A long term Art Gene Project, led by Art Gene Artists/Directors Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik with Artist in Residence Hannah Brackston and Ecological Designer Vincent Walsh, developing a community growing space on an acre of scrubland on the Island of Walney. 

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 alongside project Artist in Residence Hannah Brackston from the projects inception in 2015-19, and Dr Vincent Walsh as Ecological Designer from 2020-21.

This community resource occupies a field, leased from Barrow Borough Council on Mill Lane, Walney Island, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. 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.

This year Ecological Designer Vincent Walsh has created a series of hands on expert-led workshops. These workshops will introduce you a range of ecological interventions which will promote sustainability, build resilience and encourage biodiversity, supported by Oakmere Homes.


“Really enjoy being part of a community and having a safe environment for my child to explore!”

Allotment Soup participant


Below: An interactive overview of Allotment Soup in 2020, created by Aerial Artwork.

Below: An aerial view of the site before Allotment Soup project interventions in 2015 here.

Pictured below: Walney Wheat; Worms; The field before; Harvest event 2019; The harvest; A new composting system;
Hugel Mound workshop; inside the polytunnel; Lake Walney; perennial beds.
Photos Hannah Brackston, Maddi Nicholson, Anna Litchfield

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.

Above: Barra Night Life Event, 2018. Photo Rachel Capovila

The project has grown to have around 30 ‘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.


Want to join us? If you are interesting becoming a member, or helping to lend a hand on our Work Days please get in touch! Contact Art Gene via email enquiries@art-gene.co.uk or telephone 01229 825085.

To find out about events and other ways to get involved visit What’s On. 

Connect with our community of gardeners by joining the Facebook Group, Allotment Soup: the Isle of Walney Community Growing Space

Above: Serving Pumpkin Soup at 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 to create 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.

A partnership with University of Cumbria’s ‘Back On Our Map’ South Cumbria Species Restoration Project, will see Allotment Soup grow, propagate and reintroduce key species into the local landscape, including Aspen trees, the Small Blue and Duke of Burgundy Butterfly.

Throughout 2020 Allotment Soup has been here for volunteers, project members and the public to grow food and enjoy time outdoors. Thanks for your feedback about what this space has meant over the past year, as we readjust to lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions.

Above: Barra Night Life 2019, film by Aerial Artwork, 2019.

Read More

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, read out about our very first project exploring the field, with the help of Vickerstown PrimaryArmelle Tardiveau of e.c. Architects and Maddi Nicholson of Art Gene.

Discover more about this second year from lead artist, Hannah Brackston, and the varied programme of events taking place on and off site:

Download: Year 2 Report

Download: Year 1 Report

Above: View across the Allotment Soup pond and polytunnel, 2019. Photo Maddi Nicholson

Find Us


Pictured below: Archeological excavation at Allotment Soup; 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; Soil fungi; Moth identification at Barra Night Life;
Walney Island’s indigenous Walney Geranium; Hugel Mound workshop; creating habitat for pollinators.
Photos Hannah Brackston, Maddi Nicholson, Eve Mulholland, Anna Litchfield.
Bottom image: ‘Watch this space’, groundworks on the community growing space in 2019, photo Maddi Nicholson

© Art Gene
Tel: +44 (0)1229 825085

Art Gene

Bath Street,


Cumbria, LA14 5TY England, UK

Donate here

Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

Registered Charity: 1135536

Registered in England: 4359454

All images, artwork and text on this website are protected by copyright and may not be downloaded or otherwise reproduced or distributed without the permission of Art Gene. © Art Gene associates, artists and partners, 2022.