Case Study

Growing Colour Together – Birkby and Fartown


For an introduction to the Growing Colour Together project as a whole, please have a look at the project case study.

In Birkby & Fartown the Growing Colour Together project developed a community dye garden shepherded by the S2R volunteer gardening group. To showcase their creative efforts they put together a textile exhibit featuring cotton and linen fabrics. There were naturally dyed with dye plants and flowers growing in the community dye garden.

Thoughts and observations were collected in a community zine, which was shared at the seed swap in April. Birkby residents and S2R volunteers have helped to grown dye plants at Cemetery Road allotments and Birkby Community Wildlife Garden, and distributed seeds and plants to friends, families and organisations in the area.

As spring approached,the community started exploring natural dyeing and learning about natural colour; how to source it from plants and flowers growing not just in the dye garden, but anywhere nearby. The beautiful cotton and linen fabrics were naturally dyed in vibrant colours using immersion dyeing technique and creating exciting textures and plant marks utilising bundle dyeing technique. The finished artwork is exhibited at Birkby and Fartown Library.

The Birkby & Fartown artists have worked with members of the S2R Support to Recovery gardening group at the library. Through the practice of zine making in the early months of the project they explored the concepts of colour and the principles of storytelling, with focal points of gardening, growing and observing the environment around us. They experimented with forms of creative writing like haiku along with the changing of the seasons. 

The Community
Birkby & Fartown Library gardening group run by S2R Support to Recovery: a lively and social group, open to everyone regardless of gardening experience. As well as growing flowers, herbs and vegetables in the planters at the library garden, the sessions have a focus on wellbeing and creativity.

S2R Cemetery Road Allotment: growing fruit and vegetables in Birkby, and now dye plants too! A long-standing and well attended session. Working together to tend the large allotment plot and poly tunnel.

Birkby Community Wildlife Garden: tucked away between Birkby Lodge Road and Ponyfield Close in Birkby, BCWG is an area of land tended by a core group of local residents, for everyone to enjoy. Aiming to create an ecologically diverse environment, encouraging wildlife and access for the community.

Creative Connections Women’s Health Group at Osborne Road allotment: learn new skills, meet new people, improve your health, grow, harvest and taste home-grown organic produce. Cook, create, relax, chat…be! 

Cherry Styles
Cherry’s practice spans art projects and educational activities in community settings. As a small-press   publisher, gardener and community organiser she is interested in the shared joys and challenges of co-production. 
As a Birkby resident, Cherry’s interest in the social impact of local growing spaces has underpinned our work at every stage of this project’s development; encouraging all of us to work towards a shared future, together, right here in Birkby.
Social: @outdoorcalendar

Michaela Lesayova
Michaela is a Leeds-based Artist and creative educator operating at the intersection of wellbeing, creativity and neurodiversity. She works intensively through ecological frameworks which inform all her art. Her approaches and art practice explore deeply our relation to our local environments and the impacts that urban centred living has had on our wellbeing and creativity. She investigates her interests and passions through her engagement with locally accessed natural resources which she engages with through textiles via the means of natural dyeing. Michaela also works as a specialist coach addressing topics of wellbeing, neurodiversity and sensory processing.
Social: @___livingwell


A core group of 15 people attended the sessions each week with word and community knowledge spreading across Birkby increasing the reach to 40-50 attending community events and 79 in total attending the final Community Showcase Garden Party

The group began at the S2R gardening group and the Birkby Library wellbeing group, but has grown through the project, The group has also been able to take ownership of more green spaces in the area and learnt about growing new plants, especially dye plants.

The core group has also been able to learn about natural colour, how it can be yielded from different foraged plants or grown dye flowers and how different types of fibres can be dyed with it. We have learnt together that we can upcycle and repurpose old garments and pieces of clothing and give them new life or make them exciting by natural dyeing them.

The Birkby group grew and developed week by week, sharing thoughts and feelings on the impact of the work along the way: 

How do you feel after the session?

  • Well informed, excited about having a go at home
  • Very happy and relaxed looking forward to the new gardening year
  • Anticipating how it progresses


What new skills or knowledge have you gained?

  • The different plants you can use to dye, the different modifiers you can use, the different fabrics that work best
  • How dye baths works and what plants I can use


Birkby became a vibrant hub of activity, with bi-weekly activity happening from January – June, the group was able to develop, grown and learn in a safe space together. 

  • Yes it was great and will attend future events to learn more and participate in the progression of the project
  • These sessions have become a valuable anchor in my week
  • Create that feeling of connection and sense of trust
  • I don’t know if I have any particular visions of what we would like to achieve because also I very much want to make the groups I work with involved as much as possible and give them ownership of the work we do and come up with ideas and we may have at least some loose framework I would love them to come up with stuff that they want to be doing and that they are passionate about
  • I would like whoever is involved in the project to feel some ownership over whatever it is that we do, whether that is they come to one session and they get a lot out of it or they come for the whole things and they are there for the final showcase
  • It will be the priority focused on the garden space that it is a sharing space even through people come from different corners of life, the connection is in the garden… bringing the human commonality through the garden space


The legacy of this project in Birkby is vast. The S2R  Gardening group who took part in are continuing to meet regularly at Birkby Library and will continue to maintain the excellent work and dye garden developed in this location.  The S2R team echo this after the Birkby showcase and garden event stating what a great partnership fusion S2R and WOVEN have become.  

“What a great afternoon! Cherry & Michaela, you put on such a fab event, enjoyed by all. Everyone was made to feel very welcome. You should both feel very proud of the last few months – your hard work, creativity, skills and the newfound interests you have introduced to many folks. Janette with her natural-dyed t-shirt, worn with pride, is just one of the stories which speak volumes about what has been achieved from your project with the gardening group. I hope you agree that the WOVEN & S2R are a great partnership fusion. ” Elizabeth S2R

“Absolutely echo everything Elizabeth said. A great chance to celebrate all the achievements of the work you have done in Growing Colours Together and a very well executed event. Also it really shows the advantages of working in partnership it gave our existing group a chance to try some new things and we now have an opportunity to develop some of the interests they have gained from growing colour together. So hopefully you will have a cohort of experts for next Woven.” Jason, S2R

Artist Cherry Styles is continuing to work alongside S2R to develop this community knowledge, dye garden and skill base in this location. Cherry is also in conversation with the Kirklees Libraries in order to discuss the legacy and location of their Zine Library moving forward.  

This community also took part in many community events from Birkby seed swaps, online international talks, community planting dye garden workshops, green prescribing sessions and foraging sessions. These were all designed to support the legacy of our artists and community members involved in the project, to support the development of their skills and knowledge base around natural dyes moving forward. 

The Birkby S2R gardening group will be continuing the work started on the GCT project.

Artist Michaela Lesayova has left dye equipment and resources with the communities in Birkby, including dye pots, materials, hob, natural dye materials and resources. Knowledge has been left in the form of two community Zines, resources, handouts and online materials on methods, processes, harvesting instructions, foraging instructions and dye processes and methods. Fostering a unique community ‘dye it don’t ditch it’ ethos. Birkby has been focused on changing people’s habits and consumption of textiles locally, thinking about the implications on the environment and how textile colouration might be approached differently. 

Birkby was particularly interested in a circular approach to natural dyeing, using one plant for many purposes, for example nettle, using it for tea, soup, colour pigment and textile dyeing… utilising food waste and a circular approach to making, growing and consuming.

Check out the Growing Colour Together case study for more about the legacy of the project as a whole.

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