Between 2015 and 2017 some 120+ mature trees were cut down along Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor. The majority were killed to make way for the University of Manchester’s £1bn campus redevelopment, although some were also lost to short-sighted design on the excellent new cycleway and to private development by Bruntwood. To add insult to injury, almost all the replacement trees planted are miserable little fastigiate trees, which will never make a substantial contribution to the appearance and environment of the Corridor.
Upset at the casual loss of some fine signature trees together with many others collectively making an important contribution to the streetscape and liveability, and determined to do what he could to prevent it happening again, Phil was inspired to complete a number of works protesting their loss and illustrating the value of urban trees.
Between 6th November 2017 and 5th November 2018, Phil sent a total of 19 postcards to 96 individuals each illustrating one or more of the murders along the corridor. Each card carried a picture of one or more trees being cut down on one side, whilst the other carried the location and month of the murder and a weblink to evidence of the value of urban trees environmentally, for health, learning & culture, and economically.
In April/May 2019, Phil mounted an exhibition at Manchester Museum presenting his work an, raising awareness of the enormity of the destruction and the inadequacy of the attempted remediation. He also led a number of guided walks, visiting the site of many of the murders, raising concerns about the inadequacy of the process and giving people an opportunity to mourn their loss.
Lockdown 2020 Performances: Be-coming Tree
Becoming Pear Tree
On 1st August Phil carried out a one hour performance on zoom on the subject ‘Becoming Tree’ simultaneously with 18 other artists from across the world – from Delhi to Finland, Slovenia to New York and Colombo to Cornwall.
The mass performance was organised by Arts of the self as part of the Be-Coming Tree project. Find out more on facebook here.
The performance was both an elegy for over 120 mature trees felled for development and a celebration of of the pear tree (Pyrus communis var.) which has stood in our garden for over thirty years since we moved in, and was an old tree then. During the performance, Phil Barton became pear tree and pear tree became Phil Barton.
Phil has now shortened and re-filmed the performance and you can watch the video here. The video runs for 25 minutes and comprises four ‘chapters:
· Bearing Witness: The Oxford Road Murders
· Gathering: Exploring Pear, Exploring Phil
· Unfurling: Becoming Phil, Becoming Pear
· Scattering: Dressing For Departure
Oxford Road Requiem
On 30th October 2021 Phil conducted a second live performance with other artists as part of the Be-Coming Tree Project. This film was made the day afterwards.
More about Be-Coming Tree.