The Prime Minister of the UK claims ‘a country working for everyone’. The enforced closure of Kynaston Gardens – a small patch of community green space rich and verdant with organic fruit and veg – suggests we are a long way from it. ‘A country working for everyone’, my arse!
Kynaston Gardens is one of almost a dozen small patches of land around Hackney, reclaimed from dereliction into productive growing space by Growing Communities, the not-for-profit community organisation based in the borough. The organisation started out in 1996 by setting up a veg box scheme to provide a practical, viable and sustainable alternative to the damaging, supermarket-led food system. The aim was to enhance awareness and understanding of the need for a sustainable and resilient food system to prove that such a system could work and thrive. Not only was interest generated in local food, but that interest was at a level which enabled Growing Communities to set up actual food production sites within Hackney. So it was that the series of patches were opened up and reclaimed, being turned into a Patchwork Farm of coordinated growing to produce the ‘Hackney Salad’ for the veg boxes.
The plot on Kynaston Avenue behind Stoke Newington High Street became one of the Patchwork family in the spring of 2014 – a relative late comer. Before the site could be used for growing more than 30 tonnes of brambles, rubble and concrete were removed and replaced with 30 tonnes of organic compost, and raised beds and fruit trees added. Within the careful and skilled hands of the self-employed growers who have worked there – Hannah Mackie, Sarah Alun-Jones and Farook Bhabha being the three when I visited – supported by a host of dedicated volunteers, the site soon became wonderfully green and productive. I must admit to it being one of my favourites. So neat and compact, tucked in between buildings, it was in actual fact the back garden to the TSB bank on Stoke Newington High Street.
Indeed this somewhat quirky link to a large bank founded and run on strict capitalist ideals was the Achilles heel of Kynaston. Such is life that TSB decided to close the branch and so, with a sublease with the bank, Kynaston Gardens became vulnerable to the whims of the landlord. Within a matter of weeks the growers were given two weeks to quit, seemingly for the cause of property development.
Oh dear, all that work, all that effort….all the good that can arise from a small piece of verdant, green space in a crowded metropolis. Its something beyond being sad. Its something for which we should be irate with anger – and then channel that anger into actions which re-affirm personal support and commitment to a sustainable and humanitarian civilisation. A catalyst to rising up and creating change. ‘A country working for all’ – isn’t that what Trump says! God help us!!!
For more on Growing Communities and both their Patchwork Farm in Hackney and the newer Dagenham Farm see the Growing Communities website. along with the posts here immediately preceding this one (navigation buttons at the bottom of the page or use the Latest Posts menu, top right)
Click here to buy the book Unlikely Heroes – the keepsake photobook documenting the agrarian renaissance in England and Wales, and featuring Growing Communities.
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