The below article featured in The Guardian Newspaper in 2010.
The Pansy Project plants a flower at the sites of homophobic abuse to raise awareness of how horrific they are. And now it has won a Royal Horticultural Society gold medal. The Pansy Project is a concept dreamed up by artist Paul Harfleet five years ago to mark the sites of homophobic abuse. It is part art installation, part guerrilla gardening project, part memorial: Harfleet plants a single pansy in the nearest soil to the spot where the abuse occurred, takes a photo, and names it after whatever abuse was thrown. This is its genius, as far as I’m concerned. The shocking titles – “You Fucking Queer Cunt”, “Let’s Kill the Batty-Man”, “Fucking Faggot” – are each put next to a photograph of a single pansy on a barren street or patch of wasteland. Where people have been killed, the treatment is different. One title reads: “For Michael Causer, 1989-2008, Huyton, Liverpool.”
A first concept sketch of The Pansy Project Garden
It’s shocking to those of us who have never been on the receiving end of such abuse; unbearably poignant for those who have. Its beauty is the respect it shows in the face of such horrible disrespect. It is a simple gesture that forces a reaction. Like a siren in a motorway tailback, snapping us out of our metallic isolation, it alerts us to the fact that another human being has gone through pain. Harfleet’s brother, Tom, is a garden designer and was invited to submit a proposal for a conceptual garden at the Hampton Court flower show. “We quickly realised that what I had been doing was perfectly suited,” says Paul, “and the plan came to us fairly intuitively.”
They have created a garden of fractured pavements, the cracks planted with pansies. “Concrete represents the urban environment where these attacks so often take place. The fracturing is the disruption attacks cause, and the pansies represent the Pansy Project’s resistance to such homophobia.” The garden communicates all this simply and beautifully, and has won a Royal Horticultural Society gold medal and been awarded best conceptual garden at Hampton Court this week. Perhaps it was the skill of the planting and the execution of the design that moved the judges, but if ever an idea deserved a gold medal, this is it.
Paul and Tom Harfleet went on to work together again in 2014 at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on a garden called Digital Capabilities. They won their second RHS Gold Medal at the show. The video below reveals The Pansy Project Garden as a design reference.