The big and little gardeners: another year of Lunch and Learning

“Every generation of children instinctively nests itself in nature, no matter how tiny a scrap of it they can grasp. In a tale of one city child, the poet Audre Lord remembers picking tufts of grass which crept up through the paving stones in New York City and giving them as bouquets to her mother. It is a tale of two necessities. The grass must grow, no matter the concrete suppressing it. The child must find her way to the green, no matter the edifice which would crush it”. Jay Griffiths

“ For my heart, these things are better than medicines”

North London Cares participant

When I was a child in Northern Italy, my young working parents benefited from the great luxury of Italy’s efficient system of free childcare: grandparents. Through the seasons, my grandparents were like the elves of the garden, growing crops and looking after trees and animals. I loved digging my hands into the moist dirt, biting into a tomato fresh off the vine and helping my grandfather with peeling peas and grating stale bread.

Although I didn’t know how to name those experiences, those were moments of spiritual experience – a magic communion with the Earth.

Now I am in a city and I work in a development site and although I miss my grandparents’ garden every day (and my grandparents), I don’t feel melancholy is blocking me. I guess I am lucky. Lucky to work in a place that physically and spiritually, brings nature into the city, a place in which we can bring out the two necessities that Jay Griffiths talks about.

The idea behind the 2016 Lunch and Learning Programme was a celebration of all that is alive and wonderful, inside us and in the outside world we shape together. A mix of practical and meditative experiences for the individual and the collective, an idea that I hope participants felt concretely in each session.

On 7th of December we closed another year of Lunch and Learning hosting two different groups from Frank Barn School for Deaf Children and Argyle Primary School. We made truffles to sell at our winter market, we made festive decorations with bolts and rondelles, and we scavenged around the garden to find out what grows in these cold days.

It was the pinnacle of a rich year in which we explored the garden through shapes in collaboration with scientists at Future Farm Lab, we made a Skip Garden table cloth with a group of older neighbours from North London Cares, we reflected on the origin of our tools and the homo habilis millions of  years ago and learned about bees with Alison at Urban Bees. We drew en plein air looking at the reflections in the water of the KX swimming pond.

New volunteers joined us with particular mention to  Brainlabs and Mariott Harrison LLP, who have helped from the very first session to the last one of the programme.

Another year is going by but we will be back on 8th February 2017 with new primary school groups and new themes, keeping this quote from Monbiot strong and alive: “A community not built around children is no community at all. A place that functions socially is one in which they are drawn to play outdoors."

We often say the Skip Garden is the garden of the thousands hands and without our neighbours, big & small, mammals & invertebrates, we will not have the capacity to grow and evolve. Everybody here is, in some way, a gardener since the Skip garden is not only a place for crops but a place for people. And we hope to carry this on into 2017.