with Declan Wiffen
Full Price: £270 or £30/session
Concession Rate: £135 or £15/session
2 Free Bursary Spots (with application)
Starts September 26th
Gay Gardens is the third series of writing workshops thinking through questions around queer ecologies, following Cruising Nature and FUCK Plants.
What makes a garden gay? Does sexuality have any bearing on gardens? Could gay gardens create transformation and belonging in a hostile world?
Rather than offering definitive answers, this course will be exploratory—asking questions through the celebration and critique of some well known gardens alongside some less famous examples, including in literature and art. From Prospect to Sissinghurst, Audre Lorde to Emily Dickinson, a Yorkshire Rock Garden to the communal growing space of a Hackney squat, we’ll ask what constitutes a gay garden? Is there such a thing? And how can we use gardens as inspiration and provocation in our creative practice?
Offering short introductions to weekly topics* followed by writing prompts to help you think through, imagine and create in your own practice, this course is open to writers, artists, and creatives interested in queer ecologies. There will be opportunity to collage, draw, design etc., and respond to the prompts in any way you’d prefer.
*full disclaimer — expect theoretical provocations over gardening expertise, amusing memes over latin binomials, & self seeded thinking over formally planted logic.
No preparation for each week is required—you can just turn up. All sessions are on Zoom and will be recorded in case you can’t make it. Materials will be shared via a Padlet for you to engage with at any time. You can sign up for all or just some of the weeks.
Each week will include a range of writing activities, and no one will be asked to read their work aloud. We have an open mic session at the end of the course for sharing writing you’ve been working on and you will be invited to contribute to a zine with other participants.
Week 1 September 26th: the non-heterosexual garden
introduction to Gay Gardens and an exploration of how we might begin to conceive of the ‘non-heterosexual garden’. we’ll interrogate the idea that a garden is gay because its creator was queer, and create our own aphorisms for what makes a garden gay.
Week 2 October 2nd: the camp garden
we’ll look at some gardens which exhibit camp aesthetics—artifice, excess, ironic bad taste—and think about what our own camp gardens would be like
Week 3 October 10th: the lesbian garden
looking to literature and art as well as historical figures and gardens, we turn to lesbian gardeners who offer alternative perspectives on the design and ecology of gardens.
Week 4 October 17th: the closeted garden
this week we’ll think about how gardens hide the traces of queer lives, asking what ephemera of queer histories are present but unspoken? and how does gossip and storytelling become part of what a gay garden is?
Week 5 October 24th: the ill-tempered garden
if we think of the well-tempered garden as hetero–how can we embrace things usually
thought of as ‘negative’ in gardens, such as failure, neglect and the abject?
Week 6 October 31st: the un-mastered garden
this week looks at gardens as intersectional spaces of histories, geographies and memory, and whether queer gardens resist, or are complicit, in colonial histories and epistemologies.
Week 7 November 7th: the non-human garden
a garden is traditionally thought of as a space where human intervention ‘into nature’ is crucial. but what would a non-human garden be? what queer logics might they hold? might thinking about non-human gardens teach us something?
Week 8 November 14th: the unredemptive garden
this week responds to Jamaica Kincaid’s provocation that gardens are not spaces to ‘forget the cares of the world’, alongside Leo Bersani’s polemic that the culture of redemption ‘denies the historical reality it attempts to redeem’.
Week 9 November 21st: the imagined garden [with real toads]
taking inspiration from Marianne Moore who writes of ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’ - we’ll think about speculative and utopian gardens, and what they may or may not offer us.
Week 10 November 28th: the open mic garden
a week to share something you’ve been working on and listen to other’s work from the course.