A Social Outdoor Livingroom

Posted by in May's Magazine

My daughter (aged 5) is going to a meeting. She received an invitation in the post and everything. The password is ‘lollipops’ (it’s the same as MI5’s or so I’m told). She’s off to the Secret Seven, at The Croft and she’s taking a bottle of Irn-Bru and seven plastic cups with her, just in case.

I have a meeting too, across the road at St James Church, a grown-up meeting about Leith Community Croft. This is an initiative whereby 2 acres of land in the corner of Leith Links, originally gifted to the people of Leith, is being turned into a community garden (part of Crops in Pots). I have been going along for a while now with my small satellites and I love it. I know nothing about gardening, my brain shuts down into ‘card game instruction mode’ every time someone explains double digging to me, so I tend to just grab a spare spade and make myself dog shit Monitor.


So far, what I have loved most about it is seeing my children in Just Digging Around in Soil. My little girl gets completely lost in a world of her own for hours. My little boy has made friends with a small dog, called Fergus, who he talks about all the time. This is the stuff their memories will be made of, imaginative, unstructured time that as people we seem determined to forget to enjoy.

Crops in Pots understand this. On their website you can find a fascinating document from the National Trust outlining the problem of Nature Deficit Disorder, which is not actually a thing, but is a very good description of something that should be a thing. Apparently we are bringing up kids who are out of touch with nature, and this is not just bad because it makes them fat and miserable but also because they don’t understand about risks and dangers, and are hence more prone to grow up to keep their own kids cooped up indoors getting fat and miserable and not knowing how to take risks and so on.

“Any chance of beehives?” Asks the man in the queue behind me as I sign up for the meeting. I don’t fancy that, already envisaging walking my kids across the links to school each morning in one of those big white, net curtain accessorized, suits. Unable to risk assess you see, unconnected with my environment. If anyone can change that sensibility it is today’s speakers, starting with the very lovely Evie Murray who is running the show. She explains that the vision is for a “healthy, happy, leafy Leith.” The purposes are environmental, to reduce carbon footprint by growing food in urban spaces and increasing biodiversity, but also social, providing recreational opportunities and social cohesion. Sounds marvellous, and the next speaker shows us what this might actually look like.

Tom Kirby from Granton Community Gardens talks us through his own projects, from humble beginnings to the stage where he can grow enough neeps to feed a Burns Supper of 250 people. His pictures, evoking people gardening away in previously grim looking plots in Granton, surprise me by bringing tears to my eyes. Gardening is ‘very human’ says Tom, and I agree. It is very human to want to produce, nurture, feed and provide, and I would argue that this is being systematically pummelled out of us. Which is why Tom also says gardening is actually very political, as it makes us into producers in a world where we are constantly told we are only consumers.

Next up is Barbara Stutz from Nourish Scotland with the message that in Scotland we should eat more of what we produce and produce more of what we eat. 90% of our food comes from supermarkets and 50% of money spent on food in Scotland goes to just two corporations, which is pretty sickening. Diet related ill health ‘through our disconnection from food’ costs £450 million per year. 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system and 40% of the planet’s soil is degraded. Gardening is looking more and more political by the second.

The final part of the day is a workshop, where we are encouraged to talk about our ideas for the croft using speed dating principles. Its like a “social outdoor living room” says Katrina, an older lady who grew up on a croft herself. “I’d like a sand pit.” “I’d like yoga classes.” “I’d like butterflies and barbeques and a graffiti wall.” People chorus. The excitement is palpable and in one of my speed dates we discuss how we just feel pleased to be actually doing something, rather than just moaning and feeling cross about how awful everything is. We are digging a way to something good for ourselves, and our children, with our own hands. I leave with the wise words of Margaret Mead, quoted by Barbara Stutz, ringing loud in my head: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Twitter: @fraser_sally
Info: www.sallyfraserwrites.wordpress.com

Pic: Courtesy www.rachelhein.com

One response to “A Social Outdoor Livingroom”

  1. Kirsty Sutherland says:

    Love this article, a peaceful revolution is possible, go everybody!!!

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