Getting Stuck into a Project with Imogen Heap
A couple of weeks ago, I learned that Imogen Heap was partnering with Clear Village to restore a walled garden in conjunction with Heapsong3. All of these announcements happened online, and here’s a blurb from Imogen’s site that tells you what we were expecting to happen.
In order to make the experience really rewarding and useful, Clear Village have thought it best to run an immersive program in which volunteers / participants / local residents can be involved in a learning and doing journey and become part of a team.
So in collaboration with the Borough’s Park managers, Clear-Village will be holding an open air lab for a maximum of 20 people over 6 days (22nd – 27th Sept inclusive) that will include presentations, exercises and creative get togethers. If you’re not a local, we have a hotel nearby that is pre-booked with 15 rooms at £55 per night (£65 if 2 in a room), including breakfast and transport to and from the garden (10 minute drive).
You can either come for the short period (22nd – 25th inclusive) or long period (up until 28th) when there’ll be art workshops also. We will feed and water you during the day and you’ll be forever welcome into the garden! You would have your evenings free from 5pm to enjoy nearby London (30 minute train from Gidea Park Station, Essex) or the local countryside.
You are then invited to ‘The Garden Party’ on the 8th Oct at The Round House (where we live), doubling up as the release of Heapsong3. It’s also Thomas’ birthday which he is ‘giving’ to the garden (friends and family bring cash not pressies!). If you’d like to come to the party but can’t be one of the 20 garden angels, you are welcome to come for £99 (all proceeds go toward further Walled Garden projects – places limited to 50 people).
For the 20 garden angels, your jobs could range from:
• Clearing the decks via bricklaying, carpentry, masonry, irrigation expertise, catering, revealing original footpaths, tilling the soil.
• Creating artwork from the debris of the clearing to be positioned around the park to raise local awareness to the ongoing project. (for those staying for the full 6 days)
We would be very happy also to have people with some knowledge of biodynamic agriculture, permaculture, architecture, community project management, drawing/live sketching etc.
I arrived on Saturday and worked through Tuesday. I found a team of folks preparing a large plot for planting because weeds had overrun the area. With spades, forks and hoes, we tried to bring this garden back to life. I chose to jump right in as other plots were roped off for safety reasons. The old greenhouses and poly-tunnels need a lot of skilled demolition. Our team focused principally on one overgrown plot.
Weeding fit my gardening skills nicely. Everything in the field needed to go. We also had a bit of a treasure hunt. The Friends of Bedfords Park had planted potatoes a few months back that were ready for harvesting. In particular, the raised beds were good places to find potatoes. Some stones tried to masquerade as potatoes, making the game that much more fun. Everyone on the team was really friendly, and conversations sprang up around a range of topics.
Because potatoes get planted in raised beds, we had to level the field. People worked with the forks and shovels to get the field roughly level. Other team members took to what we called “the penguin walk.” Treading the field requires you to take small steps using your heels to push down the soil. The ever-colourful Martin (also the parks director) showed us how to tread and recruited a team of people to “look really daft while doing it.” The three people closest to him got on the task right away while the rest of the team worked to prepare the far side of the field. Imogen came down to help and joined the penguin walkers while also joining right in with the team’s chatter.
At some point in the morning, a camera and mic boom showed up. [Weeding requires a lot of time looking down at the ground.] It was a bit strange to garden on camera but Clear Village and Imogen Heap commissioned a documentary about the Walled Garden project and the making of Heapsong3. Personally, I’m not really a taking pictures type of person, but many other folks on the team had really nice still cameras. After a point, I just got used to people taking action shots.
After the team had been working for a while, Lois brought in the winter vegetables and the salad crops we were planting. Martin facilitated a discussion about the difference between horticultural and permaculture techniques. Horticulture uses a rotational system of monocropping while permaculture inter-crops with symbiotic intentions. Certain plants do well when planted next to other plants as the various combinations offer natural protections from pests. The team knew that we’d be having to think carefully about how we wanted to plant the various plants.
By the end of the morning, we had the field nearly all turned over and ready for planting. I was quite impressed.
In the next post, I’ll discuss Saturday afternoon.