LONDON – Record seasonal temperatures have seen tourists and office workers alike flocking to the green expanses of London’s famous parks to soak up the unprecedented hours of sunshine.
And yet it isn’t only the fine weather that sets this summer apart from previous years.
In a break from the norm, park visitors this summer can be seen relaxing on unique deck chairs with fabrics designed by celebrities including internationally renowned designer and widow of Beatles star John Lennon, Yoko Ono.
The initiative, named Deckchair Dreams, was devised by the Royal Parks Foundation, which commissioned Ono, along with 24 other celebrities from the worlds of food, fashion, music, architecture, literature and art, to produce a personal design to feature on 700 of the folding canvas and wood chairs that have been a feature of London’s parks for decades.
Ono’s simple but striking creation carries a repeated message of “IMAGINE PEACE” in black block letters on the white canvas, while other contributors opted for more colorful patterns, like fashion designer Paul Smith’s roses against a background of his trademark multicolored stripes.
“We felt that a design by Ms. Ono, with her fantastic creative strength, would add much to the Deckchair Dreams collection,” Royal Parks Foundation Projects Manager Clare Bowen said.
“An experienced curator helped us select the artists and focus on people with a wide creative vision who would give a unique view of the parks,” she added.
The imaginative deck chairs, which replace some of the traditional green and white candy-striped seats, are currently residing in Hyde Park, Green Park, St James’ Park and Regent’s Park — four of the eight royal parks that together comprise 2,000 hectares of green space in the heart of the city.
“The exhibition of deck chairs has helped raise awareness of the Royal Parks as we strive to help people recognize the importance of the parks and the need to protect, conserve and enhance them for future generations to enjoy,” Bowen said.
With visitors being charged £1.5 per two hours to use the chairs and an auction of original artwork, which saw Ono’s chair reach a “handsome sum” of £650, a total of £40,000 has been raised so far.
The money will provide invaluable funding for the parks and the corresponding community and educational programs run by the foundation, which benefit more than 33,000 young people across London every year. The Royal Parks team is “delighted.”
And, importantly, the financial success of Deckchair Dreams has proved that maximizing the potential of the parks can earn more than just admiring glances. It is a project Bowen says will certainly be repeated, but perhaps with a “different slant” in future years.
A series of postcards and posters capturing the essence of the made-over deck chairs — one of Britain’s most recognizable summer icons — have been produced by design company View Creative to coincide with the project.
“We’ve had a lot of very positive feedback and it’s really helped to raise the profile of the parks,” Bowen said. “There’s so much potential in them and the funding we receive only just covers the maintenance, so we always have a good reason to fund-raise.”
The deck chair season in London’s parks runs from May to the end of September, at which point the well-worn seats are likely to go into hibernation throughout the cold and wet winter months.
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