The Mayor and Seb Coe urge Londoners to 'Grow for Gold' in 2012

23 February 2012
  • Capital Growth launches The Big Dig weekend to help Londoners get involved in thriving food gardens in their neighbourhoods
  • Small grants available to community groups wanting to set up their own gardens

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and LOCOG Chairman, Seb Coe today showed off the benefits of urban food growing, as they launched The Big Dig volunteer gardening weekend.

Designed to give Londoners a taste of food growing, the Big Dig (Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March) will involve existing community food gardens throwing open their doors to people who want to get involved. This is all in support of Capital Growth, a scheme to create 2,012 community food growing spaces by the end of 2012. There are already more than 1500 projects signed up to Capital Growth with the 1500th space being announced by Seb and Boris today as the NOSH Garden managed by the Memorial Community Church in Newham.

Capital Growth's Big Dig kickstarts the drive to help people enjoy their local communities and growing their own. Today also sees the launch of a small grants round where community groups can apply for up to £300 to get their projects up and running. New spaces who sign up this year can also enter the 'Grow for Gold' competition which will be judged later in the year and will offer a fantastic range of prizes from tools, seeds and vouchers through to free training. The Big Dig is open to individuals and teams from organisations. For more information, visit: www.capitalgrowth.org/jointhebigdig/.

Capital Growth, managed by London Food Link with funding from the Mayor, has taken its inspiration from a project run by Vancouver in the build up to its Winter Games in 2010, creating a permanent green legacy for the city. Capital Growth is supported by the Mayor's Team London volunteer force.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: 'In this historic Olympic year, we are challenging Londoners to create a fantastic crop of new food growing gardens at the heart of their communities. Tens of thousands of people have helped us brighten up London in this way, cultivating carrots in Croydon, beetroot in Barnet and lettuce in Lewisham. We now want to inspire even more green-fingered folk to grab their wellies and have a go. The Big Dig is all about making it easy to find out more.'

Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair, said: 'The London 2012 Games will showcase the best of British food with regional and local fresh produce to the diversity and choice available. This Spring, we’ll be encouraging communities to come together and Garden for the Games. This could be growing a champion’s feast with London 2012 inspired colours, sprucing up a whole area in your community or even coordinating the window boxes on your street. The Big Dig campaign will provide a great focal point in London for this, enabling green fingered communities to come together and reap the benefits of home growing.'

Today's launch took place at the largest Capital Growth space, Sutton Community Farm, with the world's largest spade on site, built by Bulldog Tools.

Sarah Williams of London Food Link, said: 'We are delighted that over 70 gardens are throwing open their doors so that local people can get a real flavour of what it’s like to get your hands dirty and grow your own food. We think that the Big Dig will build on the success of events like the Big Lunch to show how communities can really work together to improve their areas and are urging people to register online.'

More than 70 Capital Growth spaces have already signed up to take part in the Big Dig. To find out more visit www.capitalgrowth.org/big_dig/, entering your postcode to find the nearest participating space. It is not too late for community food gardens to register as host spaces for the Big Dig.

Since its launch in November 2008, Capital Growth has provided practical and financial support (in the form of 847 small grants) to food growing spaces that are now thriving in a range of diverse places including schools, roofs, canals and even skips. It also has the support of 19 London borough councils, 11 housing associations and a range of other organisations such as Transport for London and British Waterways. Capital Growth has helped train 900 people with a range of food growing skills and established 50 community beehives. By growing and cultivating food they have greened and improved local neighbourhoods and brought communities together. In some cases, spaces are engaged in social enterprise to generate profit.

Ends

 

Notes to editors:

  • Capital Growth is a partnership initiative between London Food Link, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and the Big Lottery's Local Food Fund. It's main funder is the Mayor of London with additional funding support from the Local Food programme, a £57.5 million funding programme supported by the Local Food Fund. The programme was awarded a Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Commendation in 2010 for its success in getting communities growing.
  • To apply for a £300 small grant: this will be open from Friday February 24th 2012 to March 12th 2012 at noon. Community groups that want to start a new food growing space and existing Capital Growth spaces are eligible to apply. Applications are available on-line at http://www.capitalgrowth.org/apply/
  • The Capital Growth Grow for Gold competition will be judged later this year and prizes will be awarded to the best gardens in five different categories, Grow for Gold is open to anyone who wants to set up a new food growing project. It is open to any new and existing Capital Growth space. The categories in the Grow For Gold competition will be:

1. The people’s food garden sponsored by EastendHomes, for community food growing spaces which have brought the community together

2. The enterprise food garden, sponsored by The Seed Pantry, is an award for community spaces that have shown entrepreneurial skills by growing and selling their own produce or other enterprising activities

3. The bee friendly food garden sponsored by The Organic Gardening Catalogue, will award spaces that encourage wildlife

4. The learning food garden, sponsored by Victoriana nursery, will award food growing spaces that have been used for educational purposes.

5. The inspiring food garden sponsored by Bulldog Tools, will award creative and exciting community food growing spaces.

  • The world’s biggest spade will be exhibited at the launch event in Sutton Community Farm. Built by Bulldog Tools in a UK factory, the spade is recognised by Guinness World Record TM as the biggest spade in the world.
  • Sutton Community Farm is London's only community farm and one of the largest food spaces in the capital, consisting 7.5 acres. It was set up by BioRegional, an environmental charity and is now a social enterprise, delivering vegetable bags - selling fresh produce grown by local people to local people. 400 volunteers work at the site and it is the largest Capital Growth space. The site was originally given to ex-servicemen after WWI and now the project works with a wide range of its local community including schools and a community payback team. For more information: www.suttoncommunityfarm.org.uk/
  • The Mayor sees Capital Growth as a key part of his Team London initiative to encourage Londoner’s to get engaged with volunteering in their communities. Team London is the Mayor’s ambitious programme to mobilise an army of volunteers across the capital to improve life in London through programmes that will reduce crime, increase opportunities for youth and improve quality of life by cleaning and greening London and building stronger neighbourhoods. Since 2008, the Mayor's programmes have galvanised tens of thousands of Londoners into action and Team London is now seeking to encourage an additional 10,000 volunteers by May 2012. www.london.gov.uk/teamlondon

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