Gardens and Open Spaces Hull, a grass roots community organisation, created a ‘park-in’ outside The Guildhall this week to challenge Hull City Council to think about how food could be grown in unused green spaces in the city and then shared.
In this interview, Kate MacDonald outlines the group’s vision for a more sustainable local food supply, and how growing more food locally might create more resilient communities.
“This is a campaign that’s bringing together growers from across Hull to say to the council ‘We are part of your solution. We know that you want to help people become healthier by eating healthier food, even to access land to grow on, and to create more biodiversity by allowing communities to plant plants that encourage bees that also help things grow’.
“But, the challenge is, very often, how do departments talk to each other? Bureaucracy gets in the way. We know people inside the council struggle with that, we all struggle with that. What we’re saying is ‘We’re the citizens, you’re also citizens and part of a community. How can we work together? We want to work with you. We have skills to share. We have people that’ve got years of experience gardening’.
“In the spring, those of us that plant seedlings, you always have more seedlings, so why not share? We know we’ve got Brexit, we’ve got the impact of the pandemic, more people are going to be needing food.
“We have a hashtag, #solidaritynotcharity, we want to move away from this idea that when you’re in a position when you need to use a foodbank, why can’t you just have fresh produce that’s grown locally? And also, why can’t we just grow grow it and share it with each other?
“In the pandemic loads of people stepped up, through mutual aid groups, this is just continuing that mutual aid.
“We know people want opportunities to help each other, there’s loads of opportunities to do that, whether just growing a couple of tomato plants and sharing one of the plant’s fruits with your neighbour. Or using a bit of your garden, and sharing your skills with someone else.
“We also need a ‘land army’ as well. We’ve been offered some land in Sutton Fields. We want to start visioning ‘What if…? What could this site look like?’
“We’re using the term ‘What if…?’ We’re trying to create the picture of what we want to see, rather than focusing on what we don’t want to see.
“This is also about bringing people together, stopping fighting with each other. Let’s just get back to being human beings, with similar needs around connection, and role, and food.
“We know food brings everyone together. So that’s what it’s all about.”
[Jerome Whittingham – editor, HULL IS THIS]