Writer Reece Greenfield / Photographer Kalina Ciok
Digbeth Community Garden is an elusive green space, tucked behind Digbeth’s Warehouse Café and Birmingham Friends of the Earth HQ. It’s the first time I’ve had a chance to visit since the pandemic, and events at the Digbeth Community Garden were a regular highlight back in the day so I’m optimistically curious about what’s in store.
On my arrival, I meet-up with Adam McCusker and chat to Jake Williams, two volunteers who have been dedicating their free time to the benefit of the site for almost a decade.
Jake starts off by speaking about how they want to reinvigorate interest in the garden.
“It’d be really interesting to see if we can get a full scale community compost project to work here. If it does, it shows how we can do this in a city.”
The volunteers also express their enthusiasm for the space to return to hosting creative events, which used to occur on the first Friday of the month. They hope to entice a quirky, artistic crowd to the beautiful space.
As we chat casually, Jake makes it clear he’s looking forward to “meeting a couple of artists about a project,” as “there seems to be, over the past two or three years, more [projects] based around nature, green spaces, and ideas about that.”
We discuss past events and what Adam and Jake would like to see happening at the gardens once the weather improves and life returns to (some semblance) of normality.
“We’ve had quite a few different workshops from local artists,” says Jake. “A friend of mine did a pottery workshop with dug out clay, then another friend did a botanical ink workshop, so people were making inks and learning to paint with them.”
The garden also facilitates charcoal pencil making workshops and a hop growing community project. In addition, the volunteers host the 10metre meal where “everything has been grown, prepared and cooked and eaten within 10 metres of where you’ve sat.”
Adam and Jake also enthusiastically inform me that they have hired an employee for one day a week to help coordinate a composting project where residents can be encouraged not to waste… well, their waste.
As they speak and I stand in the peaceful garden, sparrow song in my ear and the smell of wildflowers sown by Jake pervading, I’m struck by the idea that it is spaces like this that are most needed, not just in Birmingham but across the country, to reinvigorate a sense of localism and community spirit in the 21st century.
Providing a means to congregate and get in touch with nature, along with supporting local creatives, is surely something we should all strive to encourage in an increasingly isolating society. As a local artist, I’m convinced and I can’t wait to get involved, get green, and support the local artistic community.
Digbeth Community Garden is currently open on the first and third Saturday of each month for volunteers to grow herbs, maintain the garden, and for visitors to sit and enjoy the space.
For more information on Digbeth Community Garden visit www..digbethcommunitygarden.wordpress.com