‘The Growing Project: Growing Inclusive Communities’ is A new documentary film telling the magical story of how the lives of Birmingham’s homeless and vulnerable communities are being transformed through gardening together launches online on Friday 16th July 2021 at 5pm.
Filmed in Birmingham during Spring 2021, over 4 different locations, the film captures the real life stories, dreams and achievements of the people involved in the project, from participants, artists, gardeners and volunteers to the organisations underpinning the work. The garden becomes a place of shared stories, plant growing, food making, and also sanctuary, recovery and meaningful production.
The film, commissioned by digital support agency The Space, shows the benefits of connecting people to nature when in difficult times and also questions what role local communities and the arts and culture can play to the post-covid19 social and economic recovery.
Curated by Jo Capper, she says that “by connecting people with plants and each other in their local environment we can create platforms for change and transformation… responding positively to the visible effects of homelessness and vulnerability in our city, we are using our social and cultural capital to make improvements to the spaces and places we share.”
“There’s so many benefits to this sort of activity. Personally, I’m interested in creating more green spaces, not just for growing vegetables but also to bring more wildlife into the city and into people’s back gardens. The benefits for the residences …is that we can use it as a way to engage and socialise and build that bridge…”
Matthew Cox – Artist Gardener – Hagley Road
“The whole project [at St Anne’s] is to really think about how we can use the produce that we are growing to create our own pickles and ferments; things that we could potentially use as an enterprise in order to give […] the participants the control over the produce that they are growing… The Growing Project is supposed to be self-sufficient in what we are growing and producing.”
Kirsty Clarke – Artist Chef – St. Anne’s Hostel
“I have been invested in The Growing Project from day one. I have always enjoyed gardening and feel I am getting a lot out of the project physically, mentally, and socially. I am now looking forward to seeing how all aspects of the garden develop in the future.”
Kelvin – Resident – The Growing Project
“The Growing Project shows how bringing people together to grow food and work with nature can help them grow too. Building friendships, new skills, and confidence in themselves”
Kieren – Volunteer – The Growing Project
ABOUT THE PROJECT
The Growing Project, established in 2019, is a community-led growing scheme, working with organisations who support vulnerably-housed people and those in crisis. Aiming to ‘Green-Sense’ the city, The Growing Project improves neglected sites across Birmingham by growing food and creating green spaces. The sites are developed, tended, and nurtured by people experiencing homelessness or who are in times of crisis. The Growing Project focuses on bringing people from different backgrounds together to collectively share stories and experiences, developing understanding whilst responding to key ecological issues.
The gardens offer many different ways for people to tell their story and have their story be heard. They are a safe space for people to talk about difficult things that aren’t connected to growing, however short their time might be at the gardening site. The residents and volunteers can have a safe haven for however long their time there lasts. In really subtle ways, The Growing Project helps give space to people to reflect on their circumstances. The healing benefit of being outside enables the community to have conversations about how to make things feel like home.
The initial allotment garden at St.Anne’s is a collaborative partnership between Grand Union and the residents of the hostel, supported by Crisis Skylight. The first phase culminated in a public dinner event coordinated by Artist Chef Kirsty Clarke, where guests and participants shared stories, food and conversation about the symbolic meaning of taking seed to soil to plate. This year we are working to make our vegetable plots more productive, developing a nursery site for propagating native trees.
The Hagley Lodge Garden has been nurtured into an artist-led community growing space for the residents, staff, and wider community. An urban, overgrown site has transformed drastically over the last year: the residents and gardeners have uncovered a path, created vegetable beds, and installed bird feeders to attract wildlife back to the urban space. The artists and residents together develop a deeper understanding of ‘green-sensing’ and connection with their urban communal spaces.
At Richmond we are working with the residents to gently persuade this garden back into a restful space with herbal, medicinal and wild plants. The residents are keen to grow some edibles which will be incorporated into community outdoor cooking events. Together we are creating a garden that interweaves growing, cooking and healing.
The garden sites sit at the intersection of urban and wildlife. They create and sustain spaces for nurture and growth, both for the natural environment and the community of growers committed to their transformation.