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How digital storytelling stimulated powerful conversations at a London community garden

Calthorpe Community Garden, Capital Growth's September spotlight garden, finished the month with a bang by screening films about community food growing followed by an afternoon of harvest celebrations.

Photo credit: Manal Massalha

Photo credit: Manal Massalha

Throughout September, and as part of the Spotlight Garden programme, Capital Growth celebrated a thriving community garden in the centre of London, Cathorpe Community Garden.

As part of our Urban Harvest Festival, the garden hosted a screening of films made by various community food gardens across London and Reading.

As intended, the films sparked a conversation amongst  participants at Calthorpe Community Garden around what their food growing space means to their community. Gathered in the garden’s activity shed, people began to share reflections on how they connect with the space, and the impact it has on their lives.

"It helps all the locals, we have somewhere green to come, it's good for our health, and we feel we belong , it has an impact on all the families, all the generations." - Anna.

Some of the people attending the film screening were long-time volunteers. Others were brought along by active members to join in with their Harvest Festival and a few even happened to wander into the garden by chance.

The whole conversation struck a particular chord with Mila Campoy, the food growing manager - a.k.a. doer of all everday things!) This post-screening discussion ended up being one of those rare occasions where Mila had a moment to stop and really hear and reflect on how her everyday role makes a world of a difference for the local community.

"Listening to everyone, and hearing Hazel talk about her first experience in the garden today, reminds me about when you arrive early to a bbq and the host might not be ready and it's busy but everyone is welcoming and you have a great time and feel very welcomed." - Mila 

The films are part of a wider action research project which includes a 'Visual Storytelling about Community Food Growing' course, which community food growers can access online. The digital storytelling and community food growing project, developed by Open University, Cobra Collective, RISC and Capital Growth, has demonstrated how community food growing initiatives provide crucial social assets in our urban communities through their cooperative and socially resilient practices. 

Facilitated by Les Levidow, Senior Research Fellow at Open University, and Fi McAllister, Capital Growth Coordinator, the experience was a moving outpouring of the variety of ways in which the garden has offered so many people from such different walks of life a sense of belonging and meaning. They spoke about getting to know other people and cultures, sharing skills with each other and between different generations, feeling healthier overall for spending time with others in the garden rather than sitting at home. All these things took on extra meaning during lockdown when so many were struggling with social isolation.

Capital Growth is delighted to announce that the spotlight garden for October is Black Rootz. Stay tuned to find out about this amazing project all through October, and learn more about how to become a Spotlight Garden

Watch the films and read findings from the digital storytelling project.



Published Monday 4 October 2021

Capital Growth: We believe everyone should have the opportunity to grow food as part of a healthy, resilient food system and we are working with our network of growers in London to make this happen.

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Fi returned to Sustain in May 2020 to coordinate Capital Growth (having worked on the Food and Mental Health Campaign all the way back in 2008!). She used to coordinate Growing Communities’ veg scheme and learning programme.

Fiona McAllister
Project Coordinator
Capital Growth

After a decade of working with diverse food communities in Spain and Portugal, Mayya returned to London to join Sustain in May 2021. Whether it's challenging local chefs to showcase what sustainable food can taste like or connecting peri-urban organic farmers with inner-city consumers, she's putting community gardens at the centre of all good food conversations to inspire positive behaviour change throughout the food chain.

Mayya Husseini
Project Coordinator Capital Growth

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