Rooted in community!

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At CHIPS, we believe that growing strong roots and cultivating solid relationships are key to building a peaceful community. So we’re very excited to be taking part in Herbarium with our partners at San Mei Gallery, a new summer project beginning around the theme of plants.

“After a year of lockdown, the project has been specially designed around the easing of restrictions to help our young people in Brixton to get outdoors, active and learning,” says CHIPS partner Michelle Killington.

“Building on our existing partnership with San Mei Gallery, we’ll bring young people together to break down barriers, make new friendships, build their confidence and try out new experiences – all key ingredients to building a dynamic and peaceful community!”

Who’s involved

The project is a fantastic example of community collaboration and partnership. As well providing an opportunity for CHIPS and San Mei Gallery to expand their existing relationship, a diverse group of local organisations will contribute and bring their unique skills and expertise to the table. The beneficiaries of the project will be the young people who attend the CHIPS Youth Experience Club, students we mentor in partnership with Lillian Baylis School, and their families. These are:

  • Brixton’s San Mei Gallery is an art gallery on Loughborough Road that hosts emerging artists and runs lots of events and workshops for the community and will be home to the exhibition The Herbarium’s Shadow around which this education project grew.
  • Myatt’s Fields Park is a tranquil, community-run park not far from the Angell Town estate and their horticultural manager, who knows all about plants from all over the world as well as speaking seven languages, is lending his green expertise to the project!
  • Cullinan Studio are collaborative architects and ‘masterplanners’ committed to restoring the connection between people and nature. They built the herbarium at Kew Gardens and also run Saturday Clubs for young people interested in architecture with the Sorrell Foundation. Both architects involved in the project live in Brixton.
  • This Is Progress is a charity working with Angell Town residents on an amazing food growing project on the estate. They tackle food poverty by growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables throughout the year.
  • Angell Town Resident Management Association, which manages more than 400 properties on behalf of Lambeth Council and whose services include provides repairs, estate cleaning and grounds maintenance.
  • Avory Smith, a Brixton-based estate agency who donate a percentage of the fees on every house they sell to community projects.
  • Ollie Wiggins, an award-winning filmmaker who is voluntarily giving up his time to teach the young people recording and editing skills for a short film journaling the project.

The project will initially be cultivated around four key activities:

Growing together

On 14 April, the exhibition The Herbarium’s Shadow opened at San Mei Gallery, the result of a residency that artist Matthew Beach undertook in the Amazon rainforest. The exhibition talks about how important plants are to human life and the relationships we build with them, historically and today.

At a special artist workshop, our young people will hear from Matthew about his time in the rainforest and learn how caring for plants is a calming activity and it is very satisfying to watch them grow! As well as getting to know each other and playing some green-themed games, we’ll chop up a houseplant together and everyone will be able to take a part of it home and watch it grow new roots in water.

Building together

On 22 May, with Cullinan Studio, we’ll build a pergola together – from natural materials such as bamboo – on a flower bed in the Angell Town Estate growing project.

We’ll learn how to breathe new life into old things, think creatively about design, and build standing structures so they are sturdy enough to support the growth of new plants!

Planting together

On 29 May, with Myatt’s Field Park gardeners and Angell Town Growers, we’ll plant the plants which will climb up the pergola and produce gourds. We’ll learn more about what is grown in Myatt’s Field Park and about the growing project on Angell Town Estate which helps to feed hungry neighbours in need with fresh and healthy produce. We might even have a socially-distanced picnic by the pergola!

Journeying together

On 12 June, we plan to visit Kew Gardens to see their world-famous glasshouses and find examples of tropical Amazon plants featured in the Herbarium exhibition. We’ll do a nature photography workshop with the Kew Gardens youth educators in which the young people will learn about plant science and conservation, and how to take photos of plants.

During the summer, we’ll go back to water the gourds and watch them grow, in autumn we’ll harvest the gourds and create sculptures from them, displaying them in an exhibition at San Mei Gallery. And our young people who are interested in film-making and vlogging will make a small documentary film of the project as we go along.

“I hope the project shows what building within a community can achieve, by developing within young people the importance of team work with others,” says Michelle. “Harvesting life and love for where you live by caring about your environment is key to a sustainable community!”

In the spirit of collaboration, the project team is happy to hear from other community groups in the area who work with young people and might wish to participate – please contact Michelle.