Growing It Slowly

Recently a friend interviewed me for a book he is writing on vision. It got me thinking about how the word, ‘vision’ is a misnomer. My experience is that some of the best things that have happened in Global Generation’s work we couldn’t actually see in advance. Like all evolving eco-systems, it is through working with others, that we have felt our way into an unfolding vision of what will be. So, in that sense I would say vision is what grows in the footsteps of shared commitment.


The process of enabling a diversity of people and waste materials to come together into something special, as it has done in the King’s Cross Skip Garden, is incremental and necessarily slow. And now we are in the very early stages of that process in Canada Water, I am realising that slow is not always easy, in terms of my own and others expectations. Designing a genuinely collaborative community process is a delicate and sometimes excruciating balance of how much to define in advance and how much to leave open for what will come out through the workshop process. Last week I looked around at piles of cardboard, a half woven paper yurt, an unfinished kitchen and I felt uncertain. I wondered if the magic would really happen this time. I felt all the more anxious knowing that British Land are making a financial commitment based on trusting that Global Generation will help make magic happen.


I owe a big thanks to my colleagues; Siw Thomas and Dave Eland for not losing their nerve and helping me see the priorities that we should push on with now and what we could leave till later. I also really appreciate the insight of our collaborators about how the Paper Garden will grow. They have helped to give voice to the way we work and why. Alice Botham is the Operations and Community Liaison Manager from Printworks London, a fast-paced music and events venue, who host thousands of people each weekend. In contrast, Global Generation’s workshops are small and intimate. We are sowing seeds. We hope they will germinate and some of the young people we have been working with will go on to become Generators, youth champions for the eventual work of co-creating aspects of the public realm in the Canada Water Master Plan. Recently Alice and her boss Simon Tracey came for lunch in the Skip Garden. It was encouraging to hear her description of what she saw and how she translated this into what Global Generation has been doing in Canada Water over the last few months.


“Going to the Skip Garden made me understand the cement between the bricks. I understood the way that Global Generation creates and builds community through your ethos and your relationships with different sets of people like developers, children and young people, local councils and local volunteers. It also made me see what can come out of being very slow and allowing people to create at their own pace in an organic environment. There are different sections that all fit together. They are all totally different and beautiful within their own right and together they are a master piece. Everything that we saw at the Skip Garden was really different but nothing looked out of place.


What you are doing in the Printworks I get it now. I get all the little stools in circles … build, the tables… build. The huts…. build and everything else …the twig pencils, the scrap paper notebooks all made by everyone. It makes total sense. Seeing the Skip Garden and the way that it works, it’s a living breathing thing with a café and a garden and people coming in and out and it moves. I get why the work needs to be slow. It gives it substance. Branches can fall off and things can go wrong but the work has got real roots so it can still live.”


Alice introduced us to a local resident and former Head Teacher, Alan Clark – Wilson who was keen to volunteer. We both thought he was just coming for an interview, but he ended up staying for lunch and spending the afternoon cutting up magazines to decoupage the top of a cardboard table.


“I didn’t know what to expect I had no pre-conception about it and I was really delighted by the welcome and by the commitment of everybody who was working there. The first few hours I spent there was so enjoyable. Along with warmth there were things happening, a lot of things were getting done and the space was developing and in a very creative way with people lending their respective skills.  And each time I have come I have left feeling glad I had been.

Alan Clark-Wilson – local resident, former head teacher.


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