One evening, just over ten years ago, I listened as Paul Richens told a story about the soil: about bacteria we imagined as Minstrels chocolates, and worms the size of tube trains in comparison. With Jane and Paul guiding us, we built wicker planters for sweet peas, rocket, potatoes, in the garden of the block of flats where I grew up in King’s Cross.
As I got older, I drifted away from everyday life in King’s Cross, changing schools and eventually moving abroad. I missed the moment when the Skip Garden got its current site – all of a sudden, in addition to the skips, there were actual buildings: the café, the glasshouse, the huge poly-tunnel... It had grown in size and substance, become more real.
This summer, I joined Global Generation as an intern, becoming immersed in the organisation’s daily activities from a different position, in a role reversal of sorts. Thinking about my experience so far, one of the first things I note is the immediate warmth with which I was welcomed – and how, on a deeper level, this illustrates to me how genuinely the team embody and believe in their values.
Inclusion is one central value: not only are the sites places for all people to come together, to connect and form an integrated community, but everyone involved is encouraged to feel a sense of ownership and responsibility. From day one, I was supporting children’s workshops and a teenager’s weekend at Pertwood Organic Farm, helping with gardening and terrace maintenance, typing up the free fall writing that captures the immediate thoughts of workshop participants, writing press releases and blogs, even attending a workshop about the lessons Maori wayfinding can have for leadership in our own lives.
This is an especially exciting time to be interning with Global Generation. As British Land developers in Canada Water draw up plans for urban regeneration, a large store room of the old Daily Mail Printworks hosts the new Global Generation site, The Paper Garden, where I’ve been able join in on fledgling projects.
I don’t exaggerate when I write that I was stunned by my first visit to The Paper Garden. When I arrived– first seeing the actual planted garden taking root outside, before entering the storage room transformed by the creativity of those who have passed through it – I felt, rather than saw, smelled, or heard.
Much of what Global Generation does is more than sensory, and such things cannot easily be fully captured in the medium for communication we call language. The word ‘paper’ in the space’s name did not have meaning for me until I went there, partly because it’s so difficult to imagine what can be (and is being) done with paper. In the same way, ‘skip’ only takes on real meaning after the story of the Skip Garden is told, after you’ve seen the space itself.
Global Generation is one group inspiring and enabling local people’s reclamation of the public realm, both for themselves and for nature, too. Not only have local people been channelling their creativity here, but in addition, a new, adapted version of the Generators Youth Leadership programme is just beginning. The ages of new Generators range from 11-18, in a project that has the youngest and the oldest learning together and from each other.
Part of each Generator’s journey takes place at Pertwood Organic Farm, an immersive deep ecology camp where young people are invited to reflect on their place in the natural community, form new friendships, consider their broader impact on society and the environment and experience the serenity of life away from the city. Having recently joined a group of King’s Cross Generators on this camp, I am excited to see how the young people from Canada Water will react and adapt to what they experience at Pertwood. Titled ‘Wisdom Through the Ages,’ this camp will not only be a learning experience for the Generators, and I wonder how my own ideas and perspectives will be affected by the weekend.