens contains a Mediterranean Garden, a South East Asian Garden and an abundance of plants from all over the world that can withstand the British climate. It is not specifically known as a ‘Peace Garden’, although that is effectively what it has become largely through these multicultural planting initiatives. Furthermore, the gates to the vegetable garden have been sponsored by the London Metropolitan Police. The design takes the form of a world map. By contributing to the garden the Police are demonstrating a wish to be seen to be supporting the multicultural diversity of Southwark, but are also marking the site with emblems and logos that echo the iconography of other ‘peace gardens’ in the capital.

The gardens also provide shelter and context for a collection of memorials and commemorative markers. In the grassy courtyard entrance is a plaque in memory of those who died during a Zeppelin Raid at the end of the First World War. A single wreath of poppies habitually rests on it.

Recently venerated as ‘one of the largest and most important public parks in South London’ Burgess Park is one of six green spaces that fall within the Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy (the London Plan), it is part of the new London Parks and Green Spaces Forum that is partnered with the transnational EU part-funded project SAUL (Sustainable and Accessible Urban Landscapes). London has two SAUL Partners, Groundwork London (the Lead Partner) and the Greater London Authority (GLA). Groundwork is leading the regeneration of Burgess Park, involving local people in consultation and planning regarding a proposed tram route, negotiating a model for transferring ownership of the Park to the voluntary sector; and designing and carrying out a number of physical projects to improve the Park for public use.(

However it is unlikely that these initiatives will impinge on the controlled regime of Chumleigh gardens, which is self-contained, well-tended and part of a trio of such spaces in the Borough, (There are two designated Peace Gardens in Southwark:
Sri Chinmoy Peace Gardens in the grounds of the Thomas Calton Adult Education Centre, and the Tibetan Peace Garden in Geraldine Mary Hamsworth Park outside the Imperial War Museum).

Whereas the peace element at
Burgess Park is largely subsumed by the huge dimensions of Burgess Park, Maygrove Peace Park in Camden, north London occupies its own space on West End railway sidings in north Camden. The idea for the park originated in 1983, and was recorded in the Council minutes of April as an open space which ‘would serve as a permanent reminder of the Council’s commitment to peace and its support for the policies of the Peace Movement.’ (Camden Council Minutes, Volume 20, 10a, 27th April 1983) Under Council instruction, both the Visual Arts Officer and the Director of Technical services had been enlisted to explore the feasibility of placing a sculpture with a peace theme, and creating open space that endorses the idea of peace. When, three months later several sculptors had been invited to submit their proposals, many more Council officials and departments had been drawn into the project – including the Director of Technical Services, Director of Planning and Communications - with a brief developed by the Director of Libraries and Arts, which had to be signed off by the Chair and Vice-Chair.

Such mobilization of Council resources quickly earned the ire of the Conservative Opposition who roundly condemned the £20,000 budget for the sculpture, arguing that the Peace Park was ‘Soviet inspired’. Councillor Bill Trite argued:
    Peace Parks are typically Eastern European Government intentions which do not serve the interests
    of true peace. Transplanting such an expensive gimmick to this country is to introduce an entirely
    alien and unhelpful concept.
    (Camden New Journal, 28th July 1983)
Mr. Trite underlined his party’s disdain for the Park by committing them to dismantling it when they came to power. A ‘Peace exhibition’ at St Pancras library, which depicted many of the core images of the global peace movement was ridiculed by another Councillor who regarded it as ‘a display of one-sided disarmament propaganda … peddling the discredited line advocated by communists, neutralists, pacifists and defeatists…’ (Conservative Leader Tony Kerpel quoted in St Pancras Chronicle, 16th September 1983)

Even at this stage in the commissioning process the iconography of the Park was clearly and readily articulated. Local press carried long lists of the salient features: ‘poetry tablets set into paths with quotations of peace’, ‘a peace grove’ of silver birch, ‘stone slabs indicating the names of local councils who have declared themselves nuclear free zones’, ‘plants directly associated with peace’, ‘friendship seating at a gathering point called the Meeting of the Ways’, ‘entrance pergola with rambling peace roses’, ‘a sculptural feature representing a crane’, ‘the Cherry tree, which continued to bloom through the nuclear holocaust in Hiroshima’.
(Hampstead and Highgate Express, 23rd September 1983; Camden New Journal, 28th July 1983) Many of these had been collected by the Council’s chosen architect Hugh Court, whose book ‘Places of Peace’ served as the primer for this and subsequent Peace Parks.

In addition to allocating £15,000 (plus £1,200 for fees and supervision) to achieve ‘the very special quality’ demanded of a Peace Park
(Minute 5, Maygrove Peace Park, Camden Council Minutes, 19th October 1983) the Council officers suggested there would be further additions as the park matured, including additional poetry slabs, a symbolic friendship garden, and a colony of white doves under the voluntary care of local residents. Citing the recent destruction of a civilian plane in South Korea, Councillors ridiculed Conservative opponents who had argued that ‘there had been 40 years of peace so far without a peace park’. (Hampstead and Highgate Express, 28th October 1983)

By late autumn 1983, with funds committed and work proceeding on site, five sculptors were short-listed to provide a maquette for the peace sculpture. Pursuing a fee of £2,000 and a materials, transport and installation budget of £14,500 Hilary Cartmel, Judith Cowan, Stephen Cox, Anthony Gormley, and Keir Smith were reminded that although their theme was peace, the sculpture had to
‘be large and to be of a size to make an impact’. It must also be ‘robust, vandal-proof and be able to withstand the weather.’ (reported in Hampstead and Highgate Express, 20th January 1985)

A public meeting held in early 1984 allowed residents to view the winning entry – a life size bronze cast figure sat on a granite boulder, by Anthony Gormley. The Conservative opposition later claimed that the meeting was poorly attended, displayed a clear lack of public enthusiasm, and elicited
‘remarks varying from “a load of rubbish' (all exhibits) to 'like something off a tombstone.' (winning entry).’ (Camden Council Minutes, Question No.6, 29th February 1984) In defence the Chair replied that the Councillor had not been present at the public meeting and that he chose to ignore the positive comments that were made.

For his part, Gormley reflected on his understanding of the commission:
    Peace is not a political strategy. It is a state of mind and can only grow through our experience of it
    as points of being. The rock is part of the old deep history of the planet and is sculpted by time …
    The form of the mould is that of a listening man with a small hole that connects the inner space to
    the outer world.’

    (Peace works in Camden, n.d., p.7)
By the time the second sculpture – ‘Peace crane’ by Hamish Black - was photographed it had been marked by an intrusive graffiti ‘tag’. Set high on a plinth with an inset script telling the story of the Japanese girl Sadako and the origins of the crane as the Japanese symbol of Peace, the sculpture created a striking silhouette in the sunken garden set on sloping land reclaimed from the railway.

Timed to coincide with the 39th Nagasaki Day, the Peace Park was formally opened on 9th August 1984. Accompanied by the release of a thousand white balloons, the Mayor of Camden read out a telegram from her counterpart in Nagasaki, Hitoshi Motoshima, which read:
‘We hope your Peace Park, will be remembered long as a symbol of peace’. (Kilburn Times, 17th August 1984) Celebrating the official opening of the ‘first Peace Park in the country’ another newspaper welcomed the ‘gentle mayhem [which] seemed to create the perfect atmosphere for the official opening’. Bruce Kent, general secretary of CND and guest of honour at the ceremony was quoted:
    I believe in this world it is quite possible to live peacefully and reasonably as human beings and enjoy
    all the things this world has by sharing them. You are showing the way by taking the first step.’

    (Hampstead and Highgate Express, 17th August 1984)
Places of commemoration and remembrance only become an integral part of the public sphere through regular re-inscription. This is most commonly achieved through routine celebration of annual events such as the Armistice or Remembrance Sunday. Equally, ‘remembrance’ events at most British Peace Parks follow a calendar dictated by key events at the end of the Second World War – Hiroshima or Nagasaki Day. At Maygrove, peace festivals – as distinct from ’ceremonies’ – were held annually each August in the 1980s. Accompanied by Irish folk bands, jugglers, entertainers, and in 1985 giant inflatable puppets of Mrs Thatcher and Ronald Reagan – the Peace Park became a focus for dissent and protest, espousing causes from ‘the scrapping of nuclear weapons to the scrapping of battery eggs’. (St Pancras Chronicle, 15th August 1986) In Camden a balance was sought between snake charmers and protesters, and acts of commemoration: in 1985 a wreath-laying ceremony was held at Brent Town Hall to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs, the wreathes being laid by ex-servicemen’s CND branches, not at the foot of a cenotaph but beside the Japanese cherry tree planted in 1982.

Following celebrations held in the park as part of the 1986 Year of Peace, the
Maygrove fell into occasional use; its playgrounds and a floodlit multi-use games area used sporadically by local children and youths. Twenty years after its parade of musicians, jugglers and inflated politicians, the Park is rather down-at-heel. The pergola entrance is adorned with a splatter of graffiti, the gates to the playgrounds are often locked. However, this small tract of green alongside the railways sidings does provide a welcome relief from the back-to-back late Victorian and post-war housing of north Camden. Not all of the original peace slabs are in place, though at least two remain. Similarly, the ‘meeting of the way’s seating no longer exists though its strategic sense – requiring the visitor to pause and decide which route to take – is still evident. The central plaque with a descriptive plan of the work that was in situ for the Park’s opening in 1983 is now gone; this denies the public an understanding of the planting scheme that was arranged as a metaphor for peace.

Both Hamish Black’s
‘Crane sculpture’ and Anthony Gormley’s form ‘Listening’ survive, though they have suffered from neglect and vandalism. Gormley’s squatting figure is festooned in paint and ‘tags’, even the seven-ton boulder is liberally covered in felt pen and spray paint, though curiously this does not diminish its intensity.

Here, as in
Burgess Park, the Groundwork Trust have been involved in reviewing the future use of the park. In February 2004 the Trust organised a ‘community fun day’ for local residents to renew interest in the space and gauge public interest for future support. Activities on the day include art and gardening workshops, children’s entertainers, games and refreshments, and was part of a broader review of the Park, backed up by 1,000 door to door surveys with local residents. Its future is now under scrutiny and, with the active support of Groundwork Trust, it will possibly re-emerge as a park, though it is unclear whether its peace iconography will be restored.

Noel-Baker Peace Garden in the Borough of Islington has had a similar history since its creation in the mid-1980s.

Designed and laid between 1980 and 1984 at the height of the GLC peace campaign, it was named after Philip Noel-Baker, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1959. ( From a Quaker family, Noel-Baker had been Foreign Minister in Atlee’s Government, although he was a polymathic figure, having been Captain of the British Team at the 1920 Olympic Games and winning a silver medal in the 1500 metres.

Symbolic planting began on the site in August 1983 when five cherry trees were planted in he central lawn placed around a circular stone plaque (designed by Council’s Borough Architect Alf Head and carved by Steve Probert of Thomas Judd and Co. Monumental Masons of Holloway Road). It is inscribed ‘Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastated by atomic bombs in August 1945. These cherry trees commemorate those who suffered and died there. People must unite to rid the world of nuclear weapons forever.’ The place was described in reports as Islington’s first ‘Peace Garden’.

The garden is a one acre formal walled garden, set within the six and a half acre Elthorne Park. Stage I of its construction began in August 1980 and completed in 1981; stage II was realised by spring 1984. Construction was carried out by M.J.Cagney (Civil Engineering) Ltd. under the supervision of Islington Council’s Engineering and Surveying Department.

In 1989
The Garden magazine looked back on the original planting regime:
    Made to the timeless plan of a rectangle enclosed by brick walls, this garden came into being as the
    solution to a problem – how to provide a quiet place in a small new park which should also offer
    something to children, dogs and footballers. Once it had been decided to build a walled enclosure,
    new possibilities opened up. It became worth putting in plants of greater horticultural interest than is
    usual in unprotected places in Islington, and the garden could embody the message of peace….

    The planting is the most delightful feature. In contrast to the openness at the centre, the mixed borders
    are dense and rich. When the designer, Steve Adams. Planned the planting he paid special attention to
    the corners. The two southern ones are particularly successful – one shady, one sunny.

    (Ruth Pavey, The Garden, July 1989, pp. 328-330)
Adams had followed a basic planting principle: a backdrop of climbing plants, generous ground cover, an ample body of shrubs and small trees interspersed with herbaceous plants and a variety of bulbs. Colour combination was important: for example, red cascades mixed with dark green and white; elsewhere strong combinations of seasonal colour. At the north gate two smaller plots – a white garden – made entirely of white and grey plants - and a scented planting garden for the blind, the latter’s pungent aroma created through southernwood, rue and helichrysum. . (

Pavey concludes her praise of the planning scheme with the observation that
‘this is a comfortable garden, with an air of ordered informality. The theme of harmony runs throughout, from the cherry trees …to the attitude taken to its wide variety of visitors’. Drawing comparisons between the image of paradise as an enclosed and magical space, she observes how many elements of the traditional paradise garden are evident: flowing water at the centre, greenness and blossom in winter and summer alike. Passing reference is made to its vulnerability to vandalism and theft – noted then as ‘remarkably low’ – but these are targeted mainly at the pond and the statue at its eastern edge.

The brief for the sculpture had been set out in detail by Lesley Greene, Director of the Public Art Development Trust, in 1984.
    In the context of the theme of peace the sculpture should be designed with a concern as to how it will
    reflect in the calm, still surface of the pool. No proposals for fountains or running water will therefore
    be eligible. The sculpture should respond imaginatively to the idea of peace, and the artist should take
    into consideration that there are, already, a number of overt references to peace in the garden, e.g.
    doves. Otherwise artists are free to propose what they wish.

    (Metropolitan Archive, YI 238 ELTPAR)
The total value of the commission was put at £7,000 ( a fee of £2,500; materials etc £4,5000). The chair of the Islington Recreation Committee, Counciller Alex Farrell, reinforced Greene’s view that there were already a number of references to peace in the garden adding, ‘We are looking for something a little different’. (News from Islington , 4 March 1985)

From an application of seventy, three artists were placed on the short-list of three – Kevin Atherton, Elena Gaputyte, Emmanuele Jegede. The winning design
‘Upon Reflection’ (also known as ‘Pond Reflection’) is a cast bronze figure of the artist gazing into the still waters of the pond; his ‘reflection’ is a bronze shadow that lies at the bed of the pond. It was unveiled by Bruce Kent at 12 noon on Sunday 15th September 1985. In her book ‘Art for Architecture’ Deanna Petherbridge (HMSO, 1987) stated that Atherton had taken great care to render the statue vandal-proof by firmly fixing it to the base. Yet, as she relates, it was vandalised more quickly than any other public sculpture at the time. This may be in part because it was a ‘real person’ – as opposed to an ideal image, a trope, or an abstracted symbol – but also because of the overtly narcissistic connotations of a figure gazing in apparent rapture at his own reflection. Atherton had involved community groups in helping to create the sculpture but they had merely being involved in casting his three-dimensional portrait, and their ownership of process was incomplete and unrequited. As the other Atherton casting of the time of two commuters (on the platform of a South London railway station) did not suffer the same complete attack (they were mildly interfered with from time to time) Petherbridge, and others, drew several conclusions: the idea of ‘peace’ in a community park in an inner city site cannot be imposed upon the local population, and that peace can only be re-created in affluent city areas, or those with a public or collective history. As Petherbridge neatly expresses it - in ‘spaces that belong to the "polis" but not the police.’ (in private correspondence, October 2005)

‘All that remains’ of Atherton’s sculpture, wrote Julie Isherwood ‘is the reflection – an eery (sic) reminder of the ill-fated statue.’ (Islington Gazette, 27 February 1987). Despite assurances, the figure has yet to be re-united with its shadow.

A garden requiring such high maintenance inevitably suffers if not meticulously tended. By the Millennium it fallen into disarray and was suffering from neglect. The pond had ceased to work and the original shrubs were overgrown. Islington Council employed a local garden designer, Marianne Park, to prepare the garden for the twentieth anniversary celebrations in 2004. The original beds of white roses that had been planted as an emblem of peace in memory of the victims of Hiroshima were replanted in a new bed to reinvigorate them and new white rose bushes were planted in the vacant beds to reinstate the original plan. A number of these have subsequently been dug up and destroyed.

As is typical of many inner city green spaces, vandalism is a key factor that thwarts not only the garden designers but also disturbs the tranquility of the space. The overgrown and neglected shrubbery offers refuge, concealment and hiding place, and permits the spread of graffiti on semi-hidden walls. In the
Noel-Baker Garden the low brick walls that surround the garden are easily scaled and a steel trellis has been ordered from Sweden to prevent unauthorized entry. Marianne Park will use this trellis to grow honeysuckle and climbing roses on the surrounding walls. This may prove a deterrent to those determined to plunder the herbaceous borders. For the 20th anniversary in 2004, herbaceous beds specifically designed for the disabled with a proliferation of tactile plants were also disturbed by intruders.

In December 2004 to mark the end of the anniversary year, a
Peace Festival of Light was held in the Garden. Floating candles were placed on the pond and carols were sung. This well attended event re-established the original aspirations of the garden, and brought together a community as had been the aspirations of the original planners. However, some ten months later the summer plant growth requires radical cutting and the pond has been altered in such a way that could prevent the lily pads from growing effectively.

The 2012 Olympics in London may provide a catalyst for Islington Council to review and improve the necessary ongoing maintenance that is required. Elthorne Park in which the Peace Garden is situated has within it a football pitch, a boxing club and a running trail. These assets that could be featured and improved by the council during London’s prelude to the Olympics. There is of course, an interesting overlap between the International spirit of the Olympics, the proliferation of peace gardens in the aftermath of the Second World War and Noel Baker’s history as a politician of peace and an Olympic athlete.

As Marianne Park commented, one must hope that one cause may inspire the other to action.
(in conversation, September 2005) .

Projected into the centre of the public’s attention in the immediate aftermath of the July 2005 bombings in central London,
Tavistock Square is possibly the most well known garden dedicated to peace in Britain. It predates the GLC by many years as its origins date back to the mid 1950s when the then St. Pancras Borough Council donated a site for a statue of Gandhi, a donation which was marked by the planting of a copper beech tree by Pandit Nehru, when Prime Minister of India. Many years later - in 1966 - the statue was unveiled by Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. A year later, a cherry tree was planted by the Mayor of Camden in memory of the victims of Hiroshima, and thereafter the park has steadily accumulated peace ‘memorials’, plantings, and a miscellany of objects, trophies and votives deposited by passer-bys and pilgrims.

The fixed objets de la paix are the focus for annual events, such as the gathering on August 5th of each year to remember the victims of the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Another key anniversary is
International Conscientious Day each May that are focused on a large roughly hewn boulder that was unveiled by the Peace Pledge Union's President, Michael Tippett in 1994.

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