We go back a long way, us and City Farms. Almost all the way, it transpires. The first City Farm in England was set up in London (Kentish Town) in 1972, growing out of a community arts group (Inter-Action, founded in 1968 by Ed Berman).
(At around the same time here in Bath, Bath Arts Workshop was running a whole range of events and happenings, some of which me and my circle of friends took part in. This, and my involvement in the Bath Youth Volunteer Action Group, helped shape my future with community engagement).
Doing some STOing* earlier this month, I came across the programme for the theatre production where we celebrated Malcolm’s 21st birthday (in 1976) with his family – a production of two short plays by Tim Stoppard, directed by Ed Berman and produced by Inter-Action. Looking through the programme, I see that it has a double-paged spread on City Farms – what and why they are, how they work – because this production and Inter-Action and City Farms were all part of the same movement, founded by Ed Berman – anther example of how an individual’s great idea can bring about real change). I guess that was our first encounter with City Farms.
Nothing if not consistent, we all went on for a meal at the then-recently-opened National Theatre. The same theatre where youngest son later (much, much later) worked for 10 years when he left school, and met his now-wife who was also working there.
[I love it when hindsight reveals patterns and pathways in our lives that we could never have foreseen.]
Anyway, getting back to City Farms. After university Malcolm and I moved to live in South London. He was even then a keen and able photographer, and was part of several community education projects, one of which involved working with a group of local children to help them document why they wanted a local City Farm. This helped provide evidence to support the founding of Vauxhall City Farm – still in existence today.
When we lived in Bristol we were frequent visitors to Windmill Hill City Farm and St Werburgh’s City Farm, and all the more so when our children were old enough to enjoy our visits. We all still have fond memories of St Werburgh’s City Farm in particular, and we visit as often as we can (in youngest son and d-i-l’s case, that’s pretty often as they live relatively close by).
And now, over the past two years, our own involvement has grown to the point where we can’t imagine not being involved with Bath City Farm. Of course, I know that one day we will move on, our interests and abilities will change, or the farm will have changed.
But until that time arrives, I’m so very pleased that I dropped by one murky miserable day, walking past on the way home from a funeral, to ask if they might possibly be able to make use of me as a volunteer. And that Malcolm later agreed to offer his substantial skills and experience to help move forward our ambition to have a proper cafe there.
*STOing = Sorting Things Out