Set to host Marshmallow Laser Feast’s Observations on Being from 22 June-15 August, Coventry’s London Road Cemetery is one of the city’s hidden green gems, boasting a stunning arboretum created by Victorian landscape designer Joseph Paxton.
Experienced through seven immersive artworks, Observations on Being invites audiences on a journey through the invisible natural world, exploring the idea of breath from a range of scientific and cultural perspectives. Through a mix of audio and visual installations, the piece will draw on the diverse plant life already thriving within the cemetery, offering moments of quiet contemplation amidst the trees, as well as shining a light on the amazing processes that keep them alive.
Ahead of the opening next week, we took a tour of the cemetery in the company of Tree Warden Derek Robinson to hear some of the stories behind the arboretum’s most impressive trees.
“Paxton was commissioned to do the cemetery in 1845, and a lot of his original designs remain in what you can see here today,” says Derek. “It was all built on a disused quarry, and it was designed first and foremost as a cemetery, but also as a gentleman’s park and arboretum – a sort of three for one, if you like.”
Already approaching the height of his career as a landscape gardener, Paxton was also responsible for designing the famous Chatsworth gardens, as well as one of the earliest and most influential public parks in Birkenhead. A graveyard might seem like an unlikely place for an outing today, but that’s largely because our attitudes to death have changed a lot over the years.
“You’ve got to understand that the Victorian concept of death was very different to ours,” he explains. “People nowadays are often frightened of it, but back then it was normal – there was a lot of it, so you were next to it all the time.”