People wanting to take climate/community/food action in Heaton Mersey Stockport gather to hear from someone with a track record, and then generate their own ideas; MCFly reader Phil Korbel reports .
About 40 people gathered in St Thomas’ Church Heaton Mersey last week to get
informed and then discuss the proposition above, courtesy of the community group
Sustainable Living In The Heatons (facebook page here).
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 ‘guerilla 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 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 –
The IET website is well worth grazing too.
The event was made possible by funding from Stockport Council.
If you live in the area do drop us a line – firstname.lastname@example.org
Note for McFly – The event facilitator used the tip to ask people to” turn to someone
they don’t know before the Q & A, and discuss what question you might ask”, to good