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3rd September 2021

Welcome to the latest edition of the Phoenix Project newsletter – a regular update of news and views from our Phoenix Project in Lewes, East Sussex. This newsletter is brought to you by Human Nature, a campaigning development company creating places that inspire and enable people to live great lives within the planet's limits. Sign up to future newsletters here.

It’s going to be a busy three-day programme at the Phoenix Project Design Festival 10-12th September

Explore an exhibition of work in progress in the Foundry Gallery. We’re working with eight leading architectural practices on the design of public space, streets and homes. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see their work and meet the experts to discuss their ideas. We’ll be gathering input on the work in progress so we can enhance the plans and designs, blending local expertise with the experience of our professional team to make this a truly remarkable place for Lewes. Bring along your ideas!

Join a series of talks by experts in the fields of architecture, engineering, ecology and sustainability: take a seat and dig deeper into the thinking behind the Phoenix Project. The programme includes talks and discussions with John Dales (Urban Movement), Joanna Yarrow (Human Nature) and John Snell (Periscope) on mobility and gentle streets at the Phoenix Project, and Paloma Gormley (Material Cultures), Steve Johnson (The Architectural Ensemble) and Andy Tugby (Human Nature) on building in timber. John Blackwell, chairman of The Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society, will delve into the history of the site, focusing on the John Every’s Phoenix Ironworks at the centre of the festival site. 

Also: enjoy performances by local musicians and youth groups, loosen up in fitness, dance and yoga classes with Soulfit (see below), and refresh yourselves with local food and drink from Beak BreweryZu Cafe and more.

See the full programme here.

(Image: Work by Material Cultures in collaboration with Human Nature)

As we work on plans for this former industrial neighbourhood’s next big chapter we want to keep as many buildings in action as possible.

We plan to keep some of the old ironworks structures – including the old Hammonds building and the Foundry Gallery – and repurpose them to create great community, creative and commercial spaces.

To give a sense of what this might look like, Periscope (one of the architectural firms working with Human Nature) has created a model of the neighbourhood’s central square leading down to the river.

Lewes artists Susanne Wolf and Peter Cole have been dressing the model to show how the heart of this new development will come alive. It will be on display in the Foundry Gallery exhibition. Look hard and you might recognise some Lewes characters! 

(Image: Philip Volkers

Ahead of the Design Festival, Jonathan Smales, Founder and CEO of Human Nature, explains why the Phoenix Project is an opportunity to write the next chapter in the radical history of Lewes.

“It’s curious how, when working on a project as big, bold and complex as the Phoenix here in Lewes, time speeds along at what feels like two or three times its natural rate. I pinch myself – it feels like only moments ago we signed for the land. Yet here we are, fast-approaching the Phoenix Project Design Festival, where we’ll be showing our ideas, plans and designs to the town, inviting you to tell us what we’re doing right and what we might do better.

“It’s not every day one has the privilege or honour to design a piece of town, let alone in a place with as many stories as Lewes. But when I’m feeling intimidated by the challenge of this (which is often), especially since it’s not just a new part of Lewes we’re proposing, but also a new kind of development that helps point the way forward to a far better, more sustainable future, I fall back on the history of this place. Lewes was crafted through the vision of successive generations of gifted architects, builders, politicians and townsfolk. That is the tradition we’re taking forward.”

Read the blog in full here

Healthy and sustainable living is at the heart of our plans for the Phoenix Project. So we’re delighted yoga, dance and fitness studio Soulfit will be holding some of their wonderful classes at the Design Festival. 

A staple of the Lewes community, the studio offers a broad range of yoga classes, from calming and grounding to energising and progressive, as well as high-energy dance and fitness groups. At the Design Festival the team will host sessions on Saturday and Sunday, including dance fitness, yoga and boxfit.

“Our aim has always been to encourage people to find time to experience the increased mental and physical benefits of moving each day,” says Fiona Abbott, co-owner. “We’re delighted to have been invited to play an active role at the Phoenix Project Design Festival. It’s not just an incredible opportunity to showcase who we are and what we do, but also to support Human Nature as they share their ideas, initiatives and vision on how to make our town even more remarkable than it already is.”

Sign up for Soulfit classes at the Design Festival here or drop in on the day (subject to space). Mats will be provided.

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