If the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how much we value our local parks and green spaces. All year round, an army of unsung dedicated parks staff and volunteers look after these treasured spaces, and tonight, landmarks across the country, including the White Cliffs of Dover, the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and Salford’s Media City, will be going green to celebrate this year’s Green Flag Award-winning parks and green spaces and to say a massive ‘thank you’ to the thousands of people who work tirelessly to give us some fantastic places to escape to.
As well as lighting up our well-loved landmarks green, we’ve also spoken to parks staff, volunteers, and members of the general public to find out why, this year more than ever, parks have held such a special place in our hearts. See the film in full below and feel free to share on your own social media channels.
We want as many organisations as possible to join us in saying thank you for our parks and green spaces. You can tweet your support for parks over the course of the week using the hashtag #GoGreenforParks and #GreenFlagAward2020 and remembering to tag the @GreenFlagAward and @KeepBritainTidy.
For a long time, I really couldn’t have cared less about plants or gardening. My mum loved to garden, but watering her tomatoes in summer was my least favourite chore. Even when I went to university and my sister gave me a Christmas cactus, I still wasn’t fussed — watering it with tea dregs (the scandal) whenever I remembered to. It wasn’t until I lived in, often very drab, rented homes in London that I started to understand why you’d go to all that effort to keep a green thing alive.
Fast forward to now and I’m a total plant-lover with a flat full of foliage and, for the first time ever, a (rented) bit of garden. But if like me, you love houseplants, follow planty accounts on Instagram, and are geeky enough to watch Gardeners’ World, you’ll know that much of what we see when it comes to plants and gardens is inescapably white.
“My plants have taught me so much about existing as you are, making sure your needs are met and learning from your failures”
I had an idea for something to help counteract this — what if I created a space just for women of colour to connect and share their love of all things green and leafy? Like a lot of my ideas, it was something I let buzz around in my brain for a while without doing anything about it.
That was until I happened to interview Matilda Eggere-Cooper, the founder of Fly Girl Collective, a running club for black women, and Addy Frederick, a founding member of the running club, for work. While chatting, Addy said one of the things she admired most about Matilda was the fact that when she spotted a problem or had an idea she didn’t just talk about it but actually did something.
Let me tell you, I felt shamed into action. Here I was, like so many times before, sitting on an idea, thinking and sometimes talking about it without actually doing anything. I decided this time things would be different. So, last year, I created a page on Instagram, designed a very basic logo with two of my favourite colours — pink and green — and Grown was born.
Grown was born out of a frustration yes, but also out of a desire to create, connect and honour. I’m interested in how plants can be a distraction from a world which poses challenges to our mental health, a means through which we can practice self-care and kindness to small living things and a place in which (unlike much of the rest of life) our successes and failures can feel comfortingly uncritical. Grown is a way to explore all of this. But there’s more to it than that.
Forgive me while I get metaphorical for a moment but, if you ask me, there are even personal lessons we can gain from looking after plants. They take up the space they need to survive, they move towards the light. They have strong boundaries – just try putting a plant in a space that doesn’t meet its requirements for growth: is it trying to flourish there anyway? No, it is not. My plants have taught me so much about existing as you are, making sure your needs are met (who hasn’t seen that “you’re basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions” meme?) and learning from your failures (RIP, maidenhair ferns).
“There are even personal lessons we can gain from looking after plants. They take up the space they need to survive, they move towards the light”
Beyond inspiration for how to thrive, for people of colour growing plants and flowers can be a way to reconnect or stay connected with their cultural heritage. In Birmingham, gardeners at the Uplands allotments grow the produce they know from home in the Caribbean and make seasonings from the herbs, onions and garlic they’ve raised on their plots. This inspired me to try and grow the marjoram, parsley and thyme needed to make Bajan seasoning in my own garden.
Nurturing plants that you recognise from home can be a living reminder of your roots. My grandmother recently told me she has so many Aloes in her house because they remind her of Barbados where they grow outdoors.
And, I believe, as a woman of colour in the UK, having a bit of land in a garden or in a small pot in your room which gives you nourishment, of any kind, is an act of putting down roots and staking a claim that contains inherent power and optimism.
There have been women of colour doing amazing things in the world of plants and gardening for a while now, especially in London, where Grown is based. There’s Gynelle Leon, founder of London’s first cactus emporium Prick in Dalston, Jin Ahn, owner of Conservatory Archives in Hackney, and Franky Farra-Frond and Symara Templeman creators of L’Appartement in Peckham, to name but a few. And since creating Grown, I’ve happily become acquainted with more and more.
At the moment, Grown mainly consists of an Instagram page, a place where I share photos of my houseplant collection, flower-filled illustrations, indoor and outdoor gardening tips and other women of colour whose plant prowess I admire.
Thanks to the conversations and connections it sparks, running this project alone is incredibly rewarding – but I have bigger plans for Grown. One of the best things about plants and gardens, whether at allotments like The Uplands or in initiatives like May Project Gardens is the communities that spring up around them. So in the next few months, I’ll be launching events where plant-loving women of colour can meet, chat, swap plant care horror and success stories and make some new friends. I hope to see you there.
From passive solar heating to ‘sit spots’, author Richard Louv suggests three ways we can experience more nature in our daily lives
1. Choose a ‘sit spot’
Jon Young, one of the world’s preeminent nature educators, advises finding a special place in nature, whether it’s under a tree, the hidden bend of a river, or a rooftop garden. “Know it by day; know it by night, in the depth of winter, in the heat of summer,” he writes. “Know the birds that live there, know the trees they live in. Get to know these things as if they were your relatives.” They are.
2. Practise ‘friluftsliv’
‘Friluftsliv’ is a Norwegian term that roughly translates as ‘free air life’. It’s a lifestyle idea that promotes outdoor activity as being good for all aspects of human health. It’s pretty straightforward – just be outside as much as possible. Work it into your schedule by committing to being in nature for a minimum amount of time every day, or a certain number of days a month.
3. Design with nature in mind
Arrange your furniture in sync with the sun’s movements, so that sleeping and waking relate to the available light. If you’re designing a house, place large windows on south-facing walls for passive solar heating. Combine solar panels with skylights and use lights that adjust throughout the day via sensors.
A webinar that explores what we mean by ‘green church’ and what church communities can do to pray, promote and protest in support of recovering biodiversity, mitigating climate change, acting sustainably and connecting with nature.
Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing began as one friend helping another and has gone on to explore issues many older men might find hard to discuss.
A couple of years ago, early in his time as controller of BBC Two, Patrick Holland got a call asking if he’d have a meeting with Bob Mortimer and Paul Whitehouse, who wanted to pitch an idea. Of course, he was a massive fan: they were comedy heroes of his in the 90s. But then the meeting happened and Holland’s heart sank, because the project turned out to be one about … fishing.
Do you work with organisations which would benefit from our people power?
Let us lend a hand
At Aviva, we employ thousands of talented and enthusiastic people who could have just the skills you need to move a project forward.
We do all we can to empower our people to give back to their communities. As part of this, every employee gets up to 21 hours a year of paid volunteering leave, which they can use during work hours to help out their communities.
Our big push
From 12 to 16 October 2020 we will be running a ‘Volunteering Week’ event. Our aim is to have 20% of our UK workforce (approximately 3,200 people) making use of their volunteering hours by helping out causes in their communities.
To make it as easy as possible for our people to volunteer we’re hoping to collaborate with volunteering organisations, as well as national and local charities, to provide volunteering opportunities. We’re particularly open to opportunities that have a climate focus, as well as any that can be done digitally or remotely, to accommodate Coronavirus concerns. We can currently allow up to 6 people, socially distanced, for outdoor group events in an outdoor setting, and of course Government guidelines would need to be adhered to at all times.
We ran this campaign for the first-time last year, and our people really embraced the challenge, giving around 8,000 volunteering hours to support over 80 charities. We’d love to build on that success this year and give charities all the help we can throughout this difficult time.
Opportunities should be able to take place during working hours and non-remote projects will need to be based near to one of Aviva’s primary locations:
Bristol, Dorking, Eastleigh, Glasgow, London, Norwich, Perth, Sheffield, York
Interested in our help?
We’ll be promoting opportunities internally across our locations throughout September, with the aim of signing people up, ready to leap into action during Volunteering Week.
Please feel free to share this email with organisations you think would have appropriate opportunities needing support during Volunteering Week (or require volunteers on a long-term basis or later in the year). We just ask that this form is completed fully and submitted by 11th September 2020 to tell us what support would be helpful. If there is any imagery (with the appropriate permissions) to include with the volunteering opportunity, please send this through to the email below.
Well, I’ve managed a full-on programme of garden work so far, including some long overdue maintenance to garden furniture and structures….I’ll share some pics in due course.
I also spent a couple of hours making a little garden for my next door neighbour, Hattie (age 3). Some of you may know that I’m keen on recycling and in particular have marveled at the sorts of things people can make out of pallets. I’ve done a little of this myself in the past, not only in my own garden (where they are used as compost and leafmould containers), but helping primary school children create some vertical planters. Having demolished our rather old, and in places rotting, wooden arbour and similarly decaying raised planter, I had a few pieces of trellis and board left….. as well as a pallet of course.
After some slight adjustments, and the side boards having been nailed into place, I lined it with landscaping fabric. The result is a special ‘portable’ (when empty) garden. I also supplied a selection of plants, which will hopefully engage Hattie in gardening..though I know she is already into growing having seen her sunflowers last year, and she also has a rather impressive set of gardening tools (3 year old scale of course).
I started the ball rolling with a pot of compost and a couple of first early seed potatoes which she has now planted in the pot. The pallet garden (having been painted up) followed, and Hattie went about filling it with compost from my wheelbarrow (I think Mum and Dad may have helped).