Barnet residents asked to ‘Stop and Smell the Flowers’

Barnet Council have collaborated with arts organisation UP Projects and artist Holly Graham to create a mural highlighting air quality and the climate emergency.

Titled ‘Stop and Smell the Flowers’, the mural was unveiled on  Station Road in the heart of Edgware Town Centre. The artwork takes the form of a collaged image that has been painted onto a prominent flank wall.

Holly was helped in her work by more than 75 young people who became involved through a community engagement project. The title itself was taken from a poster created by a one of those young people. This phrase not only highlights the importance of taking time out to enjoy nature but also bears reference to the idiom ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ meaning to realise the truth about one’s situation.

Commissioned by Barnet Council and curated by leading public art organisation, UP Projects, the mural is part of a celebratory programme marking 100 Years of Station Road which has been designed to inspire longer-term change in Edgware.

The final artwork is complemented by a digital campaign developed in collaboration with Clean Air Barnet and Middlesex University that further looks to inspire people to take action displayed on a digital advertising screen run by JC Decaux UK.

The artist Holly Graham (pictured below) said: ‘At the time of being invited to develop a new mural artwork, I was in the process of reconsidering my personal living circumstances in relation to housing. I was thinking a lot about access to clean air and open space in urban environments and considering the compromised decisions we’re often forced to take in relation to our health and wellbeing when living in urban environments.

‘I felt keenly aware of the fact that certain already marginalised groups are impacted more heavily than others, and that children and younger people are more heavily affected by poor air quality than other age groups. Speaking about the very real and direct consequences of air pollution presents challenges in terms of managing climate anxiety; but I wanted to explore these ideas with young people in Edgware, thinking about their current experiences and countering concerns by thinking through action – considering what we could do to address these issues.

‘The artwork channels some of those conversations, with the mural calling for a moment of pause to take stock, and the billboard infographics presenting suggestions towards solutions that can be undertaken both individually and collectively.’

Moira Lascelles, UP Projects, Executive Director & Head of Partnerships: ‘UP Projects has over 20 years’ experience of supporting artists to work with communities in public spaces across the UK dealing with some of the most pressing issues facing communities and society today.

‘In Edgware we are pleased to have worked with artist, Holly Graham to create a new mural artwork for Station Road that raises awareness of the climate emergency through the lens of access to clean air and green space.

‘Holly has worked with over 75 local young people through workshops in schools and community centres to engage them in the process. The final artwork quotes a phrase taken from a poster by a local young person and is a call to action to inspire people to take note and make active changes today that can inform a better tomorrow.’

Cllr Ammar Naqvi, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, Arts & Sports: ‘The council recognises the profound impact of arts and culture in creating a sense of place and driving positive change. Through this new artwork commemorating the centenary of Station Road, we reaffirm our commitment to place Barnet as a vibrant cultural hub for all Londoners to visit and explore the diverse cultural offerings our borough has to offer.’

Images: Thierry Bal


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