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Phoenix Stories

The trees, flowers, fire and sculpture

The trees we have chosen are a Cerasifera Nigra, Prunus Kanzan and Prunus Royal Burgundy. These reflect the heart and phoenix themes as they all have pink blossom in the spring and in autumn their leaves are the colours of fire. The flowers we have chosen so far will be Narcissus daffodils Actaea, Minnow and Cheerfulness which are distinctive white varieties.  All these species are beneficial to wild life. The heart of trees will span roughly 35 metres across with a central open glade accessed through two entrances.


Fire sculptures are temporary artworks built with the intention to be deliberately burnt as part of a creative or communal event. They come from a long tradition and provide a form of celebration invested with feelings of social ceremony which can be deeply contemplative, spiritual and more. The current plan is to afterward replicate the fire sculpture in cast metal to create a permanent phoenix for the glade. The site of the work would be located in a line through the glade so that the sun will catch the phoenix every dawn and every sunset. 


All the design considerations have attempted to reflect a balance between aesthetics, practical horticultural and budget whilst also considering the ethos of the parks original designer, Edward Kemp, who completed Newsham Park in 1868. Kemp’s own book on park gardening offered small clues as to how we might fit a modern project like this into a historic park of Newsham.

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Idea for the project

When Paula Johnson, a very popular and much loved local woman, died during the in April her daughter, Sarah Johnson, deeply felt the failure to mark her mum’s passing in a way which reflected the huge amount of love and respect others had felt for her. The pandemic had also meant there was no real opportunity for family members, particularly grandchildren, to make a last visit in hospital and subsequently to really accept that she was never coming home. She felt that she needed to find a way to begin grieving and that perhaps planting a tree might offer some way to begin that process not only for her but also for her children.  As it became that many other local people were a similar place and through discussion with Christina Ashworth from Tree House community project, the idea for one dedicated tree grew into something larger that might meet her families need but also help the community. A spread of trees, in the shape of a heart, might provide individuals and the community with a place of solace to acknowledge our loss. Christina had also been talking with artist Joe Robinson who had the idea of combining a fire sculpture with a permanent public artwork that likewise might honour those whose deaths we were unable to adequately mark during this pandemic.


So the Phoenix Glade was born. 


We will update this page to include stories relating to this project. This may also include personal reminiscence from individuals who have lost loved one.

Paula Johnson
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On the day of what would have been her 55th birthday her daughter Sarah, whose experience inspired this project, will plant a tree to commemorate the life of her Mum, Paula Johnson. In Sarah’s own words: 


“My mother was an amazing grandmother and mother and a devoted wife.  She had so many battles in her life and huge demands placed on her but she remained a strong and inspiring person with a beautiful soul.  She was my best and only true friend.  Her final battle was with cancer which saw her lose weight and deteriorate but she kept up her spirits and her fight.  Then covid came and her care stopped and when she left hospital everyone was isolating. The last memory I have of my Mum is on Mother’s day.  I did her nails and hair and relaxed with her but in lockdown all I could do was come over to see her and look through the window at her. 

This all broke my heart as before lockdown, because I knew she was sick, I was spending every moment I possibly could with her.  But the next bit was worse.  When she passed away I was not even able to see her in her coffin.  We were not allowed an open casket and we had to gown up to say our goodbyes when she had already passed.  We could only have ten people at her funeral which was also heart breaking because she inspired and loved by so many people.  We also had to sit apart so I couldn’t even hug my father or my brother.

I can’t begin to describe just how much we miss her and we all, especially my dad her loving husband, can’t imagine a future without her.  James, the apple of her eye, feels alone without her and misses their special calls as she idolised him. We will all love and miss her forever. " 

Carol Challoner

We are honoured that the first tree to be planted in the Phoenix Glade will be to celebrate the life of Carol Challoner.  Beloved wife of Joseph Challoner, Mum to Carolann, Natalie Hayley and Joseph, Grandmother to six and a dedicated public servant.  Carol worked as an advisor to young people leaving care after starting her career as a residential social worker.  Tributes following her death in April were led by Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson who said: "Carol was a dedicated, hard-working and popular colleague. All of us at the council are devastated" and many of those her daughter Carolann called “my Mum’s young people” have contacted the family to express their sense of personal loss on hearing the news.  "She really did make a difference to their lives. Setting them up in new homes, university accommodation, helping them with their babies, and she loved taking them shopping or going shopping for them for furnishings. She wanted the young people to have a home." In her daughter’s Natalie’s words:


“Carol was the youngest daughter of 10 children to Bridget and Thomas Gillon. In March 2020, she began to show symptoms of covid 19 along with Joey her husband and Carolann her daughter. On the 26th March Carolann was admitted to Aintree hospital with respiratory problems, Carol was admitted the following day.

This was heart-breaking for the family as we are all so close! So not being able to see them or speak to them was unbearable, after 2 weeks luckily Carolann was allowed to return home. After 4 weeks of hoping and praying for Mum to come home, but unfortunately this was not to be, sadly Mum (Carol) passed away on 22ndApril 2020.

I can’t even put into words how much this has devastated our family!! She was the rock of the family, the link is now broken as well as our hearts you will be missed so much Mum more than you will ever know.

Sleep peacefully. Forever in our hearts Girlie xxxxxx"

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If you feel that you and your loved ones might benefit from your own tree planting rituals then please get in touch with us.