During the long and challenging campaign to prevent healthy street trees from being felled, tree protectors have repeatedly borne witness to upsetting scenes and many have been adversely affected by divisions that have opened up in previously friendly communities. In some cases neighbours no longer speak to each other and the street that they call home is no longer the welcoming place it once was.
Street Tree Art Sheffield (STARTS) was founded in response to the great personal loss felt by residents watching their much loved street trees being taken. The art sessions provide an opportunity to do something positive to celebrate the remaining trees, bringing much needed relief from the onslaught of contractor’s chainsaws. In recording these trees, before their untimely demise, STARTS are creating a unique body of work that will stand as a testament against the Council’s short-sighted folly.
As a community-led project, the emphasis is on just getting ‘stuck in’ regardless of artistic skill. STARTS has held sessions at roads with threatened trees across the city, often when invited to do so by local residents who appreciate the recognition and support that comes with a visit from the group. While gathered to observe and paint trees, people share their experiences and this acts as a release valve for pent up emotions. Out of curiosity many passersby stop to engage with the group, after all people rarely gather on residential roads these days, and some even join in when offered a pencil and paper.
STARTS became one of Sheffield’s seven Woodland Trust Tree Charter Branches at the end of September and representatives spoke passionately about their role at the Tree Charter’s launch in Lincoln on 6th November 2017.
In August 2017 Rob McBride, aka the Tree Hunter, invited artist Dan Llywelyn Hall to paint the WW1 Memorial Trees on Western Road. From this idea grew the seeds of the WW1 Paint off: Draw the Living War Memorial event, which is being supported by STARTS and takes place on 11th November.
Artworks produced during this event are being shown at Yellow Arch Studios from 24th November to 3rd December 2017 as part of the ‘Fallen Boys, Standing Trees’ exhibition.