The Tasting Garden - development
Development of the gardens after 1998
The gardens and the artwork belong to Lancaster City Council. The council signed a contract in 1998 to insure and maintain The Tasting Garden, and keep it open to the public for a minimum of 10 years.
The Tasting Garden was successfully open from 1998 until 2006. Although slightly hidden, this tranquil green space in the centre of the city was popular and well used.
The Storey Gardens were closed by the Council in 2006, following a drug-use incident. This closure was extended due to the start of refurbishment work on the building when the whole site was closed until the Storey re-opened in 2009. The Council undertook to secure and maintain the gardens during this closure period, but unfortunately this agreement was not fulfilled.
In 2008, during this closure period, the bronze fruits were stolen from The Tasting Garden, presumably for their scrap metal value, and some plinths were damaged. Lancaster City Council’s insurance was apparently inappropriate to cover this loss, and the Council did not take any action for restoration. Article in The Art Newspaper 2009.
Storey Gallery obtained agreement from the artist, Mark Dion, that the fruits could be replaced in resin. The Gallery obtained costings for production and installation of the fruits in this material, and replacement of the other damaged elements including some plinths and labels. The total cost for this work is about £20,000.
The Gallery pursued restoration of The Tasting Garden with City councillors, officers from both the City and County Councils, and with the managers of the Storey Creative Industries Centre. It was unable to make progress as the City Council apparently did not recognise its responsibilities as owner, and there was no plan for maintenance and public access. The condition of the artwork, particularly the paths, continued to deteriorate.
However, thanks to the work of some volunteers, a lot of improvements were made in the garden in this period, including almost total elimination of the knotweed, removal of a great deal of ivy from the walls, and introduction of a greater variety of plants in the borders.
About 90% of the artwork remains, and it could easily be restored. The trees, most of the plinths, the memorial stones, and the Aboriculturalist's Shed are still in place. The paths are now overgrown but could easily be uncovered and resurfaced.
A voluntary group, The Friends of Storey Gardens, was formed in 2013 with support from the City Council, and is working towards re-opening the gardens to the public.
The Council has recently repaired and restored all the surrounding stone walls to a very high standard. With the opening of the castle, and the development of the Square Routes project in the city centre, The Tasting Garden is in a perfect location to contribute to, and enrich, the city’s cultural offer. These recent developments provide an ideal context for restoration of this important artwork.
If you would like to contribute in any way, please contact The Friends of Storey Gardens.
A description of The Tasting Garden and its creation is here.