12th May 2013
26th Sept 2012
About 40 people gathered in St Thomas’ Church Heaton Mersey to get informed and then discuss the proposition above, courtesy of the community group Sustainable Living In The Heatons.
The speaker for the event was one of the founders of the Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) phenomenon, Pam Warhurst. Their premise is simple – start using patches of spare local land for growing food, for everyone, and they’ve been doing this for four years.
They started with what might be known as ‘guerrilla gardening’, planting on unused land without permission, but she prefers calling it planting ‘Propaganda Beds’ because they get people talking. Now they’re building an amazing aquaponics facility at the high school, are running market gardening courses on donated land, have a bee trail, a network for local chicken keepers and of course the beds – in front of the police station, the canal towpath, health centre, the railway station and the graveyard (‘good soil’ she says). All the schools are growing food and involving the community and they’re doing a good trade hosting ‘vegetable tourists’ from all over the world.
The group had started out by looking for a common language to engage people in issues such as climate change and peak oil. That language is food, so much so that the ‘big issues’ hardly get talked about because the IET people are too busy actually acting on them by growing food.
Pam’s key messages included that the project isn’t about gardening or horticulture – it’s about growing ‘kindness and community’. Why? Because the food grown on verges and in raised beds all over her town is for everyone to pick – and because it’s open to everyone to join in. As to who can join in, Pam’s blunt – ‘If you can eat, you’re in!’ Other results observed in Todmorden is a greater willingness to shop locally, to ask for local produce and even a fall in vandalism.
Pam’s a passionate and engaging speaker, and that doesn’t stop her being provocative. She says ‘don’t ask for permission’ and obviously feels that planning, strategy papers and project budgets come a firm second place after just getting on and doing. As she said this you could see the smiles and the nods going round the room. This enthusiasm was replicated in a range of engaged and insightful questions from members of the audience.
Most of the audience stayed for tea and biscuits and a chat about what to do next. This included a call to walk around the area and just imagine where a verge or scrappy bed of thorny shrubs could be dug up and food planted. Some specific sites were discussed and it was clear that there’s no shortage of them. The upshot was clear – that a Propaganda Bed will be planted in a high profile public location – as a statement of intent of what might just become Incredible Edible Heatons. Watch this space, or verge or bed or thorny scrubs…
You can see a similar talk from Pam here – with a standing ovation too – http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/pam_warhurst_how_we_can_eat_our_landscapes.html The IET website is well worth grazing too.
The event was made possible by funding from Stockport Council.