The People Tree Abstract

Public Gift Productions is a new theatre company that is centred on creating site specific performances. We aim to collaborate with our public audiences to make a community lead, organic live art piece that is made by the people and for the people.  We are committed to restoring life and spirit back into towns and cities by:
·         Finding a sense of community in cities
·         Re-claiming the space for the people
·         Closing the generation gaps through commination and creation.
Our latest project was made for the city of Chichester. As residents of the city, we have a deep understanding of the way of life within the city; where the life is and where it has been lost. We noticed that there was a substantial gap between generations and social classes that left the city lacking in passion and compassion. As well as this, we felt that the natural spaces have been forgotten due to the strong pull that the commercial city centre has on the residents.
From this we have created a response. The People Tree is a durational performance that combines memory, interactive play and cake. Public Gift Production aims to bring communities together by creating visual art. A genuine join-in atmosphere encourages all people from all ages and walks of life to share memories, pictures, messages and views (past and present) of their own community.  A trading system that the performers will initiate will ask the audience to swap memories, stories and unwanted items to put on our people tree for home-made cake. The piece revolves around conversation and the art of listening to connect with our audience and for our audience to connect with each other.  Throughout the day more and more memories, stories and throw-aways would be collected until the result is a thriving people tree blossoming with life and spirit created by the people.
The people tree will be a memorable, physical and visual performance that explores traditional values of trading and community.  The aim is to create an organic and heartfelt community space restoring what Chichester once had. The cities original values have been taken over by commercialism, despite it once being a famous market trading town that held the community together, therefore our efforts are in reclaiming the space. Roman Chichester was built on a grid pattern. The main streets formed a cross, which remains today as North, South, East and West Streets. It will be in the centre of this cross that we create the people tree. Years ago the centre of the town was the forum, a marketplace lined with shops and public buildings. For public gift productions the centre of town will still be the forum, and we will line it with atmosphere. We will bring back the old Chichester through cake trading, community building, art, singing and memory and conversation sharing. There were always weekly markets in Chichester from as long as we know, but from 1108 the bishop was given the right to hold a fair that dealt with homemade goods and trades on valuables such as wool and timber. The fair was held for 8 days each October. It was called the Sole fair named after the sole tree, which grew in field by Northgate. Our idea of the people tree has been inspired by all of these historic events, and our piece longs to create a memory based tree like the sole fair tree that once was the originator for fair gatherings and equality.
 Author/illustrator turned guerilla artist Keri Smith served as one of our main inspirations for the piece. Her book The Guerilla Art kit helped us form our own ideas about how to create guerilla art that means something to us and is relevant to where we live. The works that she create doesn’t always have a particular political message, but what they have is a message straight from her, and portraying exactly what she wants to say about her environment. The Guerilla Art Kit was written to be a springboard for artists who want to re-claim the environment they live in disregarding where that environment is (be it in a city or in the countryside). It’s about leaving your mark, and making positive change in the way people view their daily surroundings. She says that by ‘leaving art and ideas in public places, you can affect someone's day, change their mood or their mind and maybe even change the world in the process.’
Stephen Lambert is a conceptual artist who works with our relationship to the world we live in. His pieces are responses to the people’s reaction to change, consumerism and politics, and this makes his work really interesting to us. Labert's piece, I Will Talk With Anyone…(2006) really shaped our work with its simplicity and honesty. Lambert set up a table amongst organisations tabling for political, religious and other causes and offered to “Talk with anyone about anything”.  The audience got involved and the table was very popular, and for the people that didn’t have anything to say he had a list of questions such as “How about this weather?” and “How are things?” The way that he created a bond with his audience and the idea that just offering to listen and to converse with the public is a really beautiful gift and it really inspired us to do the same.

Our new performance The People Tree is looking at two main critical points, the first is that of the forgotten natural spaces around Chichester. When exploring Chichester as a whole we discovered that many rural areas are pushed into the background and backstreets and the commercialised consumer heaven is very much in the foreground of the city taking pride space in the city centre.  Public gift productions are an organic company very much concerned with reconnecting the urbanised public with its natural surroundings. As a result of this we decided to place our new site specific performance within the city centre but our main visual and reference point is going to be a tree, this allows us to exhibit to the commercial streets what is being over looked as well as the tree being the centre of the piece symbolising that nature can be at the centre of this community, much like for example Guerilla Gardening.
The second critical aspect in which we have been looking into is the idea of community and how a piece of theatre or more precisely a piece of site specific theatre can somehow re-join and connect a community. The people tree is made by the people,which indicates it is already an interactive performance but it also shaped by the people’s ideas and stories of their city, or shall we say their Chichester. This performance caters for any age, from the very young with drawing activities to the older generations sharing stories and memories encompassing their ideas of Chichester, gaining a reconnection with the place they live. The aspect of community is at the centre of not only The People Tree project but for the entire company of Public Gift Productions. We as a company looked into the Welfare State International Theatre Company as their work similarly to us is community based, and is something to aspire to due to the grand scale in which they are able to produce such performances. Public Gift Production aim to use our combination of community togetherness and natural resources in order for a city (Chichester in this case) to reconnect with one another and to their natural surroundings.


Smith, K (2007). The Guerilla Art Kit. New York: Princeton Architectural Press
Kaprow, A (2003) Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. California: University of California Press.
Thompson, N & Sholette, G eds. (2004)The Interventionists: Users’ Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life. Massachusetts: MIT Pres.


Lambert, S. I Will Talk With Anyone. Available: Last accessed 23rd March 2012.
Welfare State International. Available: Last accessed 25th March 2012
Stories From Space.  Nature Reserves. Available: Last accessed 19th March 2012

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