As I look across the sprawling sea of skyscrapers that is becoming Manchester’s skyline it is comforting to know that even now under lockdown different groups across the city are still actively working on making the place greener. As one of (if not the first) industrialised cities Manchester is not somewhere that you would normally associate with local produce and allotments. Sow the City are working to change that by working with local people to encourage growing vegetables and urban gardening. To grow your own in Manchester, with our limited space and lack of gardening heritage takes resourcefulness and tenacity – something we have in spades.
Mo and Juliet from Let’s Keep Growing gave us a clear, comprehensive and accessible presentation of how they made their idea a reality. Mo has lived in Longsight for 40 years and met Juliet through a housing co-op. After enrolling in the ‘Making a Difference’ programme through Amity CIC they started working on their plan to turn the alleyways between Slade Lane, Hamilton Road, Hector Road and Palm Street into a community garden. Let’s Keep Growing was born.
Manchester has many alleyways and reclaiming them as a shared community space that incorporates food production, homes for wildlife and socialising is brilliant. There is so much underused space in cities that could be used to grow vegetables and help increase city food security. They were keen to emphasise how much research and hard work is involved in getting this project off the ground.
Mo and Juliet found during their research that there were a lot of gardeners and a lack of green spaces, so the idea to bring people’s backyards out into the alleyways fit with resident’s needs. One of the things I really liked about their presentation was how they kept coming back to speaking to the people in the community, whether it is through knocking on doors or handing out questionnaires. They asked a lot of questions of people who were already there to ensure they were creating something the whole community could feel part of.
Longsight is a diverse area and part of the goal of this project is to promote social cohesion. One piece of advice they gave that really stuck with me was to create as many different ways for people to get involved as possible. Residents came out and shared food with volunteers on the project, shared seeds and plants from their back gardens and helped to spread the word. A lot of the time people want to be more engaged with their communities but they don’t have a channel for it, a reason to communicate it. Let’s Keep Growing helped give participants a shared goal with their neighbours, something to work together on and bond over. To encourage as many local people as they can there is an active effort to make the project as visible and accessible as possible.
Give the webinar a listen if you are interested in setting up your own community gardening project, especially if you are in Manchester because they deliver a really comprehensive plan to help other budding community groups. The webinars are every Friday so do get involved.
Reading the comments in the chat box it looked as if Mo and Juliet had sown the seed for quite a few listeners and I hope we’ll see a flurry of urban gardening projects happening in Manchester soon.