A Gorton community project is raring to grow as it prepares to transform a disused piece of land into a shared food growing space.
Land at the back of Gorton Community Centre has been largely unused for several years with local people keen to put it to productive use.
Now with funds from the European Union’s INTERREG IVB fund, and help and support from local environmental project Red Rose Forest, Manchester City Council, Groundwork MSSTT and international construction services company ISG, the space is to be given a new lease of life.
This spring will see raised beds and planters added to the space, which was formerly home to a paint factory, along with paths and a polytunnel for rearing tender plants.
By the summer it’s hoped local residents will have a steady supply of fresh fruit and veg which they have grown themselves.
Advice sessions on how to care for the site as well as how to ‘grow your own’ will be provided for the new food growers.
The project is one of four new community food growing sites in Manchester which are receiving support and funding from the EU’s INTERREG IVB fund as part of the VALUE+ Project1.
Hilary Wood, Red Rose Forest Green Streets Manager, said: “The important thing about this food growing project is it is community led. We are here to carry out the physical improvements to the site and to provide advice and guidance but it’s the community centre users and local residents themselves who will be responsible for making the project a success. They will be doing the planting, the weeding, the watering and the harvesting. They will look after the space and take responsibility for it – and it will be their hard work and commitment which will see this project bear fruit.”
“It’s really exciting to see how enthusiastic people are for a shared food growing space in this part of Manchester. It’s amazing to see how it brings people together, creates a buzz and boosts community spirit and cooperation. It’s going to be hugely rewarding for everyone involved to see the project take shape over the coming months.”
Cllr Rosa Battle, Manchester City Council’s executive member for culture and leisure, said: “The Gorton Growing Together project is a double win for the Gorton community – transforming a green space for use by local people and providing a growing space that will benefit local people.
“Gorton Community Centre is already a hub in the local area, but we are thrilled that the project has attracted serious partners and funding that will make this underused space a true community resource – providing both a place of leisure and a place of education all in one.”
Each ‘meanwhile’ site has involved recruitment of an ‘EU Champion’ – someone who will represent the local community on each VALUE+ investment site. Their role is to tell others in their local area, and beyond, about the benefits of being part of an EU-funded project and to ‘champion’ positive stories and case studies from real life projects that have received EU funding.
EU champion for the Gorton Community Centre Meanwhile project Joe Larrigan said: “Green spaces are essential to the success of local communities like Gorton. They provide a place for people to come together, meet their neighbours, enjoy some fresh air and get in touch with nature. They offer a bit of an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and are a great place to relax and recharge your batteries.
“There’s so much excitement around this project. We’ve wanted to do something positive with this space for years and thanks to Red Rose Forest and the Value+ project we’re getting that little bit of help we need to get started. I know the people round here will put their heart and soul into this and will work really hard to make it succeed. People can’t wait to get started and get the first seeds and plants in the ground. We’re looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labour in the coming months.”
As an EU Champion Joe, will join other ‘Champions’ from across Europe for the final Value+ conference in Liege in Belgium on April 21st and 22nd this year. The conference is a chance for all those taking part in the VALUE+ project to find out more about the overall project and the individual projects that are being delivered by the partners in England, Holland, Belgium and Germany. It will be a great opportunity for the EU Champions to share the experiences of their involvement.
The stories of the EU Champions and their projects will be the focus for a short film, Of the People, By the People For the People.