Knitted bees create a buzz
Our North England engagement manager Ben Fisher reports from Grow Wild community project Pollen Counts, in Lytham...
Of the different ways I’ve seen projects get people excited about wildflowers, this is certainly a new one. I’m stood in the Eco Pod of Park View 4 U, a community park in Lytham, Lancashire, looking at several hundred knitted, crochet and pom pom bees. This is part of an attempted world record for gathering the most knitted bees/animals and is the most visually striking part of their Grow Wild project “Pollen Counts”. It’s also has been crucial to sparking the interest of people locally and from further afield.
“We thought about how to get people wanting to find out more about wildflowers, and we know people like bees. So bees were the way to start the project off,” says Julie, who co-ordinates the project with her colleague Rachel, both of whom are running around dressed as a bee. There’s a lot of energy this morning as the team of volunteers are directed by Park View 4 U staff member Helen to set up the welcome marquee for Pollen Counts' 'Bee Wild' launch day. Last week they hid bees all over the town with invites to today’s event, and this combined with some great local press coverage and social media posts have created quite a buzz!
This quirkiness is an important part of Pollen Counts’ appeal – finding ways to make UK native wildflowers resonate with a wide audience sometimes means thinking a little bit differently: hence knitted bees. Alongside the crafting today there is a big wildflower patch to be sown, a UK native wildflower quiz and stalls from lots of local community groups with all sorts of plant-based activities, led by an enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers.
One such volunteer is Anthony from group Seriouslyhookedup, who alongside Angela runs three community crochet, knitting and yarn craft groups across the Fylde. Originally sharing his bee patterns with just a couple of friends to test out, he tells me the huge swell in interest over social media in particular “was a little overwhelming as I had only expected a handful of people to get in touch!”. For the last few weeks, alongside his full-time job as a nurse, he has been talking about Pollen Counts to a huge range of people.
“The interest from schools, residential homes and colleges has been fantastic!”, Anthony explains. “We have received bees made by people aged 2 years old to 102 years old, from as far away as Australia and from people of all backgrounds and abilities. We received a box FULL of pom pom bees from Bridgend College in South Wales. The pom pom bees have proved a hit with children including the children of St Peter’s Kindergarten class in Lytham and a lot of families here today”.
"The children I've met today have been really excited to be making their bees and their parents and guardians have been keen to understand more about why Park View 4U are raising awareness of the importance of bees and wildflowers. It really has caused quite a stir!" Anthony says.
Away from the wool another volunteer, Alan, is taking a break from showing people the park’s beehives. He’s is from Urban Organic, a Blackpool-based social enterprise, and Pollen Counts is one of many projects they work on together: Urban Organic also look after Park View 4 U’s beehives and run joint events.
Alan explains that he and Julie work well together because of their shared outlook and approach - particularly because of a shared tendency to come up with novel ideas. This is proven when Alan tells me about another of his projects - Jedi Gardening! By blindfolding participants as they garden, the aim is to “temporarily remove one sense in order to focus the other senses”, and create an immersive experience of gardening and nature. It sounds like a fantastic way to get people thinking differently about plants and interacting with the space around them. I’m very tempted to try it as we spend the afternoon sowing one of Pollen Counts’ wildflower patches.
The mix of activities appealing to the whole community is a big part of the success of today’s event – families make a pom pom bee, pop in to meet a beekeeper and on their way to sow their part of the wildflower patch they stop off to do a wildflower quiz. Most of the groups who help with the wildflower patch plan to come back to see “their flowers” in early summer, and you can see the natural enthusiasm for cuddly bees pollinating an interest in wildflowers for even the younger visitors.
It’s amazing that this is just the launch event. When I ask Julie what’s next, she tells me about a pollen art workshop with Rob Kessler planned for late June, loads of different activities with groups throughout spring and summer. Oh, and just the small matter of the world record attempt. They really don’t do things by halves.
See more from Pollen Counts here or get involved in their world record attempt by sending your knitted or crocheted bees to The Eco Pod, Park View Road, Lytham St. Annes, Lancashire, FY8 4JE, to arrive by May 13th!