As I compiled this selection of images and pondered on what I photographed this time last year at the start of the Growing Together project in Cross Green in Leeds, it seemed barely believable that food would be growing on the space I was photographing by the end of the summer. Such was its almost total barrenness and dereliction that it hardly looks possible. But growing it was, and it wasn’t the only thing that started to grow. Looking at the people in these images, its striking how everyone involved changed physically across the project, becoming engrossed in the project and looking so much the more confident for it. Growing Together is about growing people as much as it is about growing food.
Cross Green is not usually a centre of attention. If there is anything about deprived areas of Leeds then you will hear about Harehills, Bumantofts, Woodhouse and perhaps one or two more, but rarely Cross Green. This seems odd. Cross Green is sadly significantly worse than the national average in the indices of deprivation, with adults and children having poor diet and lifestyles, poor educational attainment, lower than average life expectancy and above average long term unemployment. The area also has a large number of people living alone which, when added the poor transport links into the city, means a high level of social isolation and related problems such as poor mental and physical well being.
‘Growing Together’ was launched in 2014 by the community as a small project to create communal garden space on an unused bridge. By the start of 2015 it had evolved into an ambitious project to transform land alongside the railway from a derelict eyesore into a productive growing space.
The pictures here are from the first day of work on the new site. The project is led by Cross Green Community Group, a self-help group created by residents, and supported by Hyde Park Source, a Leeds charity seeking improvement in health and well being through improving local environments. As such the project brings together residents of Cross Green with volunteers from Hyde Park Source, many of whom experience physical or learning difficulties.
If you don’t follow any other bit of the Feeding Body and Soul project, please do try to follow the Growing Together story. It is a truly inspiring story for all of us about the resilience and community spirit in Leeds – permaculture and people coming together to make special things happen.
A Date For The Diary
Working with Cross Green Community Group and Hyde Park Source, I have been successful in obtaining financial support from Leeds Inspired/Leeds City Council through which we will be staging an exhibition of the photographs of the Growing Together people which I made across last year. If you are anywhere near Leeds you will be most welcome to come and view.
The exhibition will be mounted in St Hilda’s Church on Cross Green Lane. Opening is at 2:00 pm on Friday 29th April where we will be be joined by Hilary Benn, the local MP and shadow Foreign Secretary who will have a few words to say in a short ceremony featuring voices from the Cross Green community and Hyde Park Source. If you can’t make it to the opening then the exhibition will be open most days of the week following. Exact times will be posted here on the Feeding Body and Soul website
The exhibition is about breaking out of ‘white cube’ gallery space and looking to engage both local residents and wider public in a debate about identity and self esteem and its relationship to place. Do come and join us if you can at some point. You should even go away with a free newspaper!
For more of life in Cross Green see the community Facebook page.