We hear an awful lot these days about the importance of, and need for, community. This is often in the setting of place-making or rebuilding locations hit by structural and recessionary change. But the numbers of examples of communities doing it for themselves and changing their places remains, I fear, depressingly small. Certainly my tour around Scotland recently has pointed to a sense of uselessness and impotence in the face of councils and others. But is that really the position?
I make no bones for going back to the Incredible Edible Todmorden project. I have covered it twice before in this blog; once after seeing the excellent Pam Warhurst present at Scotland’s Towns Conference in Inverness last November and secondly as Joanna Dobson completed her Kickstarter crowd-funding project to publish a book about the Incredible Edible story.
This time it’s to reflect, just a little, on the book that has just been published. Yes, I did subscribe via Kickstarter, though not enough to be named in the book (though along with 343 others I am on the book’s website). So my comments may be seen as a little biased.
The book arrived at the end of last week and it look s really good. The authors have done a great job and the publishers should be congratulated on a good, clean print. The book is in a distinctive, personal, almost conversational style, which really provides a flavour of the approach and thinking, interspersed with some guest chapters giving personal stories and reflections at key points. It comes with a strong selection of black and white photographs and a series of colour plates. Oh yes, and if reading about planting, growing and food is not enough, there’s added recipes!
The Incredible Edible Todmorden ‘journey’ is a story of an extraordinary local food movement, showing how a town’s life is being transformed as people come together to grow and share food. The book tells the story from the earliest days (and the surprising initial trigger, a comprehensible professor (so that rules me out)) to the present. It explains “how to ensure our town is a place where people feel good and everyone has a fair chance in life, and how to create opportunities for learning new skills and applying these skills in the real world of work and business”. It shows the power of small actions and one way of finding a common language to (re)build community, all based around three Incredible Edible principles:
- actions not words
- we are not victims
- stop passing the buck.
There is so much to admire in what has been achieved here, and this delightful book is a fitting written account of the difference to a community that has been made by people in that community coming together and doing things – with kindness. And not worrying about those who say it can’t be done or that there’s only one way to do it.
If you are interested then you can buy the book through the Urban Pollinators website shop.
As a personal reflection, the photo below is my office window, complete with chilli plants and a copy of the book (via twitter we were asked to share such photos!). I have a great office, broadly south facing, with a wide window sill. I have grown tomatoes here before, but this year (and the last few) it’s been chillies. They work pretty well and keep me (and a Deputy Principal with a chilli addiction) well supplied. But in the entire building, there are only a handful of us using these spaces to grow anything, let alone anything remotely edible. Why is this and can we change it?