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  More on Allotments - Sheds, Land Girls, Community & Guerilla Gardening and more
 
 
     
  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 world.  Claire 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 of London.  
     
  Manor Gardens  
     
  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 met
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.
 
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  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 Gardens.

"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.
 
     
   
     
     
       
  Leaving Sam and Marsh Land behind we visited Oliver Rowe at 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."  
     
  SHEDS    
     
 

   
       
  Davia met 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.  
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  "This Was Forever" - a short film on Manor Gardens  
     
 

For another look into Manor Gardens there is a wonderful short film, "This 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.

 
 
 
  From the Archives - Dig for Victory & Land Girls  
   
  The 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.  
     
 

Can the Kaiserlandgirls

 
       
 
 
       
  BBC 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 tradtitional preserve  
       
  The 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'.  
       
       

     
   
 
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