Before meeting Community development worker Chris Wood who is employed by local Housing charity Bolton at Home to support local community projects, I knew very little about the organisation other than the fact that they were in charge of the councils housing stock, I knew a little about the organisations CEO Jon Lord as he had supported an education and resettlement project where I had worked delivering tutoring and accredited qualifications to asylum seekers and refugees in the early 2000s.
We initially began working and interacting with Bolton at Home on our Community Roots project at Southfields Pub where we grew fruit and vegetables for two years and passed on the produce to local grass roots groups who were feeding homeless people, and people who were subjected to benefit sanctions. Community development Chris Wood supported us through funding applications at this particular project and helped a lot in the building of the sites shelter, Chris’s Manager and Neighbourhood Manager Shauna Morton supported us through some tricky times during our time at Community Roots project work which we are eternally grateful for. Shauna also managed to secure a long term tenancy on the Willow Hey community food growing site which means that the project has a future and some semblance of resilience. Equally Tony Cottam Neighbourhood Manager for Breightmet has also been very supportive of our work, and we also share the same idea of generating a local food economy within Bolton as a way of addressing multiple inequalities.
Forward thinking organisation
When we found out that one of Bolton at Homes central themes was fighting food poverty and that they also supported ecological projects we were excited at the prospect of doing some work with them.
We had tried to work with statutory bodies in the town a number of years ago but nothing ever came of it, due to what we saw as restrictive, proscriptive and paternalistic practices within the general prevailing culture of community work that existed at the time. Bolton at Home as far as we saw had these support systems in place that enabled community groups to thrive, a none paternalistic and forward thinking approach is employed by their community development workers who build up solid working relations with community members and provide diverse ongoing support to projects which themselves help to build and nurture community development. This worked perfectly with our permaculture thinking and exploration of new economic ideas that we were trying to put into place.
A lot has happened since the day of our Community Roots project, firstly, we passed on the Southfields site to Richard and Lesley who had previously shared the site with us, they run their own gardening sessions on the site every Tuesday morning. We are now working with, for, and collaborating with Bolton at Home on three different projects in Breightmet, one in Darcy lever, Farnworth and our get growing Great Lever project which we have managed to keep going two years after the funding ran out by providing growers with seeds from our own seedstock. At present I estimate that with all of the projects together that we have easily worked with over two hundred people in some capacity with more joining in on a weekly basis.
Our work with Bolton at Home has unfurled overtime, and i have no doubt that it would continue to develop and spread across all of the wards of Bolton, and that eventually we would create the local food economy of the future, but alas Bolton at Home and ourselves are at the mercy of an economic ideology that is only concerned with the wealth of private individuals and corporations. We will carry on our work in whatever capacity we are able to for as long as possible but we are also realistic about cuts to social provision and the looting and asset stripping of that which we have all developed collectively through decades of our tax contributions and the likely effect that this could have on our work together, until then we are on it and we continue to accept and support new Growers with everyday that passes.