Allotments. Not a world
we knew until we were recently invited to Dublin to conduct
a radio workshop and then to London as guests of Falling
Tree Productions to do a presentation of our radio work,
and began to sniff out hidden kitchens in that part of the
Ptak, who bakes the organic and beautiful “Violets
Cakes,” which she sells at the Broadway Market
in London Fields, told us about the allotment movement in
London—an unusual and vibrant system of community gardens
across the entire city, its legacy and struggle. We started
digging and within hours of arriving we were immersed in
a kitchen community like no other — the allotments
We were only in London
a few days, but as we asked gathered allotment stories one
site kept coming up, Manor Garden Allotments—a
small patch of land between the River Lea and the Channelsea
River in Hackney Wick, over a hundred years old, with over
a hundred families growing their own food in the heart of
working class East London.
With London being chosen as the site of the 2012 Olympics, a vast swath of land
in the east end, is being redeveloped for the Games. Sadly, in October
2007, Manor Garden Allotments was bulldozed to make way for a concrete footpath.
Julie Sumner, assistant secretary of the Allotment Association, who was a plot
holder at Manor Gardens for more than 12 years, met us at the site perimeter
of the former Gardens and walked the blue fence with us. Although they have been
forced to relocate, the folks at lifeisland.org remain
dedicated to preserving the tradition and value of these community plots. To
learn more about Manor Gardens and their struggle to keep their plots visit lifeisland.org.
While we were at the blue fence we
a group of school children from Gainsborough Primary School, who were proud to
proclaim that they were from "the most famous school in Hackney Wick" because
they are right across from the site of the future Olympics. Even though they
will have graduated by the time 2012 rolls around, none-the-less, they are thrilled
to be in the midst of it all.
We met up with Sam
Clark, who with his wife, Samantha, are long time
plot holders at Manor Gardens and chef/owners of the popular
London restaurant Moro. MORO
EAST is their most recent cookbook which chronicles
the stories and recipes of their allotment neighbors at
Manor Gardens. It is beautifully designed, and rich with
story and recipes - a soulful tribute to life at Manor
"When you cook from an allotment it’s the ingredients
that dictate the dish. With the supermarket mentality you say
what recipe shall I do today. With an allotment mentality you
say what can I do with what I have in the garden." — Sam
Sam gave us a tour of the Marsh Lane allotment were they have been forced to
relocate. Quite a soggy affair. After that we stopped to see Hassan Ali at his
mechanics shop. Hassan is well known for the infamous meals that he and long
time friend and fellow plot holder, Reg Hawkins, would cook together from the
pickings of their gardens.
Sam and Marsh Land behind we visited Oliver
his new restaurant Konstam
at the Prince Albert and interviewed
him in his kitchen as he prepped the meals for the next seating.
Oliver gets almost all his food from farmers and producers
working within the radius of the city's train system.
"People will grow
things in available spaces if you give them the opportunity.
I'm working now with a woman Jane Ridderford trying to push
forward some flat roof growing which I think is really an
exciting way forward for London, because we have a lot of
roof. I'm working to get proper commercially viable produce,
not just the odd bit of parsley here and there which is quite
often what flat roof projects are about, just demonstrative.
I feel we've done that. We know that we can grow on a flat
roof. I think its time to start producing. If it's good quality
I'll buy it."
John Kelly, publisher of Prospect
Magazine, at the Sacred Music Festival in
Fez in the press room while she was in the press room working
on an transfering some files back to us in San Francisco and
working on an edit of this piece with Nikki. Little did Davia
know that the fellow next to her would be from London and used
to have a plot himself, at Cold Fall. This is John's brief
overview of the history of sheds in British culture.
Was Forever" - a short film on Manor Gardens
another look into Manor Gardens there is a wonderful short
Was Forever," filmed over a year until the allotments
were demolished in 2007, by the folks at polkadotsonraindrops.
You can watch it online by
visiting their site. Their
work in creative digital film making and writing and their
committment to community, education and oral history caught
our eye. Check out some of their other films on their site.
the Archives - Dig for Victory & Land Girls
allotments started to flourish with Britain's "Dig for
Victory" movement of World War II, an effort to feed the
starving population of London during the war.
HOME online features a piece on the enduring appeal
of the shed. Faith
Lawrence talks with Gordon Thorburn, photographer and author
of Men and Sheds, and wonders if women are taking over this
Land Girls of England - As more and more men were
'called up' to serve in the forces, women were called upon
to take over the jobs traditionally done by men. "Women's
Land Army", in England, was involved in all aspects
of agricultural work as well as working in market gardens.
Some women were given a full training; others were expected
to learn on the job. By 1943 any spare pieces of land had
been turned into an allotment for food production, prompted
by the slogan 'Dig for Victory'.