Above: Allotment Soup Logo by Hannah Brackston / Hannah Brackston’s Moth Trap Installations. Photo Maddi Nicholson
‘Allotment Soup’ is a long term Art Gene project, actively working with local people since 2015 to establish the ‘Isle of Walney Community Growing Space’. Led by Art Gene Artists/Directors Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik with project artist in residence Hannah Brackston, this community resource occupies a field, leased from Barrow Borough Council on Mill Lane, Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness. Much more than just an allotment the design of the site, interventions and actions on it are about growing food, habitats, new ideas and people – all simultaneously. The field is a site for play and social connection but also for environmental activism and strategic re-wilding of both local habitats and people.
See an aerial view of Allotment Soup here.
“Really enjoy being part of a community and having a safe environment for my child to explore!”
Allotment Soup participant
Below: Walney Wheat; Worms; The field before, Harvest event 2019; The harvest. Photos Hannah Brackston Maddi Nicholson
Above: Aerial View whilst laying paths and digging trenches to drain the field, in May 2018. Photo Nicos Nicholaides
Together with residents, families, artists, ecologists, schools, archeologists and teachers Art Gene have been delivering an on-going programme of community events and workshops, which seek to learn more about the relationship between people and land and to test and push forward new ideas and agendas for growing food, habitats and healthy people.
The project first engaged with the site when it was a wet, over-grown wildflower meadow. Through applying approaches learnt from permaculture, much of the first year’s activity was delivered as an exploration of the site with people; clearing areas to reveal hidden habitats and observing the changes in vegetation and water through the seasons. From the second year onwards – through considered design, the time and energy of local people and the support of a range of funders, the project has already hugely enriched site from many prospectives; bio-diversity has been significantly increased, the site is becoming increasingly productive with organic food and a lot of new friendships and skills have been sustained and shared.
The project has grown to have 25 ‘members’ who independently use small vegetable growing plots on the field to grow their own produce. Members also look after communal food and habitat growing areas, which include raised beds, a poly tunnel a woodland garden and now a large wildlife pond. They come together with lots of others regularly for organised ‘Field work’ days where these areas and site infrastructure are developed and everyone can catch up over a bowl of soup.
If you are interesting in having a plot and becoming a member, or helping to lend a hand on our Work Days please get in touch! Contact Art Gene via email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01229 825085.
Want to join us? Connect with our community of gardeners by joining the Facebook Group, Allotment Soup: the Isle of Walney Community Growing Space. Find out about events and ways to get involved here.
Above: Pumpkin Soup, Hannah’s ‘Last Supper’ 2019. Photo Anna Litchfield
Some highlights include a 4 day ‘archeology dig’ where local archeologists worked with over 100 local people to examine the history and stories of a very old trackway which runs through the site. In 2017 artist in residence Hannah Brackston, grew wheat on the field with children from North Walney Primary School, the wheat occupied close to the exact foot print of one of the original mediaeval farming strips that would formerly have made up the land use pattern of the whole island during much of its agricultural history. This wheat was later turned into flour by the pupils and then a ceremonial ‘Walney Loaf’.
In 2018 and 2019 local families and residents joined a one off unique night time event ‘Barra Night Life’ which offered an alternative Saturday night, camping out on the field, outdoor cooking, watching nostalgic movies through a temporary open air cinema, making food on a fire, a bat detecting walk and discovering night flying creatures such as moths attracted to large moth trap light installations. In 2019 the completion of accessibility works, funded through a grant from Sir John Fisher Foundation, were marked with a harvest celebration and the official opening of the new compost toilet by Deputy Mayor for Barrow Cllr Helen Wall.
Also in 2019 artist Hannah Brackston worked with children from three local schools on the creation of a digital wildflower ID booklet ‘Know Your Wildflowers‘, a free resource for teachers and the community. At the end of 2019 Hannah hosted her ‘Last Supper’ for a while, three course meal served in the poly tunnel at the community growing space to celebrate with allotment members, who also received an Allotment Soup Zine created by Hannah throughout her time as artist in residence.
Above: Barra Nigh Life 2019, film by Aerial Artwork, 2019.
In connection with the long term work that Art Gene are undertaking through the Islands and Bays of Barrow and Furness Coastal Community Team, the ‘Isle of Walney community Growing Space’ and the Allotment Soup project will also be a home to the programme of the Landscape Working Party and Re-wilding Barrow project. Together we are interested in how the field functions as a space to test, innovate and incubate new ideas aligned to environmental priorities for the whole island and Borough.
In Curating the Ground, find out about our very first project exploring the field, with the help of Vickerstown Primary, Armelle Tardiveau of e.c. Architects and Maddi Nicholson of Art Gene. (Link below in Further Reading).
Discover more about this second year from lead artist, Hannah Brackston: the varied programme of events taking place on and off site.
Above: View across the Allotment Soup pond and polytunnel, 2019. Photo Maddi Nicholson
Image gallery below: Public event – archeological excavation of the Allotment Soup site; Kids enjoy the newly dug trenches; Historian Iain McNicol gives a wildflower tour at Barra Night Life; Cllr Helen Wall opens the new compost toilet, Moth trapping at Barra Night Life. Photos Hannah Brackston, Maddi Nicholson, Eve Mulholland, Anna Litchfield.
Image below: ‘Watch this space’, groundworks on the community growing space in 2019, photo Maddi Nicholson