Angela and the beanstalk
Hoxton ladies’ three bean plants grow into a community project.
“It will just cause a big mess…you will never be able to sustain it… it will attract foxes and rats…” These are just some of the complaints you are likely to hear if you start up your own community kitchen garden.But it only takes a bit of perseverance, optimism and rationality and your seeds could soon grow into your very own beanstalk.
“When I proposed the idea to the residents’ association one lady came to me and said she had 45 people who opposed the plans. But I visited them and it was clear they would object to the question “do you want mess and foxes in the neighbourhood”, anyone would. It only took a bit of explanation to bring them round,” explained Angela Large, the founder of Crondall Court estate community kitchen garden in Hoxton.
For Angela the initial scepticism was a minor challenge to overcome for the pleasure of growing and eating her own produce. “I come home from work, decide I want salad for dinner, pick it and serve it, all within an hour.”
“I grew enough salad over the summer to not have to buy any. I don’t know how much money I save but that’s not the point. When I pull a carrot out of the ground I’m dying to show someone what I’ve just grown.”
When Angela grew three bean plants in 2009 a seed had been planted. “I would quite like to do more of this,” she thought to herself. Despite initial scepticism from her neighbours, she secured a £1,000 grant from Capital Growth, Boris Johnson’s sustainable food initiative and, with help from councillors Carole Williams and Philip Glanville, pressed forward with the project.
There are now 13 beds in the allotment, each owned by around 20 local residents, couples or families who pay £2 a month for maintenance. The group host three social events per year and community spirit is thriving.“At the beginning one lady threatened to set fire to anything we grew near her flat. Three months ago she knocked on my door and asked for some compost. I was so shocked I couldn’t bring myself to ask her for any money.”“When I presented the idea to the residents’ meeting they told me I was wasting my time. They’ve seen middle class people like me move onto the estate, think they can solve all their problems and leave again.”
“Now residents are always peering in, complimenting us on our garden and chatting to us. There’s been a real softening in the community,” Angela said.And now it is something for the community to take pride in. “All the previous opposition made us think it has to be lovely and appropriate.” The proof is in the eating.