Feeding the birds and the bees

image2
Alan Briggs and his bughouses

I first met Alan Briggs, bughouse builder extraordinaire, at the Wild Weekend at Woodberry Wetlands this spring. My friend and I were so taken with his beautifully constructed green-roofed insect houses that she bought one for me and I bought one as a birthday present for my next-door-neighbour. The bees buzzed all summer long in our adjoining gardens. More recently I bumped into Alan again at the Quernmore Road Street Party where he had a stall full of his bughouses, as well as wreaths made of succulents all ready for the Christmas season.

image1
Beautiful Christmas wreath

He also donated a combined bird box, bug hotel and butterfly roosting box to the Quernmore Road Project. Here it is all primed and ready to be painted by Lisa of N4 Workshop.

Three in one: bird box, bug hotel & butterfly roosting box

Alan moved to Epping when young, which fuelled his interest in the natural world Moving to the Harringay Ladder he experimented with a green roof on his compost bin. He was pleased with how successfully sedums and succulents grew in gritty compost in an exposed part of the garden. Alan went on to construct garden stores, bin stores and cycle shelters for friends, family and neighbours out of found materials including pallet boards and scaffolding, as well as recycled Victorian floorboards sourced from local forums such as Harringay Online. My favourite construction has to be the shelter he built for a neighbour’s outdoor cat, fully insulated with 50 mm of foam insulation and planted with a green roof.

image1
Fully insulated cathouse with green roof!

Moving on to smaller things, Alan builds the prettiest bughouses, filled with little pieces of bamboo, and planted with sedums and sempervivums. “I think I help the birds and the bees,” says Alan. “A block of wood can be home to 50 solitary bees.”

image4
An array of pretty bughouses

He’s also built larger bughouses for schools and community projects. These have the scope to include bamboo, broken pots and tiles, cut-down plastic bottles filled with corrugated cardboard. Attracting a variety of insects including lacewings, ladybirds, and bees, some insects even overwinter as pupae. He’s also built bat-houses for the Parkland Walk.

image1
Bughouse in action

In his other life, Alan teaches wood and metal work in schools and so it’s not surprising that he thinks community involvement is vitally important, especially to nurture children’ fascination for the outside world. He can teach them about the importance of recycling materials too. “If I can get children involved they can experience the lifecycle of insects from pupae to flying insects,” says Alan.

Here’s an example of a community project in Carbuncle Passage in Tottenham where the community was involved in planting up the wooden planter.

image3
Carbuncle Passage planter

Always inventive, Alan has now started making tardis-like police boxes and telephone boxes to sell, along with his bughouses and birdhouses, at local festivals and fairs in and around Haringey and North London.

image2
Tardis police box

Buy a lovely gift from Busy Bee Alan at the Made in Tottenham Pop-up Christmas Gift Shop at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre from 14-17th December: Thursday and Friday 9.30 am – 6.30 pm, Saturday 10 am – 6 pm and Sunday 11 am – 4 pm.

Alan will be at the Christmas Fair, Earl Haig Hall, Elder Avenue, Crouch End on Saturday 16th December from noon till five.

Briggs Bughouses is now selling on Etsy so do get your Christmas orders in now!

Quernmore Road Street Party

image3-2.jpg
Quernmore Road Project Street Party

The Street Party to end all street parties was how But First, Coffee, our local coffee shop, billed the Quernmore Road event on 29th October.  The sun shone warmly on hundreds of local people celebrating the unveiling of a beautifully furnished public space made possible by The Quernmore Road Project – a small regeneration project devoted to transforming the cul-de-sac by Harringay Station. A working group of local businesses and residents worked hard to apply successfully for a £10,000 grant from the Tesco Bags of Help Fund. Hats off to all those who voted for the Project at our local Tesco.  They also worked hard to organise the spending of the grant – on running children’s art workshops to produce the mural, a planter set, planting and, most wonderful of all, the lovely benches and chair with salvaged legs from an old snooker table. Some of the funding was matched with Haringey Council’s Ward Fund to organise the  street party.

Here’s the striking mural with our very own Snowy, the Harringay Station Cat, snuggling up in a tree.

image5
Mural with Snowy nesting in a tree

And the bench with its snooker table legs.

image4-2
David and his daughter Catalina sitting on the bench

I was interested in the display board giving information and old photos of the original shopping parade, the Library and Rail Station.

image1-2.jpg
History of Quernmore Road

The planting schedule is designed to create year round interest: for example we can soon enjoy sweet box with its winter perfume and the greenery of the ferns and evergreen shrubs such as yew, bay and japanese spindle.  I look forward to the display of spring bulbs: alliums, tulips and narcissi.

image1
Planters and bench

I had another engagement that Sunday so all I could do was a quick trot around the stalls when the event opened at 12 noon. I missed the unveiling ceremony which I understand was done by Haringey’s Mayor.

I met Peter and his nephew, Matt, at the bulbstore with their jumbo Hippeastrum bulbs.  My friend was sorely tempted to buy one of these.

image1
Peter and Matt with their bulbs

Next up was Alan Briggs of Briggs Bughouses, whom I first met at Woodberry Wetlands Wild Weekend earlier this year. I had my eye on the loveliest winter wreath planted with succulents.

image2
Alan Briggs and his Police Box

This is Suzie London with her vibrant pieces of joy – lampshades, planters, phone cases, make-up bags. You can iron one of her pretty patches onto your jeans.

image3-1.jpg
Pieces of Joy

Here’s Nicole and Toby with their colourful vintage store.

image4-1
Nicole and Toby

I lingered at the Friends of the Library stall.  The Friends earned £183 from the sale of books, DVDs and CDs, sharing their takings with the Library.

image1-1
Friends of Stroud Green and Harringay Library

Then on to Etsuko, head librarian at the Stroud Green and Harringay Library, with her ‘Join the Library Today’ balloon.

image2-1-1-1260837649-1510334387296.jpg
Etsuko, Head Librarian

My friend and I joined the queue at But First, Coffee for a latte and a cappuccino.  Here’s Nic, one of the owners, and Alison working their socks off.

image3-1
Nic and Alison of But First, Coffee

We couldn’t stay long but left with jazz music by BessDeeThree ringing in our ears. Note the amazing all-in-one van.  They just open the side and set up stage.

image2-2
BessDeeThree

Well, all too short at time was spent I’m afraid, but I wish the Quernmore Road Project the very best and I’ll certainly be using the space – it’s a great place to meet your neighbours.

Stroud Green Music Festival

Unsung heroine Clare Norburn, organiser of the Festival (picture by Robert Piwko / www.robertpiwko.co.uk)

It’s almost time for the 4th Stroud Green Music Festival. Organised by Clare Norburn, who is a wonderful singer with a pure, clear soprano voice, it’s running from 8-25th June. Clare first set up an early music festival in Brighton when she was involved in a music group there and wondered whether something similar might work here in Stroud Green, where she lives.

Clare used to run the fundraising team for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and while she was there she met Tamara Romanyk, who introduced her to Father Patrick of the Holy Trinity Church, Stroud Green, and his wife Irena Henderson, both keen musicians who have organised local concerts at the church.

“There were already good local music connections and a real keenness to do more concerts. All it needed was someone to pull things together,” Clare told me.

This year the programme kicked off in April with a fundraising concert for the Festival. Shakespeare’s Musick was great fun, featuring 17th and 18th century settings of Shakespeare’s poetry by composers such as Purcell, Arne and Locke, including a rare performance of songs by a little-known composer called Defesch who was drafted to write songs for a production of the Tempest, to replace Thomas Arne who had had a disagreement with the actress playing Ariel who went on to sack him. Actors Davis Timson and Patience Tomlinson read extracts from the plays and sonnets and performed a very fine version by Garrick of the final scene from Romeo and Juliet. Many of the musicians were local, including my very own neighbour Naomi Anderson, flautist.

This year’s Festival is very varied with a good community focus. There’s folk, jazz and classical. Consortium 5 will be running recorder workshops – both for the public – and also for children from St Aidan’s school, culminating in a concert on 16th June.

I’m looking forward to the bite-sized family-friendly version of Rameau’s opera Pygmalion (two shows on 18 June by the Little Baroque Company), a sort of Rom-Com 45 minute opera, complete with a dancer and an animated film where the singers interact with the animation. And Baroque with Bite sounds fun too – 18th century cantatas by John Stanley with the singers in costume, all while you’re eating tea and cake (17 June).

There are lots of local partners and sponsorship from local businesses too. As Clare says, “I like all the connections. I’m a big champion for the Small is Beautiful. In this world where chains are taking over someone has to stand up for the smaller guys.”

The programme is here

See you there.

Little Baroque company: Baroque with Bite
Ensemble Moliere