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Everyday Growing and Digging Cultures


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Activities around digging have again become very popular recently, including in the attention they have received from cultural institutions. Many cultural institutions have in recent years recreated wartime (allotment) gardens to highlight a range of different issues and values. Such exhibitions and events, organized during a time of renewed austerity measures, increased concerns around food and the environment, draw obvious parallels to the contemporary moment, offering possibilities to rethink our own values. This panel brings together exciting new research that focuses on this renewed interest in growing your own food.
The first half of the panel highlights work from the recently completed ‘Everyday Growing Cultures’ project, which focused on the potentially transformative value of connecting two currently disparate communities: allotments growers and the open data community. Based on comparative research in Manchester and Sheffield, it explores potential effects of digital engagement and open data for allotment holders to build stronger, more active communities, benefit local economies and improve environmental sustainability and food security. The second half of the panel seeks to understand the different ways in which issues around digging have reemerged in recent years, to understand these by looking at how they have been expressed and mobilized by different people and actors. This can be expressed as actual digging linked to food production, symbolic digging as performance, digging up local histories, or as new forms of gift-giving.
Panel presentations from: Farida Vis, Ian Humphrey, Yana Manyukhina and Penny Rivlin. Penny's slides will be uploaded separately.

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Everyday Growing and Digging Cultures

  1. 1. Everyday Growing and Digging Cultures E veryday Growing Cultures (EPSRC funded, PI: Farida Vis) Co-investigators: Peter Jackson, Andrew Miles and Erinma Ochu Researchers: Ian Humphrey, Yana Manyukhina P roject partners: Caroline Ward (BBC), Steven Flower (ODM), Ric Roberts (Swirrl), Kirstin Glendinning (Kindling Trust), Danny Antrobus (Grow Sheffield) W | T #growingcultures : : Cultural Values of Digging (AHRC funded, PI: Farida Vis) Co-investigators: Peter Jackson, Andrew Miles and Erinma Ochu Researcher: Penny Rivlin W | T #culturalvalue : : MeCCSA Annual Conference, University of Bournemouth, 9th January 2014
  2. 2. Mapping as a tool for growing communities Ian Humphrey, Peter Jackson and Farida Vis Everyday Growing Cultures (Cultures and Communities Network +, EPSRC) MeCCSA Annual Conference, University of Bournemouth, 9th January 2014
  3. 3. Cartography as a contested tradition • Mapping has a long and contested history, rooted in the politics of Empire and military conquest (JB Harley, maps as ideology, serving specific interests while claiming to be neutral/objective) • Can mapping be appropriated for more progressive ends? (local community food projects, promoting access to fresh affordable fruit and veg, social justice, public health, environmental sustainability).
  4. 4. Everyday Growing Cultures • Recent project in EPSRC’s Cultures and Communities Network + programme • Worked with two local food groups, both involved in mapping projects • Kindling Trust, Manchester: ‘working towards a just and ecologically sustainable society’ • Grow Sheffield: ‘celebrates, inspires and raises awareness of the benefits of growing, harvesting and sharing food across our communities and city’ • Open Data Manchester & Open Data Sheffield
  5. 5. Case studies Kindling Trust Grow Sheffield
  6. 6. Kindling Trust (Feeding Manchester) During May we partnered up with Open Data Manchester and Everyday Growing Cultures to carry out a pilot mapping project in Old Trafford. The aim of the project was to produce a website with a toolkit to guide communities throughout the country to carry out their own mapping initiative with a goal of identifying unused plots of land for growing food… We specifically wanted to: develop a map we could integrate with our existing Feeding Manchester website; enable people to identify potential growing spaces; connect people interested in doing something on one or more sites; and more broadly try and change the way we think and talk about the unused spaces around us, particularly around council-owned land (Kindling Trust website).
  7. 7. Walking and mapping • On two walking events, the group found 5.2 acres of potential growing land which Kindling Trust members estimated could produce around 40,000 kg of fruit and vegetables, with a market value of around £200k • Uploaded data to Crowdmap as a basis for discussion with the local authority over land ownership and access to sites; and a means of coalescing community.
  8. 8. Potential growing sites identified in Old Trafford
  9. 9. Grow Sheffield It was useful to go to Manchester but mapping every bit of available space was not what we really wanted to do [in Sheffield]. We wanted to look at some spaces and think about how it could be turned over to community use... and work out what to do next with the information… What was unexpected [was that we] noticed cherry trees and social infrastructure - housing, schools ... and that has moved my thinking on in terms of what does it take to make a successful growing space. Part of that is having the social as well as the physical infrastructure for growing (Danny Antrobus, Grow Sheffield blog).
  10. 10. Route of walk in Pitsmoor, Sheffield
  11. 11. Walking and mapping For Grow Sheffield, we are starting to think about how mapping could be used to help people to find growing spaces, food projects and wild food in their neighbourhoods, as well as helping connect people who are interested in organic food growing. So we used our guided group walk around Pitsmoor to stimulate our discussion about all the ingredients and steps required for communities to establish local food growing, and to get us thinking about the role mapping could play in Grow Sheffield’s projects and wider work.
  12. 12. Mapping as a social practice • Mapping used for different purposes by each group • In both cases, mapping helped raise their profile and make their presence more visible to their Local Authorities and other potential funding sources • Maps help legitimise community organizations, bring evidence together in a powerful visual form, demonstrate unmet demand and help coordinate community resources to a common end • Different kinds of maps: digital/interactive vs. large-scale physical map.
  13. 13. Mapping, talking, cooking, eating… • Mapping as part of broader set of social practices: walking and talking, cooking and sharing food (‘growing community’) • I think it was interesting not just focusing on the data ... we had nice food, we got out into the local neighbourhood and took photos and then we came together and discussed them – it was a nice activity that we did – it just so happened that we made data as well (Steven Flower, Open Data Manchester, interviewed by Erinma Ochu, Everyday Growing Cultures).
  14. 14. Cultural appropriation? • Coalition government recognised the potential role of community gardening as means of producing more resilient communities in current economic recession • The Big Dig initiative (Social Action Fund) provided training and advice to 8,000 community food volunteers across the UK, focusing on people from deprived areas to create vibrant community food gardens which, officials claimed, would reduce anti-social behaviour, provide fresh, healthy food and put pride into communities (
  15. 15. Conclusions • Like mapping, digging is a powerful metaphor that can be mobilised for a variety of purposes (cf. C17th Diggers movement or the wartime Dig for Victory campaign) • Exploring these ideas in new project on The Cultural Values of Digging (AHRC) • Our collaboration with Grow Sheffield and The Kindling Trust has reinforced our belief in the power of maps and mapping, especially when combined with other ways of engaging communities through walking, talking and eating together • Like all cultural forms, the power of maps can be appropriated for a variety of political ends.
  16. 16. Acknowledgements and links • Everyday Growing Cultures was funded by the EPSRC (Cultures and Communities Network +): • The Cultural Values of Digging is funded by the AHRC (Cultural Value programme):
  17. 17. Yana Manyukhina, Erinma Ochu, Caroline Ward and Farida Vis MeCCSA Annual Conference, University of Bournemouth, 9th January 2014
  18. 18. Everyday Growing Futures film • Purpose Methodological value: • Presenting new ways of creating and sharing knowledge • Research engagement and impact - reaching wider audiences • Deepen understanding and inspire reflection
  19. 19. Outcomes of the film Intended effects • Share knowledge and experience • Inspire new possibilities • Create the feeling of hope Achieved impact • Citizen-led greening actions in Trafford • Growing interest in the film and the issues it raises
  20. 20. Cultural Values of Digging Farida Vis, Peter Jackson, Andrew Miles, Erinma Ochu, Penny Rivlin MeCCSA Annual Conference, University of Bournemouth, 9th January 2014
  21. 21. Activities around digging again very popular
  22. 22. Everybody wants an allotment, grow their own
  23. 23. Cultural Values of Digging The project examines different forms of digging by studying their perceived cultural value through five distinct aspects: • Digging as ‘nation-building’ • Digging as ‘lifestyle choice’ • Digging for ‘heritage’ • Digging to enable ‘community building’ • Digging as ‘gift’ We focus on two different social scales: looking both at individual and community groups, and by examining the mainstream media and recent relevant policy initiatives.
  24. 24. Our research questions 1. What are the different cultural values associated with digging and how are they articulated through the five identified thematic strands as well as the different social scales and institutional levels? 2. How are different historical reference points used to articulate and explain these values? 3. How is digging linked to ideas of citizenship and relevant to what it means to be British today? 4. What are the different imagined futures and societal trajectories associated with these values?
  25. 25. Three historical motives and movements “England is not a free people, till the poor that have no land, have a free allowance to dig and labour the commons..” Gerrard Winstanley, 1649
  26. 26. Recent context • In 2011 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) threatened to scrap the Allotment Act (1908), it was saved by a strong public response. Press coverage: Is this the end of ‘The Good Life?’ • Renewed cultural and political currency, entwined with notions of locally oriented consumerism, sustainability, grassroots community action against austerity • Physical acts of digging as embodiment of community • Rediscovery of C17 The Diggers and Gerrard Winstanley • Policy initiatives: Giving White Paper (2011) – digging as ‘gift’: ‘better connected communities’ ‘rebuilding trust’ • Big Dig set up: ‘broaden culture of giving’, ‘giving as social norm’, inspiring ‘next generation of givers’
  27. 27. 1. UK print media representations, 2000 - 2012 • Case study operates at an institutional level, focuses on different values of digging presented in UK national press. Search terms: ‘allotment’ and ‘grow your own’ • Focuses on main newspaper coverage, excluding magazines and supplements. Interested in studying the ‘newsworthiness’ of digging and its media framing. 2001 – 2010: 427 stories (allotment) 2001 – 2010: 341 stories (GYO) Increased popularity of allotments Rent increases Waiting lists Solutions for growing demand for allotments Economic benefits (saving money, making money from your produce) Celebrities growing their own
  28. 28. 2. The Winstanley Festival Yes, that’s me… The festival stresses ‘a re-born sense of community spirit amongst ordinary people everywhere’ 5 in-depth interviews
  29. 29. 3. Recreating a wartime garden • Inspired by the work of C.H. Middleton (1945), the pioneer of the 1940s Dig for Victory campaign, this case study examines how one family is using Middleton’s writing to recreate a 1943 wartime garden. Interview
  30. 30. 4. The Big Dig • Institutional level, examines the ‘Big Dig’ project, which seeks to attract people from derived areas who typically don’t volunteer. Focus on local people to create: ‘vibrant community food gardens, which can reduce anti-social behaviour, provide fresh, healthy food and put pride into communities’. 4 in-depth interviews
  31. 31. End of project event 8th of March in Manchester (Friends Meeting House) If you’d like to join us, please get in touch: | @flygirltwo