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Smiles on Sunflower Day in Morecambe

Posted by More Music on 16 September 2020

Nothing quite characterises happiness like a sunflower and with their bright colours; a yellow bloom of sunflowers in the deserted Morecambe streets was a sure way to being a smile to the local community.

It is that feeling of pure joy that is central to the ‘That Spring Thing’ festival. A celebration of Morecambe in the spring: a chance for Morecambe, or more specifically the back of More Music, to flourish as the harsh winter retreats. With the advent of Covid, there had never been more of a need for the brightness and jollity that the festival promotes and what better way to re-imagine it than with a flush of sunflowers and some friendly, neighbourhood rivalry.

The Covid- friendly version, charmingly named ‘That Little Spring Thing’, continued to capture the spirit of the original festival: it was certainly a daunting task to be able to retain the same quaint, cheerful nature online. Yet, That Little Spring Thing managed to engage the whole spectrum of the creative community, from artists to poets to performers, all tasked to create new pieces to be filmed by the musicians themselves. Making the shift to do everything remotely had hidden benefits though, as it allowed us to commission artists from across the country, and by making a film we achieved greater involvement and engagement than we would ordinarily. As always, technology takes with one hand and gives with the other.

While, music will always be at the heart of everything More Music does, this festival had other motives too: to build the community through gardening. Kathryn MacDonald said, ‘the poor and neglected appearance of the area is a cause of unhappiness for the people who live here. We wanted to do something that related to That Spring Thing but included our neighbours in something positive and joyful, as they wouldn’t be able to participate in an event.’

She went on to speak of her bold and imaginative plan to distribute sunflower seeds in the West End and those local to More Music; ideally, she imagined that Parliament Street might resemble Andalusia by the summer. It would come as a boost for those suffering with the continued detachment of lockdown and a chance for a Morecambe based summer to still inspire and refresh its inhabitants with a bright, happy and welcoming appearance. The gentle competition that it would encourage would be a way for people to engage with the continental attitude; for a greater sense of community connectivity and celebration of the ties that bond us all together.

The delivery of the seeds, though, was only the beginning and we continued the conversation with our neighbours with letters, homemade biscuits before it all culminated in an understated celebration. Participants were photographed holding their prized flowers and while we may have underestimated the growing time a little, the good music and refreshments in our garden in the sunshine made up for it.

It was a shame that the sunflowers hadn’t grown to their full maturity but undeterred we fly-posted a beautiful illustration of a sunflower around the neighbourhood, which still had the same effect. It brightened the streets and became a positive force for the people of Morecambe, facilitating conversation between members of the community.

The participation in these events is without doubt mutually beneficial. We felt fortunate to have the chance to develop new skills, make new friends, create new work and have a lot of fun; creating opportunities to facilitate direct contact with the residents on Parliament Street is something that we have wanted to develop. It is in tough times that the importance of empathy, and ultimately love and care, resurfaces: it is easy to lose track of this during our previously busy lives. Undoubtedly, this is was a very precious opportunity for us to feel re-connected with our environment.

More Music is rooted in the belief that building connections and collaborating with others is an essential, and often over looked, part of life. It is not only the staff here at More Music that finds such interactions rewarding and as Kathryn further pointed out, ‘participation in the arts has proven to have widespread mental health, physical health and overall well-being benefits; including supporting the immune system, growing social bonds, reducing stress and depression so in times like these opportunities to engage are more vital than ever.’

The project is not over though and we look forward to another collaboration with Louise from Petalos, a further growing project for the neighbours, a first Friday tidy of the area around More Music each month, as well as the return of That Spring Thing and the Sunflower project next year. Throughout all this and other projects that More Music will work on over the next few months we will endeavour to continue to have an emphasis on the continuation of conversations we started and the building of neighbourhood relationships. So, until we see our neighbours again, we would like to thank them for participating and for coming out to create some very special memories.

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