In relation to my last blog post about ‘potlucks’, the practice sharing of food between a community, I have been looking at a Make:Shift inspired project in Wolverhampton that also uses food as a tool to bring people together, but in a slightly different way.
Allotments have been a feature of British life for generations, stereotypically run by time-rich retirees, eager for some time in the open air or to get away from her/him indoors. But they have had something of a resurgence in recent times, with waiting times for plots stretching into years in some areas, possibly brought about by the recession or people wanting to get more organic vegetables into their diet.
But why should the benefits of an allotment be limited to those lucky few who have managed to bag a plot to themselves? That is a question that Elliot Lord must have asked himself when he came up with the idea that he pitched to Make:Shift in 2013. That idea was to turn a piece of unused land into a free organic garden that is run and owned by the community. A very simple, but a very Make:Shift-y concept that we are greater than the sum of our parts.
Elliot eventually managed to acquire the use of an abandoned allotment on Lich Avenue, Wednesfield from Wolverhampton Homes, a plot that had been suggested to him in a brainstorming session at Make:Shift. Wolverhampton Homes also also helped to prepare the space ready for the first seed to be planted, and with the added help of local volunteers and businesses, they also kitted out the garden with essentials like a shed and a greenhouse, made from entirely reclaimed materials. Not surprising then that renaissance man Elliot is also the inventor of the innovative cardboard bed designed for the homeless that received national press coverage. A keen community campaigner, he is also founder of ‘Own our Future’, an organisation that promotes the empowerment of people to take control of their own destinies through community led projects such as the organic garden.
Over three years into the project and it is still going strong, churning out organic produce which is consumed by the volunteers that grow it and then the surplus being donated to foodbanks and local charities. Another fine example of how great an impact a simple idea can have when our communities pull together to make it happen. Or rather, Make:Shift it happen!