Swift success

Art project which highlighted the plight of a migratory bird returns with new photography exhibition

Swifts over Walthamstow

Hundreds of people were inspired to create swift artwork around Walthamstow last year (credit Teresa Elwes)

An art project which inspired thousands of people to create small knitted swifts is returning with a new exhibition at the community centre where many of them were made.

The Urban Swifts knitting project is landing back at The Mill in Walthamstow this month with the exhibition Swifts Over Walthamstow before flying on to care homes across the borough. It had been initiated by residents who live close to Walthamstow Wetlands, the nature reserve opened to the public last autumn following a £10.6million revamp. Led by textile artist Deirdre Nelson, the project was made possible thanks to The Mill’s “community of knitters”, some of whose work has been displayed at the wetlands’ Engine House visitor centre.

The exhibition will feature 300 pictures of the 1000 Swifts trail that developed from Urban Swifts and spread across Walthamstow last year. It linked more than 3,000 local creative people with the plight of the urban swift, a migratory bird whose numbers have declined by half in the UK over the past 20 years.

Outside The Mill in Coppermill Lane will be parked Deirdre’s nature-themed caravan, inspired by both William Morris and life in the wetlands. The caravan will be serving tea at specific times before touring the borough. Visitors are also welcome to ‘meet the artists’ on Sunday 4th March between 1.30pm and 4pm, while from Monday 26th March Stow Brothers in Hoe Street will host a second photography exhibition.

Reflecting on the Urban Swifts project, Deirdre said: “It has been a wonderful experience meeting the knitters, birders and fishermen and learning about the swift, the wetlands, and Walthamstow. As a result I am currently working on a new body of work inspired by the wetlands.”

Swifts can be seen across the skies of Waltham Forest in summer and particularly over the reservoirs where they feed from April to August, before returning to Africa. However, they are in decline because modern buildings and conversions are sealing up the eaves where they nest. The restored Engine House at Walthamstow Wetlands includes a new ‘swift tower’ with specially-designed bricks that can be used as nesting sites.

Swifts Over Walthamstow runs from 4th March until 14th April. For more information:

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