I am sorry for the long break, but I’ve just come back from a study trip around Lithuania organised within the international project Localise. The aim was to get to know Lithuanian cultural institutions, ngos and other organisations running projects and initiatives with and for local communities. We travelled around Lithuania in a group of 15 artists, community arts and culture animation practitioners from three countries: Poland, Lithuania and the UK.
It was a very fruitful and inspiring experience in many ways, but I really didn’t expect to see this in a little town of Moletai, about 60 km north of Vilnius:
I don’t know if it is a guerilla gardening project, a local school initiative or an activity that was a part of the 650 years of Moletai festival, but look at the effect! It’s easy, it’s cheap and very very impressive.
I am starting to collect 1,5 l bottles. Let me know if you have any and are planning to be in Caldmore anytime soon.
I went out this morning to the weekly yoga class at AAINA Women’s Centre on Bath Street only to find our guerilla garden radically changed! Somebody dug through all the rubbish and weeds and grass on the other side of the guerilla garden we’ve been working on and really made it a great job! It’s absolutely clear now, with some rubbish bags remaining to be removed.
I couldn’t even imagine what it must have taken to dig such a big peace of land - and I tell you, it’s at least 4 times bigger than the initial garden - so I started asking around. The Greedy Pig, Caldmore Timber and Walsall DIY all told the same story - Arjun Chand from Caldmore Neighbourhood Watch spent the whole day on Wednesday digging the extension of the garden! Because after the meeting on Monday he wanted to show that the Watch does think positive!
I had a chat with him today on the phone and he said that he’s going to keep on working on it, Walsall DIY has promised to help buy new plants at low prices, so you will all see the new garden very soon!
Obviously, I am very, very excited. Because of this new extension and also because of the support declared by Caldmore Traders Association, who re-blogged my last blog entry. The chair, Ali Mahmood, wants to become involved and make the Guerilla Garden on of Caldmore Village landmarks. I have also been invited to BBC WM to talk about this blog next week, so you must excuse me if I feel a bit overwhelmed!
And it all started with this little garden…
Great things are happening, and there are more to come!
Guerilla gardening means taking care of an abandoned site or area not cared for by anyone. It is often done in reaction to a noticeable issue in the community and its environment - for example fly tipping or lack of green spaces. It can be, but doesn’t have to be, an act of defiance towards the local council or those held responsible for the problematic situation. But for me, guerilla gardening is about making positive change.
On Monday I went to a monthly meeting of Caldmore Neighbourhood Watch to learn more about my (still new) community, its problems and institutions. And while the group seems to be doing a great deal reporting lots of issues such as holes in the road, illegal parking, fly tipping, criminal behaviour and so on, it is also very critical. Everything seems to be about issues to be resolved (and yes, there is no end to them) and the ones that have been reacted to by the Council, the Police and other services tend to be easily forgotten. What was missing there - and made me feel quite hopeless and a tad depressed - was thinking positive. Why don’t we work together to make the difference and appreciate the work we have done so far?
Guerilla gardening is community arts. And while many people would shy away from calling themselves artists, there is an art form there, there is a community and there is a change, even if at a very small scale. And there is a lot of social capital to be built there, I tell you!
Caldmore Guerilla Gardeners adopted an unused piece of land at the corner of Arundel Street and West Bromwich Street in Caldmore, Walsall. The place was always full of rubbish, with some evidences of fly tipping too.
The garden was planted in the first half of May 2012. The plants were partly bought by its creators, but mostly donated by Walsall DIY - a hardware and gardening store on the other side of the road. Its owner saw us working for two days, thought we were absolute (yet positive) nutters but then decided to get involved and reward our hard work.
The garden has been since cared for daily both by its creators and local community members. It has been watered by people from Greedy Pig Cafe and Caldmore Timber - http://www.caldmoretimber09ltd.co.uk/ - and there is hardly any rubbish any more. Caldmore Timber has promised to make a new wooden fence to protect the garden.
Saturday, 09/06/12, saw us doing quite a lot of weeding. The owner of Walsall DIY donated new surfinias and violet plants and gave us a huge discount on soil, plant food and few pots of pansies. We got a lot of positive feedback from passing members of the community, with one of them donating a beautiful lavender plant!
Needless to say - I feel elevated! There is a lot more to be done, we are thinking of working on the rest of the green patch to get rid of all the rubish and plant some flowers, too. Stay tuned!