Rainbow Grow is an LGBTQI+ led community gardening initiative open to all who support their aims of providing a welcoming space for members of this community to grow edible plants and take part in gardening-related activities.
Since April 2018 they have been based at Hackney CVS. With lots of hard work and community participation in a short space of time they have turned a neglected courtyard into a productive and very attractive garden. They meet weekly on Tuesday from 5:30 to 8pm.
When did you start and why?
3 years ago the council had an open evening during LGBT month and they were looking for new ideas. I thought it would be nice to have a gardening group. Our initial base was at Cordwainers Grow where we had a small bed. Then we applied to RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). They gave us a mentor for 6 weeks and helped us pay for basic tools. After that we started to look for a permanent place and we found it at Hackney CVS which is our base now. It was one of the most challenging green spaces! As you know the transformation has been dramatic. It shows how a small group of people with their mind into something can transform a city space.
I grew up in New York, I live in Dalston and I’ve always been interested in greening the ungreenable, greening the urban landscape.
Why is it important to have LGBTQI+ community spaces?
The scene is a lot for young people and involves going out and dating. But it is not interesting for everyone – it’s important to have spaces that don’t involve alcohol, drugs and sex. We found out that young people are responding to our project. There is a need for other kind of groups. People come from different countries, maybe have no family here and they are looking for interest groups and a kind of family atmosphere. It’s nice to have somewhere to come, have a piece of cake, a cup of tea and do gardening.
There is higher percentage of people with mental health problems and isolated within LGBTQI+ community and so it’s a good thing to have a wellbeing community around green space.
What are the other benefits of participating in Rainbow Grow?
Our group is intergenerational, young people meet older people. Social isolation in the older population is a concern and similarly, for many young LGBTQI+ residents, loneliness is a serious issue. Shared interests are a way to bring individuals together.
Our multi-generational volunteers come from a wide range of social and cultural backgrounds brought together by an interest in gardening, a desire to live a healthier lifestyle, and a belief in helping to improve our local environment. By re-greening and putting to good use unloved and unused hidden spaces we hope to instil a greater sense of pride in our community.
Participants are encouraged to participate in all aspects of the work – from planning to planting. It is hoped that the creation of a green space itself will spark new conversations and develop new friendships that might not have otherwise evolved.
How has Rainbow Grow has developed?
It’s a perfect example of a joint effort. We had no money when we started. I have quite a large network of friends who help. Every time when I have a fundraiser people respond positively.
Last year we managed to raise money to do the next door garden at Age UK. After that we got a grant from Tesco, and then a couple of thousand pounds from Grow Wild and a thousand pounds from the Council to buy raised beds. Because we had money we decided to give half of money from the next fundraiser to a food chain.
We are doing well. However, next year it might change because grants are given for one year or less. It doesn’t help the longevity of the project.
Who can join the group?
Anybody can join the group. People of any age and sexuality. You don’t have to have any skills to join us. None of us has a formal horticultural qualification so we are learning on the job.
With the grant from Grow Wild we started a mushroom growing project which is about learning new things – I’ve never grown mushrooms before!
Tuesday 18 and 25 June at Hackney CVS (24-30 Dalston Lane), 5:30-8pm
We work with others to maintain, improve and create growing spaces in our local area.