Mighty elm launches Brighton’s Circus Street community events

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The planting of a mighty 14m elm outside the front of the old municipal market building marked the opening of a new community space inside the warehouse and a programme of public events, kicking off with Circus Street Winterland, a free festival for people in Brighton & Hove, on December 14, at 2-6pm. (Pic: Martyn Evans from Cathedral Group, Kt from Copperdollar, Cllr Geoffrey Bowden, Emma Jacquest from Tarner Community Project).
Cathedral Group and McLaren, who are leading development proposals for the Circus Street site in partnership with South East Dance, University of Brighton and Brighton & Hove City Council, gave local councillors and community groups a tour of the community space, while performers from Copperdollar, award winners of Brighton Festival & Fringe, offered a taste of what’s to come at the free festival.
Emma Jacquest, Charity Manager at Tarner Community Project, said, “We are thrilled to have somewhere new and exciting to hold our youth group activities – this is a fantastic opportunity for us to increase and diversify our youth events and develop some creative projects, including art and dance activities with young people in the Tarner area.”
                     Martyn Evans, Creative Director at Cathedral Group, said: “The old warehouse has been closed off to the public for a very long time and we want to enliven it again and get people used to being in and using this part of the city – and also to make the most of this extraordinary old warehouse building while it’s still here.”
“We already have a queue of community groups and creative projects lining up to use the space and Circus Street Winterland is just the first of an exciting programme of events which we’ll be inviting neighbours and the people of Brighton & Hove to come and enjoy over the coming months.”
Jamie Watton, CEO of leading arts organisation South East Dance, said: “It is great to hear that the temporary community space at the old municipal market will be bringing Circus Street alive over the next few months with local activity, including dance and arts.
“South East Dance is looking forward to a permanent home for dance on the site with development of The Dance Space and, in the run up to that, we welcome this access to a temporary space as it will enable us to start realising our ambition to ensure local people have greater opportunities to get excited and involved in dance.”
Professor Anne Boddington, Dean of The University of Brighton’s Faculty of Arts, said: “We are looking forward to using the community space for a fashion show, photographic exhibition and for a film project next year and see this is a great precursor to our new library and learning centre for the arts, to be part of the future development here, which will help the wider community access our extraordinary creative resources.”
The newly-planted elm tree, which has been decorated with lights for the winter, is an Ulmus ‘Lobel’, of which there are already several in the city. Brighton & Hove is home to the National Elm Collection, the largest collection of disease resistant elms in any city in the world, though it has been dramatically reduced by disease and the great storm of 1987 since it was started in Victorian times.
Peter Bourne, one of the country’s leading elm conservation enthusiasts, attended the event and said: “The elm is an important landscape tree in Brighton & Hove and we have over 120 different types in the city, making it one of the most important tree collections. It is pleasing to hear that someone is doing something for old Ulmus – I hope this is a major step in assisting the renewed interest in saving and growing the elm in the British Isles.”
Cathedral Group in partnership with McLaren Property submitted a planning application last month for a development on the site estimated to bring over £200million into Brighton & Hove over the next ten years, create over 600 jobs, deliver two landmark public buildings: The Dance Space, a new home for South East Dance, and a library and teaching building for the University of Brighton, as well as much needed new homes, student residential accommodation and office space.
Beautiful green spaces, landscaped public squares and an events square with The Dance Space and University library at its centre, will be able to host street events and outdoor performance. The scheme, which aims to be the most sustainable development in the city, includes a series of well planted character areas, including a fruit tree orchard, with a raft of special initiatives to increase biodiversity and protect the environment, with green roofs, living walls, bird boxes, grey water recycling and food growing pathways.
Ward councillor and chair of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Economic Development & Culture Committee, Geoffrey Bowden, said: “I welcome the opening up of a temporary space for use by local community groups. I hope, should planning consent for the Circus Street be given the go ahead, one of the spin-off benefits will be Section 106 funding that can be used towards some permanent community facilities – particularly for those living in the nearby Kingswood and Milner estates.”
                     Another local Ward Councillor, Cllr Stephanie Powell, said: “The planting of the 14m elm marks a new beginning of much-needed regeneration of this part of Tarner.”

Continued Martyn Evans from Cathedral Group, “Opening up the building in the interim is allowing us to discuss many exciting projects and partnerships with neighbours and community groups, ranging from how to create job opportunities for local people in the new development, to growing and landscaping the surrounding area, to arts projects, which will provide long-term benefits for local residents.”