Last year was our ten year anniversary and this year was a big step up on all fronts for the Skip Garden and all of Global Generation’s programmes. We moved site and expanded our community to include architecture students, more local residents, young people with learning difficulties, refugees and more bees, writes Jane Riddiford.
In February we took on the lease for what is now a fully functioning Skip Garden, our third on the King’s Cross Estate. We have had a nice narrative about being able to move anywhere, pick up the skips, drop and go. This time it was a little more complicated. Seven of the structures were designed and built by architecture students from the Bartlett School of Architecture, the first project of its kind in the UK. The self-sustaining ethos of the garden was central to their contributions, which include a giant glasshouse lantern, a rammed earth polytunnel, a wetland dining area fed by kitchen waste water, a natural earth bag cool store along with a wonderful chicken house complete with two feathered occupants. The spirit of the Skip Garden is now well and truly spreading beyond our official boundaries and the Garden Team have designed, built and maintained 6 terrace and rooftop gardens including the new Waitrose Cookery School, Grain Store and Rotunda Restaurants – each designed to reflect the food being cooked inside. We have also helped King's Cross become a more bee friendly place, with bio-diverse plantings around the natural swimming pond and in the public realm. In the summer time, you can learn more thanks to a Bee Trail App, built for us by Wolff Olins.
As always the garden provides a rich learning platform for our youth programmes. Graduates of the Generator programme have become Better World Ambassadors and have co-produced our Bees for a Better World, Heritage Lottery Funded initiative. They have also been active in greening some of the King's Cross roofs, which involved a pitch to Argent, the King’s Cross Developers. Based on the success of our Junior Chef Club, this year we have extended our generator offer to a younger age group and now have a crew of 11 – 14 year olds on board. Many young residents who live in the recently built King’s Cross housing blocks have been coming to our Friday Night Project, which involves football with Arsenal followed by cooking in the Skip Garden Kitchen. As I write this I can smell sweet chilli jam and bees wax as our Business and Sustainability BTEC students are busy making products for our Christmas market. Two of them have even attracted the interested of Leon restaurant, as an outlet for their products.
Cooking and eating together has always been a big part of Global Generation. Beginning with a gas ring in a gazebo and a pop up dining experience in our 20m poly tunnel we now have a fully-fledged commercial kitchen. Six part time chefs and a café manager operate our café and associated education programmes, which is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday. This year they have hosted and catered for two weddings, supper clubs, corporate lunches and a fire feast along with a steady stream of customers. Much of the leaf for our salads is grown in the Skip Garden and the home-made bread is worth returning for. Not to mention the home-grown staff, several of whom began as generators or interns.
When we first set up Global Generation back in 2004, we wanted to grow an organisation that would support young people. We also wanted to get to a point where we could also help other organisations to work in a more integrated ‘I, We and the Planet’ sort of way. At that point we barely had a bank account and all efforts were needed to keep our own ship afloat. This year learning and development for other organisations has become an important strand of the work. Applying an action research approach, we use story, creative writing, making, dialogue and hands on work in the garden to help participants inquire into leadership and sustainability and the kind of purpose and values needed to animate positive change. We have run workshops for other youth organisations in Islington, businesses including Ernst and Young, Daimler, Kier Construction, Eurostar, The Guardian and Grant Thornton, Ashridge Business School and The Institute of Education at UCL.
Whilst we are a hyper-local organisation and King’s Cross will probably always be our mother ship, the rest of the world and the wider cosmos is in our horizon. In February Rod Sugden and I ran three Universe Story workshops for teachers in Portugal. Like many of our readers, the Global Generation team wanted to respond to the huge number of displaced people who are risking their lives to find a new home. How to do this naturally and generatively was a question we explored between us. An opportunity to expand our community further came through Silvia Pedretti our Italian Youth Facilitator. Through her family we have now linked our Friday night out project with a small village in Southern Italy where 90 refugees have arrived. The Generazione Globale initiative has raised money for them to have their own celebration of football and feasting and we hope it is the beginning of more to come.
A big thanks goes out to so many people who have made the Skip Garden one of a thousand hands. Whether you have helped in the garden, the youth programmes, the kitchen, funding us or just being friends with us … it goes a long way ! Have a Happy New Year one and all.