By Susan Sheehan, Director Incredible Edible Lambeth
Since early 2015 Incredible Edible Lambeth has been running a small grants scheme for community food projects called Love Your Roots. The grant is usually used for equipment such as compost bins, planters, raised beds, trees etc. However the projects themselves vary hugely. One very inspiring project is taking place in the area of Loughborough Road, Akerman Road and Evandale Road (near the Fiveways Junction), called L.E.A.F. gardeners. There residents have been getting together to improve the look and feel of their streets, and transforming front gardens into productive food growing spaces. “We originally came together as a community because of the terrible traffic situation at the north end of Loughborough Road,” said co-project organiser and local resident Dawn Kalu. One of the first things she did with L.E.A.F. TRA chair, and Dawn’s friend and neighbour, Tracey Gordon, was a street clean-up day with the help of Lambeth’s Freshview programme. But Dawn already had a connection with Myatts Fields greenhouse and does help with food growing there and thought that would be good way of sustaining the energy from the clean-up day. Having cleared the gardens so they now attract less rubbish, with the help of the greenhouse, residents planted many types of summer and winter veg: calalloo, kale, cabbage, peas, potatoes, sweet corn, leeks, beetroot, watercress, pumpkin, spinach, broad beans, onions, spring onions, thyme, basil, mint, marjoram, coriander, lemon grass, parsley and dill.
Residents cleared and planted the garden of an elderly resident who was recently bereaved, as well as their own gardens and they regularly help each other. “Planted gardens raise questions and inspire. People have reminisced about the past, like their aunty’s garden and about plants and veg grown in their countries of origin. After a conversation I have given passers-by plants that I have grown in the greenhouse or that I have surplus of in the garden”, said Dawn. “As neighbours on the road(s) we swap watercress for tomatoes, raspberry canes for chard etc.”
A street party brought residents out on the street. “It was the first year ever in my 20 years living here that the pears on the ancient pear tree were made into cakes and jam. We used as much of the local produce as we could on our Street Party day”.
But the project did not stop there. As residents talked and reminisced they unlocked some amazing creativity and held an art exhibition, showcasing the work of 16 residents, in the Loughborough Hotel Gallery. Some of the art is pictured below. One artist said: “Thanks for the opportunity. I’ve never exhibited my art before”. Mary, a local resident said “Wonderful – makes me proud to live here”. Tracey also showed some historic pictures of the road, and gave a very well attended talk on some of the families who have lived here at the beginning of the century. There is an idea of collecting peoples stories as some elderly people have lived here for over 40 years.
The latest round of the Love Your Roots grant has just opened. In particular there is now a new category for a larger grant that is targeting innovation. Incredible Edible Lambeth recognises that food growing is nearly always about more than gardening – and at the very least builds community. Can we encourage more links with art and heritage, campaigning, reducing social isolation for example?