Beauty won't be stopped - in a Sheffield garage or a Mumbai slum, via a bamboo bike or a vineyard in a London Tube
We are as interested in the deep structural inequalities as the next progressive person. But when people in their communities just take the opportunity to beautify, enhance or visually transform their surroundings, we try and take notice of that too - as an action with unpredictable, humanising effects.
Here are four examples, from UK and the wider world:
Sheffield: the estate where the garage has become an art gallery
From the BBC: When Joanne Marsden was a child, the low concrete garage block that's surrounded by high-rise flats on her estate was a place to rollerblade on the roof after tea and avoid after dark.
Marsden was born in one of the Park Hill flats in 1965 and still lives on the estate that dominates Sheffield's skyline.
Children used to play on top of the garage, she recalls. "We used to climb up - there were two holes in the ceiling. "You could climb up onto the roof. We used to play tiggy on there and we used to rollerblade on top.
"It were right scary when it turned dark. If one of the garages were empty and the door were left open, you were right scared of people shoving you in and shutting the door because there were no lights in there."
This week, when she goes back, she'll see its transformation. Instead of dark garages and holes in the roof, it now has white walls, light-filled artists' studios and a small shop by the front door.
The garage block has been converted into the city's newest art gallery by S1 Artspace, which has relocated from the city centre. Marsden is looking forward to seeing its new life. "I like art so I'll probably nip down and have a nosey."
The garage-turned-gallery opens on Friday with an exhibition of photographs taken by Roger Mayne soon after Park Hill opened in 1961 alongside photos of the neighbouring Hyde Park estate taken by Bill Stephenson in 1988, just before the block was knocked down.
Mumbai: a fishing village gets a colourful makeover
From the BBC: Khar Danda, a tiny fishing village in India’s bustling city of Mumbai, has had a major makeover. The artists who painted the village say bright colours will inspire people to think positive.
From the Times of India: This project includes not only painting the walls and roofs of houses to change the way people look at this city and its slums but also providing them with sustainable roofing that is durable and reduces indoor temperatures by 3-4 degrees. These rooftops are more efficient compared to the temporary sheet roofing the locals employ during the monsoon.
With funding for 300 houses, they are painting the roofs that they hope to eventually unfold onto all the 7,000 houses in the area with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers and artists coming from different parts of the country.
For more, see the organisation behind this, Chal Rang De
An actual vineyard is cropping up in London’s busiest train stations
It's a drinks promotion for a New Zealand winery (and it's passed...). But we like the idea of setting up pleasure-inducing vineyards in the middle of busy public zones (these were in King's Cross, Waterloo, London Bridge, and Paddington over the middle of July - with, apparently, free wine handouts). We have covered the transformative power of gardening a lot in the Daily Alternative - it's doubtless a back-handed compliment to the activists that their guerilla planting is attractive enough to attract the marketeers...
Nagaland: Why this man is travelling the world on his bamboo bike
From the New Indian Express: There is a saying in Nagaland that here life begins in a cot of bamboo and ends in a coffin of bamboo. Nagas are excellent in making articles from bamboo, but this man took the wood to another level of innovation and made a bicycle with it to go on a world tour to promote an innovative, eco-friendly and healthy lifestyle.
After circumnavigating over 25 countries in Europe and North America on a bamboo bicycle in 2016, 30-year-old Sievituo Chevy aka Yakuza Solo has returned to his hometown Kohima, where he has started GoTravels, a sustainable travel start-up to manufacture bamboo cycles.
“Travelling is a form of education where one gets to witness rich cultures of different places in real time,” says Chevy, who switched many professions. Initially, he worked at a call centre, then ran many small-scale businesses before pursuing his passion.
“The idea was to get away from the mundane life routines and be mentally agile to face tough weather conditions with minimal needs.” To make the journey more instantaneous, he travelled without a map or an atlas.
“I chose bamboo for my vehicle because I wanted the world to take note of the benefits that the state’s cultural resource offers,” says the cyclist, who managed the trip expenses from savings, friends’ support and the state government’s partial sponsorship.
It took six months to build the first bamboo bicycle with the help of Manipur Cycling Club, but was later redesigned. Richard Belho, a sustainable design architect and Chevy’s mentor, made the final prototype for his cycle. His friend Lovito Achumi’s precision and skills in carpentry came handy to give the bicycle laser focus accuracy and a solid design.
“My first country point was Amsterdam, followed by Western Europe and from there, I headed to the Balkans. The Danube river led me to Central Europe, where I ended my Euro tour in Riga, Latvia, before again taking a flight to the US,” he says. He took just three flights during the whole journey and rest of the destinations were covered on bicycle.
“My bike was an ice breaker, leading to people hosting me in their homes. Families were curious to know my travel stories and I would end up cooking Naga dishes for them,” says Chevy, who has started a community driven sensitisation initiative Project 72 hours. “Our 11-member team visits old age homes, orphanages and prisons, apart from indulging in street art, gardening and town cleaning,” he says.
More on this here from the BBC's short film: