In late 2007, Kevin Downey contacted Dublin City Council to see what they thought of handing over a disused plot of land, cornered by three streets, to the residents of Summer St. North for the purpose of growing fruit & vegetables. It was a vague idea, and after visiting the site, it was looking to be a pretty scary idea. The plot of land in question was used as a dumping ground for all kinds of household waste for over 30 years. Dublin City Council regularly cleared the place, to make way for more household rubbish, and on it went.
Up until the early 1980s, a few small cottages sat on that space in a small terrace called Summer Row. The footprint of that small area was the place we met with Dublin City Council over a year and a half ago, who were doing a feasibility study on the site before they handed it over to us.
It seemed quite a daunting task, one, which we all agreed, could literally have to be abandoned and the key turned if things didn’t go well. Surrounded by houses, surveying the rubbish, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that I myself was under surveillance – a fact confirmed much later by one of the residents who thought I was from the council, equipped with a camera equipment. It was quiet with only the sound of dogs barking and what sounded like more than a few parrots. The vague plan had a poly-tunnel in mind, and on viewing the space, the idea of allotments quickly had turned to a community garden due to the physical size, which was 16 meter square approximately.
The idea of community gardening is to promote healthy communities, bringing people in touch with growing their own food as well as tackling isolation by creating a strong social community. It is a heartwarming to witness neighbors who didn’t know each other, who have lived only a few doors apart for years, make regular contact in the garden. Residents literally pour out with 15 cups of tea and trays of sandwiches and biscuits for gardeners. The North Inner City has well-known and documented social problems, but one thing the people of this area have never lost is the sense of goodwill and benevolence. The spirit that has been generated from a 16-meter square plot of land is touching to witness.
We applied for various community funding and have been generously supported by Agenda 21, Croke Park and RAPID in the form of grants for a poly-tunnel, fencing to make the garden secure, garden sheds, tools, plants, topsoil, raised beds, a wormery, water harvesters and a community art project, and much more. And we’re not done yet. Plans are afoot to engineer a bike, when cycled, will pump water from the buried tank into the poly-tunnel irrigation system, or to raised water butts. We also applied for funding to re-route water from the roofs of houses into water butts which will be located outside their gates, adjacent to the garden.
This is an 8-minute promo of the documentary that I am filming around the entire transformation of the garden. We hope to show the documentary in the garden space in the Autumn, as an outdoor projection.