The unfortunate incident with the shrub…
Admittedly for those who did not attend the latest meeting of the Borough and Bankside Community Action Network then the title above will mean very little. But all will be explained later on in these meeting notes so I would implore you to read on and find out!
This meeting focussed on community growing projects and organisations in the area and was put together with the help of the fantastic Bankside Open Spaces Trust.
- Max Marsh – St George the Martyr
- Peter Balazs – Beautiful Balin
- Henry Johnstone – Team London Bridge
- Martin Calderwood – St Mungo’s (Putting Down Roots)
- Julia Maia – Bankside Open Spaces Trust
- John Tyson – Rockingham Village
- Chris Rajih – Community Grower
- Shahina Jaffer – Grow Elephant/Creative Roots
- Rachel Davies – Webber and Quentin TMO
- Joyce Veheary – Lend and Tend
- Damien Cheetham – Lant and Bittern TRA
- Paul Fly – Bankside Open Spaces Trust
- Gareth Morris – Lamlash Garden
- Robert Jamieson – Community Southwark
- Clare Chamberlain – Community Southwark
We kicked off with the usual introductions. However, this took a little longer than one might expect as everyone was keen to showcase their various projects. A little taster menu is provided below. I’m sure everyone who attended would be happy to be contacted if you want to find out more:
Bankside Open Spaces Trust was set up in 2000 by a group of local people with an aim to improve the Bankside area, making it greener and a more beautiful place to live and work.
There are a surprising amount of green spaces in such a built up area and they now look after over 45 individual parks and gardens.
There are too many projects and initiatives to list and there are several ways in which local residents can get involved – all of which you can view here. A personal highlight of mine is BOST's stewardship of the Crossbones Graveyard Garden.
One of their key area of focus is their community green champions project (John, from the Rockingham estate, is one such champion!). and they are currently looking for keen local residents to join in with the care, design and development of local green spaces.
They are also involved in the creation of the Bankside Neighbourhood Plan.
For more information email Julia on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7403 3393.
Putting Down Roots is a gardening project for people who are currently homeless or have been in the past, or who are at risk of becoming homeless.
They work in hostel grounds, public parks and on their own allotment, developing gardening skills, growing organic vegetables and carrying out hard landscaping and building projects. They have many types of garden, so everyone can take part and find something enjoyable to do - whatever their abilities or physical difficulties.
They currently operate in Lambeth, Southwark, Haringey and Westminster and have worked in partnership with the likes of Team London Bridge in the north of our borough.
Many people would love a chance to maintain a garden but are unable to (if they lived on the 8th floor of a block of flats for example). Many people have gardens who perhaps find maintaining them a little too onerous… The solution? Lend and Tend! The project looks to hook up those who want to grow/garden but don’t have a garden with those who have a garden but are unable to maintain it.
TLB are a Business Improvement District based… Well you can probably guess! The work of the London Bridge BID is funded by charging a compulsory annual levy on all businesses within the BID area that have a rateable value of £10,000 or more. For the 2015/16 financial year this levy has been set at 1.17% of a property's rateable value. More details here.
They then use this fund for a variety of local initiatives and local projects including many that involve ‘Urban Greening’. They have also been working to develop links with the local residential community including the Whites Grounds Estate and Crucifix Lane.
More details can be found on their website. Probably worth a shout if you are in the neighbourhood and are looking for some support…
Grow Elephant's mission is to help communities across Elephant and Castle and Walworth with improving the quality of our local environment. They run gardening clubs with local TRAs and schools, and are happy to help any local residents who need some advice about getting a gardening project going on their own street or estate.
Their main hub is Grow Elephant Community Garden on New Kent Road, where they organise regular gardening workshops, volunteering sessions, and propagate plants for use on our projects across Elephant and Castle.
They also host a range of events, organised both by ourselves and other community groups, from film screenings, to talks and live music.
Their lease is soon coming to an end and they are currently are looking for somewhere to relocate. Any ideas? Get in touch!
Find out more about what Grow Elephant does by clicking here.
Gareth and a couple of other residents embarked on reclaiming a disused street in the Elephant and, with the help of Cleaner Greener Safer funding (and a lot of hard work), Lamlash Garden was born! For more details click here.
Their current project, based in the same area, is called ‘Castle Place’ and will see the transformation of garages for the use of the local community. They are currently crowdfunding and need all the help that they can get!
John is the epitome of ‘Green Champion’ and is pretty much ploughing a lone furrow in trying to get a community growing/greening project off the ground at the Rockingham Estate. This has, to date, involved the installation of planters and battles with the local authority!
Beautiful Balin/Tabard Growers
Peter Balazs has been integral in motivating the local community to reclaim an area that was supposed to be communal but wasn’t being effectively used. He felt that residents were operating in isolation so embarked on a mission to join them up. The result is much better use of green space!
If you want to find out about Peter’s other project (see below for a little hint) then please get in touch.
How many of you knew that Southwark was home to this tank?
Lant and Batern TRA
I had the pleasure of taking a look at Damian’s greening/landscaping efforts with the Lant and Batern TRA and they are very impressive. These include a pagoda-type structure that looks perfect for a summer chill. Damian is currently organising a series of workshops that will focus on the design and manufacturing of mosaics!
Damien is also looking for help and support to put on a summer BBQ, led by the TRA - if you're in the area why not lend a hand?
Please get in touch for further details!
Plans are afoot to improve the use of the immediate green spaces around the church. This will include opening up the north garden, opening up the garden on a street whose name I didn’t quite capture, and to utilise the small eastern garden better.
And, if you haven’t read or heard about the Dragon Café, then you need to take a long, hard look at yourself! Or just click here.
Rachel, and a handful of other residents, have been spearheading attempts to establish a Tenants Management Organisation (one of only a handful in the borough). At the same time they have also been involved in the greening of the estate – especially Webber Row (see picture below). They even employ someone to maintain the garden (although not with as much frequency as they perhaps would like) Rachel is also a filmmaker and artist and has worked with local residents in showcasing their talent.
One of the key themes that emerged from the discussion is the ability to generate interest in growing initiatives from local residents and, once you have their interest, how do you keep them involved? This was a near universal issues for our growers and several mentioned that the maintenance of projects is often left to a ‘core group’ of residents.
Several solutions were put forward including:
- Utilising the support of organisations such as BOST who will help set up local growing projects.
- Provide people with the opportunity to influence and shape plans early on.
- Make it as easy as possible to get involved – if people are new to growing then select plants that are easy to maintain. After key growing seasons (spring and summer) gardens can look dormant. Utilise the space differently when Autumn and Winter take hold.
- Generate a sense of ownership over a project by establishing a ‘Gardening Group’ and charging an annual subscription. People can also benefit from any produce grown - whether selling it or eating it!
- The more people who were willing to be involved then the easier it is to sustain a project.
- Younger residents needed to become involved. Always a challenge and made more of a problem if you consider the transient nature of the population of Southwark – especially in the north of the borough.
Always happy for an excuse to use a picture of the Crossbones Graveyard...
Our attendees’ experience of liaising with Southwark council was a mixed bag. Some had a very positive experience with local councillors and officers. Others, not so good.
- Clarify exactly what permission is required from Southwark council about exactly what can be done on land in and around residential areas.
- A lot of red tape when trying to set up projects – is the answer to become a TMO?
- The unfortunate incident with the shrub… Beds were left abandoned on one particular estate. Local resident decided to do something about it. Planted some shrubs. Council’s maintenance team introduce the shrubs to a weed whacker. Shrubs just about survived. Were then reintroduced to the weed whacker. Shrubs died.
- The housing team can be difficult to deal with. Acknowledged that they were very busy/had large work loads.
- Contact is a real issue with the council and attendees have felt like they have been passed from pillar to post when trying to get answers. It was felt that officers in different departments have different interpretation of policy.
Developers and Development
It is probably important to note that it was felt that working with developers was inevitable and that some were often quicker to act/were more supportive than the local authority. This has felt more apparent after benefit of ‘early’ projects has become easy to demonstrate.
It was also felt that, as with many things in life, it was prudent to ‘get in early’ in any planned development. There is often a period of ‘meanwhile use’ that is enforced before a site is actually developed. This often provides a good opportunity for local initiatives (see Grow Elephant). The obvious problem with this apparent in the term ‘meanwhile.’
Gareth had the cracking idea of arranging a walking tour of all of the different projects discussed (that may or may not end in a pub). A doodle poll will go out shortly. (Has been sent out depending on when you are reading this).
Further conversations need to take place about the type of support on offer for a burgeoning ‘Growers Network’ in the area. BOST and Community Southwark will put our heads together and have a think about how we can get something tangible out there. It was suggested (mainly by myself admittedly) that we could follow Walworth in applying for someone that would provide dedicated infrastructure for a network. Click here to get an idea as to what we mean.
Funding (or lack thereof) was also on the brain. We will be compiling a list of funding opportunities and sending out to attendees. If you wish to access this list then please get in touch.
If anyone would like more support in getting connected or developing ideas and initiatives please contact a member of our team: email@example.com