Earlier this week I had the pleasure of talking and meeting with the good people of Grow Sheffield - many thanks for the lovely emails afterwards you were very kind, I am pleased that you found it useful and keep up the inspiring work!
Speaking of speaking...I was very pleased to find the following from friends in Bath...
Guerrilla Gardeners of Bath – A Call to Spades
— filed under: Community group
A small brigade of guerrilla gardeners has begun work on a patch of abandoned land in a central residential area of Bath. They have cleared the site of dense brambles and have planted fruit trees and bushes with the aim of turning it into a community garden.
Guerrilla gardeners clearing a plot of abandoned land in Bath. Photograph by Liza Sweeting
“It is not our patch,” explains Virginia Williamson who amongst other things, is secretary of the allotments association. “The idea is to find little plots all over Bath that people can grow food on”. The guerrillas hope that this could be the start of a local grassroots food growing revolution.
The Incredible Edible Scheme - Todmorden
The Bath guerrillas were inspired to take action after hearing a talk last year about the ‘Incredible Edible’ scheme set up by guerrilla gardeners in Todmorden, West Yorkshire where, to date, six gardens have been created on patches of public land. Anyone can plant fruit, vegetables or herbs and all are welcome to the harvest. Local activists are aiming to make their town self-sufficient in staples so that within ten years their community will be producing and buying their own fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy.
What is guerrilla gardening?
The term ‘guerrilla gardening’ has been coined in recent times to describe a wide range of usually illicit gardening activities that can be as genteel as planting a cowslip on a neglected verge or as extreme as squatting a plot of abandoned land and growing crops and plants. All around Britain, frustrated urban gardeners are digging up roundabouts, growing food in unused flower beds and office workers are throwing ‘seed bombs’ out of train windows to brighten their daily commute.
The term ‘guerrilla’ conjures up images of heavily armed, beret clad combatants fighting bloody battles to bring down capitalist regimes. The archetypal guerrilla was Che Guevara whose fight was about changing society and about access to land. Less well known, but of immense historical relevance were the Diggers. They could be described as a group of guerrilla gardeners who illegally grew food on common land in response to rising food prices and lack of available land back in 17th century Britain.
For some guerrilla gardeners, their exploits are indeed a form of direct action related to land rights. In fact, Richard Reynolds, author of ‘On Guerrilla Gardening’ and unofficial leader of a growing movement in London, sees it as: “reclaiming land from enemy forces - a battle for resources against scarcity of land, environmental abuse and wasted opportunities”, and as “a fight for freedom of expression and for community cohesion”. As he points out, around 90% of Britons “are squeezed into dense urban areas,” which he feels is both inequitable and unjustifiable.
Guerrilla gardening and local authorities
Unlike Che Guevara, the majority of guerrilla gardeners are not trying to bring down the state but are just expressing frustration with a cumbersome bureaucracy. Although what is interesting is that the exploits of the less extreme are often met with approval from the local authorities.
Growing waiting lists for allotments
Guerrilla gardening, to date, seems to be concentrated in urban areas and is often a response to the lack of available land for residents to grow local food. In Bath, although there are 1047 existing allotment plots, there are 570 people on the waiting list. The council have responded to this demand by halving the existing available plots and are actively looking for other sites to create new allotments. In the meantime, all are welcome to take up spades and trowels and join the guerrilla’s fight to grow food.
The bigger picture
The word ‘guerrilla’ in Spanish means ‘little war’ – one in which combatants make sporadic attacks rather than fighting in large armies. Perhaps the small scale ‘attacks’ undertaken by guerrilla gardeners like those in Bath can have an important role in raising awareness of the issues of land ownership and the right to grow local organic food while the bigger issues of national and international monopolies of agri-business and rural land ownership remain beyond the locus of control or awareness of the man in the street.