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The Green Backyard_2015_Jessie Brennan

My residency project is in collaboration with the Green Backyard, Peterborough’s urban ‘community growing project’ located by the railway tracks near Oundle Road. The project intends to explore debates around regeneration and community land rights by inviting participation from local people as a form of tacit resistance to redevelopment. It attempts to challenge the narrative told by Peterborough City Council of the need for planned redevelopment of the site and intends to offer alternative evidence – in the form of a visual and audio archive – for the current social use and value of the land.

I am currently working with the trustees and volunteers of the Green Backyard. Together, we are converting a garden shed into a community darkroom. Our intention is to create a visual and audio archive of the Green Backyard, in the form of cyanotypes and local voices, respectively.

The wide range of objects and plant specimens documented in cyanotype will generate lasting visual traces (beyond the threatened lifetime of the site), their image captured on light-sensitive papers exposed directly to the sun. Local people are also invited to visit the GBY and contribute their personal experiences of the place, which will be captured as audio-recordings.

Cyanotypes were, of course, traditionally used by 19th Century architects and engineers to copy plans and designs, known as blueprints. The process was famously employed by botanist Anna Atkins too, who illustrated the first photographic book, shortly after the invention of cyanotypes by scientist John Herschel in 1842. Cyanotypes bring to mind initial ideas and ambitious ideals – and in their radical visions, qualities of grassroots activism too – often revealing unrealised, utopic dreams.

The Green Backyard is, however, far from unrealised, and the cooperative (newly charitable) organisation may resist redevelopment yet. The planned archives intend to invite exchange of local knowledge around horticulture and biodiversity, and explore the environmental and social values of public space, particularly land reclaimed by – and for – local communities.


How to take part in the project

The best way to find out about the project and take part is to visit The Green Backyard! Opening hours are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, 11am – 4pm. The site entrance is on Oundle Road, Peterborough, adjacent to The Apex. You can use postcode PE2 8AT if you are using a satnav to find it.

Visit the GBY and add your voice to the fast-growing GBY archive:

*Choose a plant or object and make a sound-recording telling about your choice and why the place matters to you. We really welcome your contributions – they will act as testimonials in support of GBY.*

If you’d like to find out more or take part in the project by contributing to the archives, please contact: or

Work in progress_2015_Jessie Brennan

Work in progress


Inside The Green Backyard