Article by Rebecca Bollands, Deputy Head, Howes Primary School.
The project started as an education project involving five Coventry primary schools and a Noh theatre group “Between the Stones”. The school communities learnt about the links between Coventry and Hiroshima especially the importance of reconciliation and peace. The final part of the project was for pupils to design miniature Japanese peace gardens.
However, the pupils became inspired by the work and they wanted to create something on a larger scale that would be of benefit to the whole community. The pupils had several joint planning meetings and asked to develop their ideas into a permanent Japanese peace garden. Discussions were then held with the Coventry Lord Mayor’s Peace and Reconciliation Committee who agreed with the pupils about the need for this. Pupils felt that a city centre location would be the most accessible, with the War Memorial Park being voted as the most popular place to install it.
After this, a consultation meeting was held with the Friends of the Memorial Park (volunteers who support the park) and the park managers from Coventry City Council.
The project will be one that involves the wider community. Pupils have created the “Islands of Peace” garden design which will be built jointly by pupils and their families; Friends of the War Memorial Park; volunteers from the Japanese Garden Society and Coventry Ambassadors. This project is innovative as it is intergenerational and it allows all ages in the community to work together. The work will mostly be done at weekends.
Once the Japanese Peace Garden is installed, it will be open to the public every day. The garden has been designed to ensure accessibility for all.
We would like to work in a group of Coventry primary schools, the Friends of the War Memorial Park and the Japanese Garden Society to plan, design and install a Japanese Peace Garden called “Islands of Peace” in the Coventry War Memorial Park – Coventry’s largest city centre park. This space for reflection will be open to the public and it will demonstrate the commitment of the children of Coventry to peace and reconciliation. The work will take place out of curriculum time.
Five Coventry primary schools have been working on a Cities of Peace project that links Coventry and Hiroshima as international centres of reconciliation. They are Howes Primary School, Broad Heath Primary School, Stivichall Primary School, Finham Primary School and Park Hill Primary School.
The children have written peace poems which were displayed in the Embassy of Japan and have performed Japanese peace plays in Coventry Cathedral. They are now learning about the design of Japanese peace gardens and how they can be used as public spaces to reflect on peace and reconciliation.
In this project, young people will learn about garden design and project management through collaborating with the Friends of the Memorial Park; the Japanese Garden Society and construction companies. The children will have a significant role in planning and leading the project, equipping them with skills that will increase their employability in the future. It will also give children a sense of pride in their city as they will have contributed to improving it.
The finished garden will be of benefit to the community of Coventry. It will be a focal point for reflection and will provide an oasis of calm within a busy city centre. It is anticipated that it will be visited by over 250 people every week.
The garden project will take 4 months to complete and the finished garden will be open for a minimum of 10 years.
The wider community will know: about the project through
- An opening event attended by the Ambassador from Embassy of Japan and Coventry’s Lord Mayor
- Social media
- Council publicity
- The Memorial Park Visitor Centre – information boards
- Education pack will be distributed to 100 schools in Coventry
This project brings together diverse groups in our community. The people in Coventry who will collaborate are 2000 pupils from five Coventry primary schools; the Friends of the War Memorial Park; Coventry Ambassadors; local volunteers from the Japanese Garden Society and the Lord Mayor’s Peace and Reconciliation Committee. This project will be intergenerational and will allow children to be involved in planning a public space that will be freely available for use by the wider community.
This project will create a permanent peace garden in a widely used public space – Coventry War Memorial Park. The area that has been assigned for this project is currently a grassed area and the creation of the peace garden would greatly enhance the park and the city centre. A recent survey carried out at the Coventry Young People’s Peace and Reconciliation Conference (Nov 2019) showed that 100% of respondents felt there was a need to develop a peace garden, especially in a city which has had increasing problems with knife crime.
A key element of this project is for primary school children to be involved with managing all aspects of planning and installation. This will raise their awareness of future careers and will raise their aspirations.
The project has been created with the help of renowned Japanese garden designer Robert Ketchell, who has been bestowed with the Order of the Rising Sun from the Japanese Ambassador for his contribution to Japanese gardens in the UK.
The design is known as a ‘karesansui’ garden, or a ‘dry garden’.
A key feature will be the ‘Islands of Peace’, while there will also be a ginkgo tree, viewing platforms and Japanese cherry trees known as sakura trees, all surrounded by a low wall with a traditional Japanese partial roof.
The garden is planned to open on 20 June as part of a pupil-led Japan Arts Festival.
The Japanese rock garden (枯山水, karesansui) or “dry landscape” garden, often called a zen garden, creates a miniature stylized landscape through carefully composed arrangements of rocks, water features, moss, pruned trees and bushes, and uses gravel or sand that is raked to represent ripples in water. A zen garden is usually relatively small, surrounded by a wall, and is usually meant to be seen while seated from a single viewpoint outside the garden, such as the porch of the hojo, the residence of the chief monk of the temple or monastery. Classical zen gardens were created at temples of Zen Buddhism in Kyoto during the Muromachi period. They were intended to imitate the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance, and to serve as an aid to meditation about the true meaning of existence.