Grow Sheffield was founded by Anne-Marie Culhane in 2007. Anne-Marie is an artist, sustainability campaigner and permaculturalist. Grow Sheffield was designed to connect people to each other, to their environment and the seasons using food and food growing. Grow Sheffield was designed to be inclusive, celebratory and risk taking and to create a future vision of the city which was more in touch with its food systems and was adaptive, dynamic and collaborative.
Art and creativity were at the heart of this aim with the belief that art has a key role to play in facilitating cultural shift and ‘creating new stories for us to live by’. With a little funding from the Community Champions Fund and the Arts Council, Anne-Marie programmed an autumn/harvest season of events and activities that included:
- The birth of the Abundance project with food grower and artist Stephen Watts and the commissioning of the Abundance Cart from local craftsmen
- A networking, open space and film screening at The Filmhouse
- Reclaim the Soil guerilla planting in urban planters with Richard Clare
- The first Allotment Soup multi-arts event at Highcliffe Allotments.
- A collaborative poetry event walking across the city out to allotments on the city edge with Off the Shelf Festival and Paul Conneally
Highlights included a full-house for the Filmhouse event co-hosted by Anne-Marie and Andy Goldring from the Permaculture Association; wheeling the Abundance cart through Meadowhall Shopping Centre with performer Miriam Keye as Abundance Queen and giving away free local fruit in exchange for a story or task; a lively multi artform Allotment Soup event where people toured allotments and experienced artist’s responding to and performing in the different sites. An unexpected outcome was a house with every cupboard and drawer stuffed with ripening fruit!
A group of us decided to meet and develop the ideas and themes that had emerged during the open space event and we went on to grow as a community group meeting regularly at gatherings in people’s houses which included talks and creative activities (films, poetry readings) and practical workshops. It was around this time that we decided to constitute as a voluntary group. During this time Grow Sheffield lobbied Sheffield City Council to increase the land available for allotments and to look at opening up more land for growing as well as integrating food growing into their future city-wide planning.
Alongside taking a creative approach to promotion, publicity and engaging people in getting mucky in their gardens, Grow Sheffield has continued to engage directly with artists. In 2008 Grow Sheffield collaborated with Encounters Arts to create Encounter Abundance a shop offering free fruit in exchange for stories, recipes, swaps and ideas. The shop was a greengrocer with a difference – all local fruit, given away for free (and pumpkins) and lots of juicing, seed saving workshops and story sharing. In 2009 Grow Sheffield commissioned an artist in residence, Bob Levene to work with the new Community Growers project. Bob’s wonderful winter project can be seen here: http://wintergardentrail.co.uk/
Five years on, like-minded Abundance groups have sprung up across the Country. Enthusiastic volunteers, who share a desire to do something positive about the rotting fruit lying around trees and bushes in their neighbourhood, are identifying trees, collecting unwanted fruit and sharing it with tree owners, local schools, charities and restaurants.
The annual Allotment Soup event, now in its 5th year brings allotment holders, local community, performers and artists together to celebrate harvest together on a different allotment site across the city each year.
Our group continued to develop and we now have a core team of volunteers who are representatives for certain areas of our activities and we operate on a consensus and co-operative basis. In 2011 we were successful in gaining funding from the Big Lottery Local Food Fund and this enabled us to recruit staff members to coordinate our three projects;
In 2012 we were successful in becoming the Sheffield partner for the Big Dig volunteering project. The Big Dig is a nationwide project which aims to engage over 10,000 people in community food growing projects across England by September 2013. The Big Dig is co-ordinated nationally by Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming and will be delivered locally by partner organisations based in six cities across England; London, Brighton, Coventry, Manchester, Middlesbrough, and of course Sheffield!
We hope to provide lots of different opportunities and ways for people to get together learn, celebrate and share.
With thanks to…
We would like to thank all the organisations and individuals who have supported Grow Sheffield as it has evolved. This includes: Community Champions Fund (South Yorkshire Community Foundation) Open Gate Trust, Naturesave Trust, The Showroom Cinema, Arts Council England, Department of Architecture, University of Sheffield, Sheffield City Council
For more information about our founder Anne-Marie Culhane please visit her website www.amculhane.co.uk