Global Generation was founded back in 2004, with the feeling that by combining the creativity of nature with the imaginations of children and young people, we would create magic. Now, 14 years later, we are grateful for all of the great ways that this has proved to be true in 2018, in the Skip Garden, The Paper Garden, and on our campsite at Pertwood Organic Farm in Wiltshire.
We owe huge thanks to our garden, kitchen, and youth teams; our volunteers; and most importantly the children and young people, who have shared their time and talents with us. As the Skip Garden has become known, it is all too easy for visitors to think we are a place-making organisation. However, these gardens are the fruit of our educational approach, which is at the heart of Global Generation. For this reason, I have chosen just a few highlights from our educational work with children and young people which have helped develop our work in new ways throughout 2018.
A summer holiday project that we dreamt up with, and for, young people, which was inspired by Marvel’s ‘Black Panther,’ and infused with the Eritrean background and Ethiopian heritage of our two facilitators, Vero and Rachel. The young people involved hailed from places near and far — Bangladesh, Brazil, DR Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Turkey. Using the narrative of the year’s biggest film, we created a space for them to speak about issues close to all of our hearts. They connected with their inner hero through illustration, photography, fashion, music, and much more. We also helped young people prepare for their future careers by exploring their individual aspirations and taking them to world-class businesses in the King’s Cross area.
Thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery, a group of Generators and Generator graduates volunteered to become Seed Ambassadors, founding a group they named Seed Sisters. During 2018, they explored ways to connect to, and give back to, our diverse natural heritage through gardening workshops to train, educate, and inspire children, young people, local residents, teachers, and business employees to learn about the natural cycle of growing and seed-saving. Their learning journey involved the creation of two new Seed Gardens, the unearthing of memories of older people from BME communities on vegetable varieties and growing traditions from home, the creation of a mobile interactive seed bank to take heritage seeds (and the stories of those that grew them) to new audiences, and seed-themed events, all to bring together diverse groups of people to learn from each other. The project has been captured in a wonderful film, and the learnings will inform our work going forward. Vero, one of the project managers wrote:
“On the one hand, gathering together, swapping seeds, exchanging ideas, using creative means to welcome the new season felt like the most natural thing in the world. On the other hand, it felt like a small revolutionary act in the face of an absurd and oppressive system we find ourselves in, in which seeds have fallen in the control of big corporations. In a small way, by coming together in the way our ancestors always have, we are taking a stance. We are saying no to a system that robs us of our natural heritage and yes to the diversity and the potential that each seed and each one of us holds.”
The Universe and Us
Rather than just the ‘bugs and bushes’ definition of nature found in the dictionary, Global Generation seeks to include the inner most impulses, and the farthest reaches of outer space. To that end, we have continued to involve children and young people in an exploration of who they are and what they are a part of, from the microbial life in the soil to the macro-cosmic view of outer space. A highlight for 2018 was a series of after school workshops in the Paper Garden with Kingsdale Secondary School in Southwark, which will continue in 2019. Each week, year seven and eight students explore different aspects of the universe. They thought about how the universe can be thought of as not just a place, but also as a story, and the notion that the cosmos that we live in has characteristics, qualities, or values. Through large scale 3D making and creative writing, the students explored values such as interconnection, growth, mystery, creativity, nesting, and morphing, with boundless enthusiasm, depth, and creativity.
“It makes me feel that I’m not alone because everything around me is connected. Because we’re all made of the same stuff.” — Poppy, year 8 pupil.
“They created their own interpretation and their own theory about the Cosmos. I’m impressed and mesmerised at how they created a philosophical theory from that scientific knowledge.” — Lily Montero, Teacher, Kingsdale Secondary School.
Thanks to grants from Age Unlimited, United St Saviour’s, and LB Southwark, children and young people have been able to work alongside older members of the community both in the Skip Garden and the Paper Garden. These projects have touched on all the good things the garden has to offer - cooking, eating, and creating art together. Some of the Skip Garden Generators also visited the residents of Roseberry Mansions, one of the new King’s Cross supported housing blocks that overlooks the Skip Garden.
“I would definitely do this again and tell others to get involved. The smiles on the resident’s and staff’s faces were priceless.” — participant.
“From this experience I was able to understand that a random act of kindness goes a long way even if you don’t know the people that you help.” — participant.
Gardens and Education
Whilst the Paper Garden and the Skip Garden are different, they are both designed to be places to nurture nature-based, holistic, transdisciplinary education. They are organic gardens where children and adults can encounter and embody the rhythms and patterns of nature. Designed to encourage a two-way learning process between young people and adults, including industry specialists, the gardens are spaces in which to curate the work of all people involved in creative and professional ways. This is why we call them ‘gardens of a thousand hands.’
Earth and Fire have always been important to what we do, and 2018 was no exception. Thanks to a collaboration with Central Saint Martins, the Skip Garden now has a working kiln, enabling us to work more closely with CSM’s ceramics students and teachers. The Paper Garden now has a wood-burning cob oven. In both gardens, the open fires are often blazing.
For further knowledge sharing, the garden team writes an informative blog post every month, on the changes in the garden. You can find these by searching ‘Notes from the Garden Shed’ on our website.
Kitchen and Events
The heart of the Skip Garden is very much in our kitchen. The vegetable-celebrating café has thrived this year, with lunch service five days a week, and many exciting events including a well populated line-up of supper clubs, weddings, birthday parties, community events, and charity fundraisers. The kitchen also provides a welcoming daily lunch for staff and volunteers. From an education perspective, it is great to see young people of all abilities continuing to work in the kitchen, whether that be in paid employment, work experience, supported learning, or as part of our flagship Friday Night out Project.
Our work is not only about the technical steps of designing and delivering workshops, or the growing of vegetables, it is knowing ourselves as colleagues and facilitators. How we are and what we each bring to the work determines how the work will flourish. Monthly GG circles, biannual away days, and a summer retreat to Pertwood with our staff are an important underpinning to making our garden grow. Jane Jones, a new Trustee, reflects on what she got from our latest away day:
“The emergent and responsive nature of Global Generation is how nature works, but not generally how man-made (and is there a clue there?) organisations are normally set up to function. On the away day the comfort with uncertainty about the future, and willingness to experiment and learn were really striking. It feels both evolutionary and revolutionary in its approach and is a brave choice in an increasingly box ticking world, where ‘control’ is everything.”
We are now also delivering an action research-based Masters in Professional Practice with Middlesex University, with a focus on community-based regeneration. This will inform our educational approach. In each cohort, we aim to have at least two members of the Global Generation team, who will use their participation in the Masters to inquire into their own practice with Global Generation. For more information click here.
2019 will be a big year for us, filled with plenty of opportunities to explore the challenging question, ‘how can an organisation grow and still keep the home fires burning?’ Watch this space as we share stories of our new Story Garden at the British Library, the potential of a garden barge on the Regents Canal near Granary Square, and public realm gardens that will help bring community heart and soul to Regents Place.