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Growing together: Public engagement and guerrilla gardening events

Creative West End Christmas Market and Guerrilla gardening in strategic places in the West End Morecambe

On the weekend of 4th and 5th of December, we came together for our last two workshops. During the previous weeks, the Growing Together team worked very hard to co-develop two prototypes of the Wellbeing Barometer informed by the selected concepts developed by the micro-gardeners in our last workshop, the 31st of October.

 

On Saturday we run a stall at the Creative West End Christmas Market at More Music in Morecambe in partnership with the New Frontiers who invited us to cooperate and join efforts! At the stall, we had engagement activities and introduced the Growing Together project. The Christmas Market, hosted by More Music, gave us another magnificent opportunity to test the third iteration of the Wellbeing Barometer tool. The Market is actually is one of the most important creative events in the region and brought together a large number of social enterprises and arty and craftsman local businesses such as The Good Things Collective (our principal partner in the micro-garden project), DIY Printing, AI Alvarez/ Nib Crib, Relic, M&M Treasres, Quantum games, Give, Eden Project, Tarnia artwork, the restore, seaside stitches, and the Council Community Hub, among others. Despite the horrible weather, the event attracted many local people and also visitors from the region, just over 100 people.

 

The first prototype we tested was the wellbeing totem, which consisted of a recycled wooden stand of 1,2m high and 20cm width divided in seven sections of colour-coded felt, ranged from green, yellow, orange, and red schemes. During the second workshop, the micro-gardeners co-developed their own vocabulary of wellbeing, finding their own words to identify when a person may be thriving or not thriving regarding their wellbeing. We did the same for plants and the garden. All this new crafted new vocabulary around gardening and wellbeing was then translated into icons/images playing Pictionary game. This workshop generated an enriched visual language, tailored by the micro-gardeners. The visual images/icons were printed in recycled wooden square-pieces of 6cm with a Velcro on the reverse. So, during the Christmas Market event we invited everyone to pick a number of the icons and placed on the coloured section they felt it represented their emotional state of wellbeing. This activity sparked enriched conversations about wellbeing, where people felt free to share fragments of their personal life. One of the participants said:

 

“I picked the cycle of life image and placed on the blue section because this image makes me think of how our own experience in life sometimes returns back at some point, and I picked blue colour because it resonates with relax and self-reflection. I feel good and reenergise by this type of events”.

 

The colours did not have a specific meaning leaving them open for personal interpretation. The main pattern here was that people identified red colour with danger and warning lines, green and white colours were related to balance and calm, and yellow with positivism, as an analogy of the sun. One of the participants said:

 

“I selected the image of the cycle of life and placed on the red colour because I believe we are in critical moment regarding climate change”.

The second prototype that we tested was the flower fortune teller for prompting conversations around wellbeing and gardening. The fortune teller is a reinterpretation of a flower made of felt by participants of the third workshop. The tool provided a fun way to engage with the public and gather responses about wellbeing and gardening such as: “a way to escape and slow down our lifes”, “A way to being together in a plot without the need to constantly talk”, “Taking care of nature for it to take care of you as well”.

On Sunday a group of micro-gardeners attended the Guerrilla Gardening event and planted 10 plants and threw a lot of seed bombs in strategic places in the West End Morecambe. The Growing together provided gardening hand tools, a bag of fertilizer, and a location map of the area to promote and plant the “initial seeds” of the Growing together project whilst having friendly chat and discussions around community wellbeing. A huge thanks to everyone who braved the weather and came to the guerrilla gardening event.

We would like to thank all residents and partners for your invaluable contributions to this project. We have learnt a lot!  If you are interested in attending our future projects, please contact Dr Mirian Calvo for further information.