The Growing Project

2019 – 2023

This project is supported by the Big Lottery Community Fund.

overview

The Growing Project is a community-led garden scheme, working with organisations who support the vulnerably-housed and those experiencing crisis. Aiming to ‘Green-Sense’ the city, The Growing Project nurtures sites across Birmingham by “growing food and creating green spaces”; these sites are developed, tended, and nurtured by people experiencing difficult times.

The Growing Project currently operates across five sites in Birmingham. It aims to connect people with each other through nature. Our specialist creative practitioners – Kirsty Clarke, Matthew Cox and Carolyn Morton – engage people in therapeutic gardening activities. The first year of The Growing Project culminated in a Public Harvest Celebration, where guests and participants shared food, stories, and discussed the symbolic meaning of taking food from seed to soil to plate.

The Growing Project aims to bring about transformation through growing and cooking food together, helping to create social cohesion, combat isolation, and give opportunities for community building.

An audio described version of the documentary is available on YouTube

St annes

St. Anne’s Hostel was the initial allotment garden for The Growing Project. It is a collaborative partnership between Grand Union and The Residents, supported by CRISIS Skylight and SIFA Fireside. The first phase of gardening engagement here culminated in a Public Harvest Celebration, supported by Modern Clay.

Since then, we have been working collaboratively to make the garden more productive. Artist Chef Kirsty Clarke and Artist Gardeners Matthew Cox and Carolyn Morton have been working with St. Anne’s residents and participants in a variety of gardening activities. We have harvested a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs: cucumbers, garlic, and mazuma to name a few. Our harvest has been used to make pickles and ferments, whilst providing more healthy and delicious foods for St. Anne’s hostel kitchens and resident dinners.

The next phase of The Growing Project at St. Anne’s Hostel will continue to explore ways of making our vegetable plots more productive. We wish to develop circular economies, considering enterprises arising from our gardening engagement sessions that benefit the residents and participants.

Jo Capper, 2021
Kirsty Clarke, 2021
Jo Capper, 2021

Hagley LODGE

Hagley Lodge is one of five gardening sites within The Growing Project. It is a collaborative partnership between Grand Union and Spring Housing. Over the course of The Growing Project, Environmentalist and Gardener Matthew Cox, and the residents have transformed the outdoor space into a communal garden, beckoning wildlife back to the urban landscape.

During the gardening engagement sessions, The Growing Project participants have built a treehouse, harvested carrots, created a pond, and sewn wildflowers, amongst many other things.

Hagley Lodge garden is being transformed into a welcoming place to sit, rest, and socialise with other residents.

HESTIA HOUSE

Hestia House is one of three gardening sites from The Growing Project working in collaboration with Spring Housing. Hestia House garden was initially an office block car park. Working in partnership with Avalon Landscapes we have repurposed the car park, transforming it into a community garden – offering much needed space for residents and hub users to socialise together.

Matthew Cox, 2021

RICHMOND HOUSE

Richmond House is one of three gardening sites from The Growing Project working in collaboration with Spring Housing. Artist and Gardener Carolyn Morton has been working with participants and residents to persuade this garden back into being a restful space. Working together, we have created a garden that interweaves growing, cooking, and healing.

MINERVA CANALSIDE APOTHECARY GARDEN

Minerva Gardens is an apothecary-style garden we have created along Grand Union Canal, next to Grand Union Gallery and Studios. With the help of The Growing Project team, participants, volunteers, and Bruntwood Works, we have transformed formerly unused space along the canal into a garden full of herbs, flowers, and wildlife with medicinal properties.

Working in partnership with Anawim and CRISIS, we host a women’s group at Minerva Gardens, with engagement sessions linked to gardening and growing. The engagement sessions at Minerva Gardens are facilitated by Grand Union, namely Hannah Adereti [Curatorial Fellow], Jo Capper [Collaborative Program Curator], and Kim McAleese [Programme Director]. Artist, Lecturer, Programme Assistant, and Printmaker Laura Onions led an engagement session with the women on stretching canvas, and preparing canvas for art. Artist and gardener Carolyn Morton has led engagement sessions at Minerva Gardens and other The Growing Project sites on cyanotype printing and natural dye making. Project Coordinator, Writer and Facilitator Adwoa Owusu-Barnieh led a workshop with the women’s group at this site, where all participants created poems around the idea of home.

We are looking to develop circular economies around Minerva Gardens, considering enterprises arising from the engagement sessions that benefit the participants.

Specially designed and constructed to include planters for growing herbs for healing practices, this garden has become a communal seating area and have outdoor cooking facilities. Led by women, the growing space offers safe opportunities for women to come together, to develop knowledge around growing and healing practices in the city centre.

Jo Capper, 2021

Documentary: growing inclusive communities

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 and by Birmingham-based filmmaker Sima Gonsai, 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.

The documentary’s initial launch was in July 2021, where we hosted screenings at some of the growing sites with participants of The Growing Project. The documentary consists of 3 short site portraits: Hagley Lodge, Richmond House, and St. Anne’s, as well as a longer overview of The Growing Project.

Since then, The Growing Project documentary has been nominated for Best Documentary at Birmingham Film Festival. It will be screened at a free event at Millenium Point, Birmingham on Sunday 21st November @ 12PM.

Jo Capper/Hannah Adereti, 2021