Treemendous – Community Christmas tree trail to spread cheer across the city

On Saturday 5 December, some 140 trees in 85 locations across the city (and a little beyond) will be decorated with handmade creations by hundreds of local people of all ages as part of Christmas Trees 4ever, the 4th annual Christmas tree trail organised by Hull-based community group #WeMadeThis.

Knitted Christmas trees, which will be part of the Christmas Trees 4 Ever trail.
Knitted Christmas trees, which will be part of the Christmas Trees 4 Ever trail.

Crafters involved include nurseries, schools, care homes, community groups, churches, libraries and a host of other talented makers, who have all been busily crafting away to bring a bit of cheer to the city in this bleakest of years.

With all the trees being either situated outside or part of a window display, the trail offers a perfect opportunity to safely take in a bit of Christmas spirit. 

The theme for this year’s trail is reduce – reuse – recycle. Miranda van Rossum, #WeMadeThis’ coordinator, explains: “There was some discussion in our Facebook group earlier in the year regarding the use of plastics and natural materials in crafts, which suggested it is an issue close to our makers’ hearts. It therefore seemed an apt choice of theme for this year’s tree trail and it has been great to see so many creative interpretations of it in the makes on display.” 

And creative and imaginative they are – as part of the trail, you will be able to see among other things, a tree dedicated to Narnia (on Clough Road), one featuring the Grinch (at Saltshouse Haven), two little Christmas grottos (in Victoria Dock Park and on and Braids Hill Drive), a fireplace crafted from Styrofoam packaging (outside the Carnegie Heritage Centre). You’ll also find a Wishing Angel on Ella Street, containing wishes and prayers for a brighter future.

Some organisations have used their involvement in the tree trail to educate the groups they work with about the use of plastic and other waste materials. Michelle Edwards, Enrichment Coordinator at Hessle High School, says: “Our focus has been reusing plastic, especially plastic bottles, and metal cans as we are working towards the global goal of climate action, making a positive impact on climate change. The ease of collection of these materials has hi-lighted their overuse in our daily lives but it has also enabled us to seek suitable alternatives and to repurpose our waste into something beautiful.” 

The project also proved to be an eye-opener for the St Giles Hedgehogs and Beaver Scouts. Leader Becky Irvin got her scouts to collect all their plastic bottles for a week: “The group were shocked just how many bottles we used in 1 week! So we talked about how we could avoid using them and if not, how we recycle them, where they go and what could they be turned into.”

Other organisations and groups have opted to focus specifically on how the crafted decorations might be reused after the trail has finished. Some groups are repairing and reusing decorations from previous tree trails, whilst others have specifically chosen materials that can readily be recycled afterwards. One proposed reuse that stands out as particularly community-spirited comes from the St Columba Knitwits. This group knits garments and blankets for a range of charities at home and abroad, and the red, green and white baby hats and booties that will adorn their tree will be passed on to these charities after the event.

The Octogon Nursery tree.
The Octogon Nursery tree.

The Christmas Tree Trail is by far the most popular #WeMadeThis project, and engagement has grown year on year. This year, though, the level of commitment displayed by those taking part has been particularly noticeable. A great example of this is the success of a call-out by EMS Ltd for knitted Christmas trees for the trees they are decorating outside the Freedom Centre. Their CEO Jan Boyd devised a simple knitting pattern which was shared far and wide, resulting in her receiving over 700 trees, and not just from Hull either: “I no way expected the amount of trees we received. Well done to all the knitters of Hull, East Riding, Lancashire and Kent!” Perhaps this is indicative of an urge to be involved in something positive in what has been a very difficult year. As the former Lord Mayor put it in one of his tweets about the trail: “We need this this year more than ever.”

On the subject of the Lord Mayor, this year sees another first for the Christmas Tree Trail, in the shape of them judging the trees and picking their favourite. This arrangement is in lieu of the Lord Mayor’s Christmas Tree Festival, which was due to take place in the Minster for the second time this year, but for obvious reasons could not go ahead. Local restrictions permitting, the new Lord Mayor will hopefully also visit some of the trees to thank the makers for brightening up the city.

Christmas Trees 4ever is on until 27 December and is free to access. A map and list of locations can be downloaded here https://wemadethishull.wordpress.com/2020/11/30/christmas-trees-4ever-coming-soon-to-a-tree-near-you/

Christmas Trees 4 Ever and We Made This Hull are supported by Back to Ours, Arts Council England’s ‘Creative People and Places’ project for Hull.

[Miranda van Rossum – We Made This Hull]