So what is a Cultural Park-Keeper?
Now, that is a good question and the next three years (thanks to funding from Esmee Fairbairn Foundation) gives us the opportunity to find out.
My name is Francine Hayfron and last summer as I came across the job advertisement for this post, my heart literally skipped a beat!
For the past few years I had been working for an Arts & Wellbeing charitable organisation based in Salford that would use artistic mediums including horticulture, to help people that are experiencing emotional difficulties and those that feel isolated or excluded from their communities due to a decline in their mental health. It was here that I learnt to really appreciate how engaging with the outdoors can have an impact and help to improve a person’s mental health. Job opportunities like this rarely present themselves (especially here in Manchester), so I knew that the role of the Cultural Park-Keeper was something that I wanted to get my teeth into!
I’ll be working indoors and out, mostly in the park, reaching new audiences and people – park users and local communities. I will be working closely with the gallery staff, the Friends of Whitworth Park and other external agencies to develop new ways of working with and engaging the communities that surround us. As well as developing large-scale family friendly events in the park (especially in the summer), one of the upcoming highlights will be the launch of a new Horticultural Wellbeing programme later this year. This will highlight the benefits of using art, gardening and horticulture to aid mental health and promote wellbeing.
Above all, this role will allow us to create fresh and exciting activities and partnerships with a focus on the great outdoors and natural world in an urban context.
So, I will not be found telling people to “keep off the grass” or pruning the herbaceous borders but I most certainly will be exploring how to bring nature and culture together.
The photo shows Francine with Patrick Osborn, the Gallery’s new Landscape and Sustainability Technician. We’ll hear from Patrick soon!