Tag Archives: radical gardening

Radical Gardening: en föreläsning med George McKay, Marabouparken, Stockholm

Marabouparken logo23 APRIL KL. 18.00


Niki Kralli, Informatör Marabouparken konsthall: niki.kralli@marabouparken.se
Fran Higgins, Publicity Officer, Frances Lincoln Publishers: franh@frances-lincoln.com

Radical Gardening:
Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden
Samtidens intresse för trädgårdar förknippas ofta med villaförorter, fritid och ”gör-om-mig-TV”. Trädgården kan också ses som ett uttryck för något religiöst eller andligt (Edens trädgård), något militärisk (välklippta gräsmattor) eller något aristokratiskt eller kungligt (herrgårdar och slott). George McKay utforskar en alternativ rutt genom historien och landskapen som kopplar odlandet till ett vidare politiskt perspektiv. I boken Radical Gardening lyfter han fram och firar ögonblick, rörelser, gester och människors förhållningssätt till trädgårdar och trädgårdsarbete. Boken länkar trädgårdshistoria med subkulturer, individuella växters historia med politik, aktivism, pop, media och konst.

Välkommen till George McKays föreläsning onsdag den 23 april!

George McKay är författare och professor i Cultural Studies vid Salfords universitet i England. Han intresserar sig för alternativa kulturer och hur de kommer till uttryck genom musik, proteströrelser och livsstilar. Förutom Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden har han skrivit böckerna Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance since the Sixties, DiY Culture: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain, Glastonbury: A Very English Fair and Circular Breathing: The Cultural Politics of Jazz in Britain. Han medverkar regelbundet på brittisk radio och TV och skriver för tidningar som The Guardian, Independent, New Statesman.


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Keynote lecture, Iberian Association for Cultural Studies, University of Murcia, 2 October

IBACS_logoI’m very much looking forward to giving a keynote lecture this week, at the 16th International Culture and Power Conference, which is being held from October 2-4, hosted by IBACS (the Iberian Association for Cultural Studies) and the English Department at the University of Murcia, Spain. Here is a little information about the conference (the full programme’s here):

The conference’s special topic will be SPACE. The 16th Culture and Power conference seeks to respond to the growing importance of space, spatial analysis, and localization in cultural studies. While locating cultural practice in concrete geographical and social coordinates has been a constant in the field, the last two decades have witnessed an extraordinary expansion in the ways space has been explored and made to signify in relation to such different social categories as: gender and sexuality; race and ethnicity; region, nation, and globalisation; the real and the virtual. Likewise, location and ground, as well as notions of public and private memory, history, deep and slow time, cultural and media archaeologies, and storytelling have all become essential to more traditional temporal concerns.

Resistance is Fertile / COMPOST CAPITALISM banner, OCCUPY, Oakland Port USA shutdown 2011

Resistance is Fertile / COMPOST CAPITALISM banner, OCCUPY, Oakland Port USA shutdown 2011

I’m giving the opening plenary on Wednesday, and my title is ‘Polemic space, protest, and the garden’. From my introduction (though I don’t like the inelegantly contradictory ‘larger … sub-project’ phrase and may change it): ‘In the terms of this conference, it’s a matter of looking at an uncool, apparently apolitical social-cultural space and practice—the public or private garden, the dirty seasonal act of gardening—and asking questions about where aspects of power manifest themselves in there, and / or are hidden, challenged, subverted. It’s also to acknowledge that this particular book [Radical Gardening] is a very small part of the larger cultural studies sub-project to disseminate our hard-earned, threatened (it feels, from a British university perspective, at least) knowledge about, say, the operations, achievements, history of culture as critique and as engine of social justice to as wide an audience as we can.’

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AHRC Connected Communities showcase at Spitalfields City Farm, March 12 2013

AHRC showcase 12 March 2013As part of the Connected Communities Programme showcase in London this week, there was a community gardening event, the key contribution of the Community Gardening, Creativity and Everyday Culture project. Yes in snowy March, outdoors, with a bonfire and a barbecue, and (fortunately) a (heated) marquee. It was after the main events of the day, which itself involved a large number of the projects funded by the programme talking or showing films or performing about their work, panels and posters and discussions about the future of universities and communities, how we work more closely together, how we learn from and energise each other, how we create and understand culture. It was a terrific day, really, that captured some of the wonderfully imaginative and inspiring work happening across the programme as a whole. We had artists, community workers, professors, senior folk from funding bodies, even the Minister for Universities and Science in attendance. (David Willetts: ‘Radical Gardening? Ha! Marvellous idea!’)

Half way through the early evening post-showcase wine reception in central London, small groups began to peel away to make their way to Spitalfields City Farm in the east end. For, ahem, what was billed as An Evening with George McKay. (No, that was not my idea.) It was pitch dark and bitterly cold when I arrived there, but my heart was immediately lifted by coloured lights in a tree, and the sparks and flames of the bonfire with some people sitting around, bending close. Nearer I could see the barbecue, offering ‘biodynamic burgers’ from one of the project partner’s farm in Sussex. In the marquee there was a folk trio playing fiddle and acoustic guitars, a fabulous set of steaming pots filled with curry, dahl, rice—the women cooks said I must come back for seconds—and popadoms, chai, someone’s farm-made cider. We sat at wooden tables eating and talking. The tent filled up slowly, and then it was time for the discussion.

in the marquee at Spitalfields City Farm talking about the politics of gardening Orla introduced me, and I talked for 25 minutes or so, about the ideas in my 2011 book Radical Gardening. There was intent listening, punctuated by chuckles and bursts of laughter. I heard someone lean over to her companion and say ‘Ooh, interesting, I didn’t know that’, so thought I was doing something right. Then what followed was an hour or so of really engaged discussion, comments and conversation between people there, to each other, as well as some questions directed specifically at me about what I’d said.

Is the allotment movement ‘radical’ or do the individual plots really function to maintain a slightly private form of public gardening? What’s the place of nostalgia in the appeal of gardening? How does guerrilla gardening fit in, and if the site is destroyed or dug up has it been a waste of time? Is it the garden that makes things critical—the land space itself—or the practice of gardening, and especially the social side of it, that we come together to make and grow in a communal space? Is there something rewarding in life, even spiritual, about the annual thrill of seeing those first seedlings appear from the soil, life and renewal and hope? Aren’t we really talking here about some middle class people having their propertied enthusiasm and just calling it ‘political’? But in the east end there aren’t enough gardens and spaces for growing, and that’s the vital thing about the city farm, and its community garden. What about the lovely landscape design of the Olympic site, but that took away our allotments to make it? People have forgotten how to forage—as kids we used to pick hawthorn leaves from a hedge and put them in our cheese sandwiches, that tasted good. And someone told a brief history of Spitalfields City Farm itself, founded 33 years ago, originally squatted and then agreed and formalised on a long lease.

I didn’t know that. In Radical Gardening I wrote of Meanwhile Gardens from 45 years ago, in west London, originally squatted and subsequently formalised on a long lease. (Though not without its struggles.) I did that because there is a book account of the establishment of Meanwhile Gardens, written by the people who got it going. I didn’t know Spitalfields City Farm started as a squat—I would certainly have included it in my book had I. Because that is radical gardening. I immediately wondered if there exists a written history of Spitalfields City Farm, which is carefully-researched, well told from a range of voices and collaborators, and including archive photos someone must have somewhere. That I want to read. If it doesn’t exist, perhaps we could co-produce it as an output from the Community Gardening, Creativity and Everyday Culture project? What do you think?


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