Digging into citizenship: land, waiting lists, broken promises and creating creative allotment publics.
Digging into citizenship: land, waiting lists, broken promises and creating creative allotment publics. The case of Ashton Allotment Action in East Manchester. Farida Vis University of Leicester [department of Media and Communication] [email_address] - @flygirltwo
Open data & data journalism Allotment Finder (.org) – tool Open Knowledge Foundation | Data GM Local government – Trafford Council Really useful open data Everyday (trash, allotments, childcare) Finding the data (Data GM, FOI requests WhatDoTheyKnow.com, The Guardian data store) Finding stories in the data Data literacy Working together (Help Me Investigate)
Political participation – (active) citizenship, voice and listening Everyday really useful open data Common land, the commons, openness, sharing with others Sustainable platform politics and local (data driven) journalism Social change – community engagement Local case studies – multiple angles Use of social media (online archiving – FB and YouTube) Allotment holder | ex committee member | McR based
Waiting list crisis (our local site) – Transition Town Kirby, Margaret Campbell Grow Your Own | Land Share initiative | guerrilla gardening | alleyway gardens Recent changes – rent increases, water rates, tenancy agreements Threat to the Allotment Act – Clause 23 (Very limited government consultation ) Localism Bill Limited media coverage
1996 – M60, land taken back by the Council. Given to local estate agent. Not yet returned to allotment stock. Public space? Now privately owned Space denied
Current waiting lists stats: 700 people on waiting lists for Tameside Council Allotments. Half (350) waiting for Ashton Moss – some as long as 7 years – A dormant creative public. ‘ On St. George’s Day, Saturday 23 rd of April, 2011, we started a Green Revolution in Ashton-Under-Lyne, Tameside, in the tradition of English Radical group The Diggers who during the period of the English Commonwealth, in 1649 reclaimed the common land of St. George’s Hill from the Lords of the Manor by digging and cultivating it.’ [www.bobsbackyard.co.uk/AAA] ‘… we invite others who are on the waiting list for allotments on Ashton Moss and anyone else who supports what we are doing to come and join us’ [ibid] ‘ We call on the Council, as a matter of urgency to call a meeting of all of the people who are on their waiting list for an allotment on Ashton Moss, in order to facilitate the allocation of allotment association to administrate and manage the Ashton Allotment site. We call on Cordingleys to immediately hand over the allotment to Tameside Council as a matter of urgency’. [ibid]
The Diggers 1649 - 1651 Gerrard Winstanley ‘ Winstanley declared that: “true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth”. [ibid]
National and local media coverage The One Show, Radio 4, BBC Manchester
‘ Well all some good news today I think, Ashton Allotment Action is now part of the NSALG’ [FB group – 14/7] ‘ Good luck with everything today and remember never give up the fight, tell all your gardening friends about the site and prove to the council that people in ashton want allotments’ [FB group – 9/7] ‘ morning diggers its SATURDAY and we are at it again, will be on site for 10am’ [FB group – 9/7] ‘ And when is the next meeting with the people who are actually in charge??? So we can get some bloody answers. [FB group – 28/6] FB group member: ‘Would be interested to see, I use to be the allotment officer for Tameside and then just Ashton under the DA’s and cant understand what the delay is all about although I have been puzzled as to the lack of work to progress the site as I was always led to believe that work would start on the completion of the by pass.’ AAA member: ‘We think the delay is about money, or as the council bloke said the land is “commercially sensitive”, which I think means, its worth more if its not allotments, than if it is.” [FB group 24/6} FB Group
Mission statement – regular updates [all quotes from 4/7 update] ‘ Ashton Allotment Action was set up after the 1 st actions day on the 23 rd of April 2011 we are a group of self empowered individuals that are not afraid to do the right thing.’ ‘ On St. George’s Day, Saturday 23 rd April, 2011 Ashton Allotment Action began when we came together in a day of action to reclaim the allotments and 9 weeks later we cleaned well over 700sq meters of the land for the AAA Community allotment.’ ‘ Thanks to Joel and all others that came to the meeting of the Ashton District Assembly, we now the communication with TMBC every month we will be getting a progress report from TMBC, something I could not believe 9 weeks ago. Progress from the council never well never has happened in Ashton the council agreed with AAA that it’s been far to long and we have should have the site immediately, ok that is still immediately later sometime in the mythical future the never comes but we have progress at last.’ ‘ AAA weekly action days become part of the ashton social calendar with tea, coffee, bacon and sausage butties, now cake’s all free to helper’s every week that got them, but thanks to Helen for cooking all them butties, Steve who has done a deal with topaz in Ashton that’s now supplying the cakes, leaflets printed by James now in local post offices dental surgeries and just about anywhere we can sneek them in, ok some days it looks more like a cross between a hippy site and the queen’s garden party than a allotment action team but that’s the point we are having a great time on the land sitting under a piece of plastic in the pouring rain drinking tea and eating cake … ‘
How to develop this? Act of digging and nationalism – Digging for Victory (UK) History of the site and the mobilization of its history (where are these histories recorded and how do the current actors engage with these?) Mobilizations of the history and actions of The Diggers Analyse all actors. Council, Estate agent & AAA Group. What is imagined ? Methods? Textual analysis of all material | interviews | ethnography | Urban agriculture | Making is connecting (Gauntlett, 2011) | Make do and mend Tension between events and practice (weekly Saturday dig) Ongoing threat to Allotment Act | policy developments | discourses around publics & society Discourses around ‘waiting’ for a public service & rupture in expectation Digging into citizenship – act of digging together Past, present and future of allotments in UK context Multiple recognition (NSALG) Values
More on Ashton Allotment Action Group http://www.bobsbackyard.co.uk/AAA On YouTube The Revolution has begun Ashton Allotment Action day Saturday 23rd April http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X0qjO_UxkQ The One Show with Ashton Allotment Action http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BFSK-kMzfE Ashton Allotment Action Group on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/125146417562968
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