The summer season of the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden has come to an end. The garden has closed to the public for the winter months but will open again in spring 2016. It’s been a really busy summer for the gardeners, on site at Southbank Centre and further afield. We have asked them to tell you a little bit about their summer adventures…
Grounded EcoTherapy: Recovery for people and places, are your neighbours on the South Bank. We are the team who set up, and now look after, the much-loved roof garden familiar to all South-Bankers on top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Some of you will know that as well as being gardeners we are a team of vulnerable adults who have had problems with addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, or all three. Working with Grounded is the first regular commitment most of us have made in many years. Through gardening at Southbank Centre, and at other London sites, and through working with others, we gradually regain self-respect and calmness.
We wanted to share with you a couple of things that have made 2015 a particularly exciting year for Grounded.
In June, a small team of us got the chance to take a stall in the Green Futures Field at Glastonbury Festival. The trip was largely funded by an extraordinary effort made by our team of gardeners, we worked really hard in our own time to put together the money needed. At Glastonbury we pitched our unique bodgers (green woodworkers) bothy, made by ourselves from recycled timber and sacking. Here we set about spreading the message of Grounded Ecotherapy. The stall was hugely popular, and hundreds of people visited it, and stayed to chat, drink chai, and chill out with us. Here they could learn the basics of green woodworking, sitting on a shaving horse and using a draw knife to carve themselves a spatula. Others made Wild Mobiles choosing from our huge store of salvaged beach jetsam and shells to construct their own hanging work of art! We decorated the stall with the mobiles, and brought them back to hang in the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden – a link to Glastonbury and the many friends we made there. We were so proud of how the stall worked out, and how people really loved it.
At the end of July, having been invited to take part in Shuffle Festival, a week-long film and events festival in Mile End, Grounded were given a space and we built another even bigger bodgers camp in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Here we lived for the week, cooking on open fires and again talking with visitors about the work of Grounded Ecotherapy. We became one of the main attractions of the festival as people were drawn to the camp, and again stayed to talk over the fire with chai and toasted marshmallows. Green woodworking, mobile making and live music were a big draw and the last night saw a crowd of over 50 enjoying the fires and each other’s company.
It’s been a busy year! And it’s going to be a busy winter. As gardeners will know, work never stops in a garden. Some may think that during the colder months the Queen Elizabeth Hall Roof Garden is deserted. In reality it is busier than ever. We are up there, whatever the weather, repairing and constructing, sewing seeds and looking after trees and plants, so that the Garden can bloom again beautifully in the Spring and survive the rigours of another busy Summer. Last winter was taken up among other tasks with building around 25 new vegetable boxes from scratch. This winter our big jobs will include building new boxes for the olive trees, and sourcing and bringing in new logs to replace all the ones around the edges of the meadow and woodland gardens, which are now rotten. Our 6 year-old greenhouse has seen much action and needs renovating, and the supports for the rose arbour all need replacing. We laid a new lawn this Spring, but the feet of many thousands of visitors have taken their toll, and it needs replacing again. It will be cold when the icy wind blows off the river under the concrete overhang of the Hayward Gallery, but we love the work, and are mainly just so proud and happy that the Garden will be staying throughout the renovation works at the Southbank, and delighting visitors again come the Spring.