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Why I love the Nomadic Community Gardens

Ungry Young Man/ Flickr
Ungry Young Man/ Flickr

Damien Doughty, creative director of the not-for-profit urban garden, explains why the space is more than just a normal allotment

A dis-used city space has been transformed

‘The piece of land where the gardens is had been desolate and empty for 20 years. Four years later, it’s become a thriving community space with volunteers from all walks of life meeting and socialising with each other.’

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It’s more than just a garden

‘It’s quite easy to focus on the fact that it’s a garden, but it’s also a means to making a community. In London, there are lots of people living on top of each other and lots of transience, so it’s difficult for people to get to know their neighbours. Here people can get together in a place that celebrates arts and culture. We’ve got over 160 allotment beds here, but there’s also a gallery space, a theatre, lots of sculptures, a workshop and we’re also building a boxing gym.’ 

It’s a free space

‘If I wanted to go and socialise with people invariably it’s going to be at work or in a bar or pub. There are very few free spaces you can get together with people where you don’t need to pay to be there. The gardens give people a sense of freedom, which is often hard to get in London.’

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It’s full of wonderful street art

‘The graffiti in the garden has come about very organically, partly thanks to our location near Brick Lane, which is renowned for street art and is always flooded with artists. One of the garden walls is owned by TfL. People would come down and spray it with terrible graffiti and then TfL would come down the next day and paint over it in grey paint. Eventually, we had a discussion with them and they let us cover that wall in street art too. Now the space looks even more colourful.’  

Wacky ideas are welcome

‘Aside from a small group of us who work here full-time we’re completely reliant on volunteers. We’re always looking for people to help with jobs like litter picking, recycling and watering. The more people the better. We’re also really open to ideas. If people want to hold an event here or want to build something that will make a positive impact to the garden, we’re all ears.’

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We celebrate the environment

‘Working in a garden means you’re constantly reminded we have an ecological disaster looming, so we try to do as much as we can. We have our own bees, we have birds nesting in the gardens and we plant flowers that will attract insects like dragonflies. We’re also working out how we can make the gardens zero-waste.’

Nomadic Community Garden is open every day except Mondays at Fleet Street Hill, E1 5ES. Entry is free. Join their fourth birthday celebrations on Sunday May 5, entry free.

Find more green spaces in London with our guide to the city’s secret parks and gardens.

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