An agri-cultural residency in a protected urban wooded wasteland

An agricultural project in the Murs à Pêches

The town hall of Montreuil entrusted Friches Théâtre Urbain with a hectare of classified woodland: a plot in the sector of the old peach walls in Montreuil. Plot 343, like many others in the area, had long served as a wild dump for the neighbourhood, for many symbolising disaffection, and marginality, for others a precious larder and secret adventure playground.

In a neighbourhood awaiting urban renewal, at the centre of a municipal urban agriculture project, in a context of isolation and tension between residents, Sarah Harper gradually developed a participatory project for the wider neighbourhood through the preservation, poeticisation and enhancement of this wild space.

Art, science and agri-cultural research in the murs à pêches in Montreuil.

Preservation, enhancement and poeticisation

The work lies in the repositioning of this abandoned space as a precious place, not only for its biodiversity but also for its atmosphere and importance in the recent or distant memories of local residents. A poetic, sensitive approach fostered local reconnection between the neighborhood, nature, urban biodiversity and cultural diversity.

It explored the notion of an emergency garden of unsuspected and fragilised biodiversity, suggesting its sensitive and sustainable preservation, with and for local residents, as a tool for social cohesion, in the rue Saint Antoine.

“Art in public space has the unique power to inspire individuals and bring back to a community the feeling of a shared experience. Such projects mobilize the power of the imagination to see familiar places differently and make everyday life extraordinary.”

"What is a wasteland for?"

"How can art revive our awareness of our essential relationship to the earth?"

"How can we give value to existing intimate knowledge, traditions, and lived experiences on the verge of being lost?"

Through these questions, the experiment carried out by Sarah Harper on plot 343 of the Murs à Pêches aimed to acknowledge residents' relationships with the land and the maintenance of a "kindling wood". Through attending to its biodiversity and its preservation, the project sought to change the way this undecided and ill-defined space on the edge of the city was regarded, in a relational work with local residents created over the long term.

Scientific partnerships were developed with botanists experts from the National Museum of Natural History, to make a botanic inventory of plant species in this wood closed off for almost half a century.

Botanical rendezvous and educational trails

Neighbours, schoolchildren and the general public were invited to regular rendezvous for observational walks in the company of mycologists, basket makers, botanists and beekeepers. Walks included sculptural and sound installations and gourmet tastings creating privileged moments in the undergrowth for the participants. Exchanges between local residents and scientific specialists intersected through their relationship to nature and to the wooded plot in particular.

Hope is a wooded time

Slipped into the undergrowth were discreet, ephemeral, installations which hardly disturbed the wood: sound filtered through the leaves, images were projected onto the walls or trees, sculptures made with materials found on site, moments of performance…not to embellish, but to reveal what was there - to challenge our interpretation of what is beautiful, useful, or precious.

A very delicate pruning

Pruned trees, carved stone, a mark engraved in wood, living wicker woven into a costume, rebuilding a wall… carving out a place for ourselves by bringing a place back to life...

The second part of the project, A very delicate pruning was a filmed performance creating an imagined archive of the exploration of the site's walls and invisible borders, linking nature, man and matter within the peach walls.

A collective creation of a sentimental and creative unveiling of a space usually invisible. A very delicate pruning refers to the role of each person in their own life, and to the technical know-how based on actions of cutting, pruning or marking.

    Creative Team & Partners
    Testimonies, anecdotes, and snippets of stories are the starting point for creations

    Creative team

    Direction and writing: Sarah Harper
    Technical collaboration: Pascal Laurent and Quentin Douriez
    Sound creations: Gwenaëlle Rouleau
    Landscaping: Camille Frechou
    Research residencies: Professor Susan Haedicke (dramaturgy), Enrico Blasi, OZU (Photographer)
    Botanical census: Minh Xuang Truong, Flora Guillier
    Educational collaborations: Nathalie Machon (MNHN), Florence Devers (MNHN),  Mycologist: André Lantz
    Administration: Julie Philippe


    Ville de Montreuil
    DRAC IdF
    University of Warwick (UK)
    Ile-de-France Region - Jardins Solidaires