Thursday, 13 November 2008

Victoria Jubilee Allotments, Handsworth

Thanks so much, Adrian, for The Stirrer’s continued concern about the long delay in implementing the terms of Birmingham’s Planning Gain Agreement with developer Charles Church to lay out new allotments and playing fields on the Victoria Jubilee Allotments (VJA) site next to Handsworth Park. Daily news about recession adds to the urgency of this matter. As in the 1980s, despite many improvements in recent years in Handsworth and Lozells, recession’s impact is likely to be amplified here. We're at risk. A green vision - sustainability, shorter food miles, local farming – drove the long campaign for the VJA, but environmentalism was always part of a larger response to wider economic trends. These are now impacting – remorselessly - on the real economy of the UK, on the population of Birmingham, especially on the people of Handsworth and Lozells. We are not helpless in the face of such ominous developments. The wise mantra – small is beautiful - can be realised in this place as a Brummy example to others, as one of millions of antidotes to climate change. There’s a positive story here about local people contributing to the transition from a consuming economy to a thriftier more fruitful one. This exciting story began over ten years ago. It’s about about elected councillors, volunteers, local managers and community leaders, helping - with a private developer - to bring to Birmingham the largest new inner-city food growing site in Britain since World War 2 - the new Victoria Jubilee Allotments. ‘Victoria Jubilee’ – a name associated locally with abandonment and decay - now resonates hope in difficult times. Our green spaces can again be a vital part of our common wealth. This particular one awaits the spade. To realise a long projected and detailed plan to bring playing fields and allotments to the Victoria Jubilee site, we need the same resourcefulness that drove local leaders, amid the seismic changes of the industrial revolution, to realise the wonderful idea of Handsworth Park – declared by Lord Dartmouth as “open to the people for ever” on 30 March 1898. That same resourcefulness is here now. Over twenty years, many people, politicians, professionals and lay volunteers - some now firm friends - worked to create a new Handsworth Park, a reinvented urban green space of value to the whole city; of inestimable value to those who live near it and love it. Let’s strive to make a new Victoria Jubilee Allotments for Handsworth and for Birmingham. Let’s get on with laying out their accompanying playing fields. Let’s avoid further delay in making them ‘open to the people for ever’. We can do this. Best wishes, Simon
Simon Baddeley Handsworth Allotments Information Group (HAIG) 34 Beaudesert Road, Handsworth B20 3TG
[Photos: Thanks to the talent of Luke Unsworth]
* * * [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) forecasts protracted economic slowdown] * * * Back to the future 16/11/08 ~ I was looped into this letter from my step-father's biographer, Paul Peacock, sent to Colin Sykes, environmental correspondent at BBC Northwest who mentioned he'd be interested in following the story, Mark Hampshire is from the Allotment Channel and Gerry Sammon, an editor with the Guardian Group Local Newspapers who's keen to follow this (P describes me as working on the interface between policy at local government level and implementation by executives, and very interested in allotments.) Hello. Dave Roscoe, City Centre Regeneration Manager, Manchester City Council, kindly pointed me in your direction. I write on environmental themes and in particular the provision of food made at home. You can check me out on the websites under my sig below. In my work I have come across a lot of research that points to the absolute need for cities to begin to plan to grow their own food and I approached Dave Roscoe for some help in thinking creatively to make this happen beyond the boundaries imposed by the 'flat cap' image of allotments. One of the problems of allotments, apart from the fact that there are not enough of them, is that they do not take account of the other uses of the land nor its value as a financial resource, however there are some fundamental reasons why I believe we urgently need to provide growing spaces in the inner city and city centre. There is a perceived need for them. People want to grow some of their own food. Waiting lists for allotments are at an all time high. If everyone on current waiting lists got a plot today there would be more than at the height of the Second World War. Academics around the world are beginning to use the words 'coming famine' when referring to western modern, post-industrial, cities. If we are able to think creatively to provide growing spaces that could be tended , say, at lunchtime for city centre workers, or small but definite spaces for city centre residents, we would improve their lives no end. An example of the kind of thing I am thinking of is the Edible Classroom. I have been making films for the Allotment Channel and quite naturally have come into contact with many suppliers of materials for gardeners. Together we have come up with the idea of the Edible Classroom, which is a polytunnel in which is all that is needed to teach children to grow their own food. We will be providing a set of curriculum materials and DVD's based on the Allotment Channel, specially filmed with children undertaking simple growing tasks. Now this is a commercial venture - the suppliers need payment for their materials etc., but an ideal situation would include a wide variety of projects, each designed to encourage inner city and city centre people to grow at least some of their own food. I would value the opportunity to talk about what might be done and to think creatively about the provision of growing spaces and would certainly make myself available to come and see you at your convenience.
Best Wishes, Paul Peacock 0161 655 4428 www.paulpeacock.net www.homefarmer.co.uk www.allotmenttv.co.uk

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