Shettleston Community Growing Project

On the morning of September 25th 2015, Shettleston Community Garden had significant damage done to its property. A fire brought down two wooden enclosures. Anyone who is associated with the Community Garden would have felt shock and dismay once they heard the news or saw the charred remains. The tone of shock and dismay was caught well in a report of the incident featured in the Evening Times. People were "devasted", "heartbroken" (Evening Times 29th Sep 2015).

And in the heat of the moment there were many asking themselves and each other, what should be done? In moments like this we look for security; from arsonists, fire bugs, even the local community. I took time to speak with many people involved in the Community Garden regarding the incident in order to gain an idea of how we felt as a collective.

What materialised from those conversations was the sentiment that this incident does not reflect the local community and it should not hinder the potential for this space to become a hub for communitarian spirit in the East End. Shettleston Community Garden is a place where the values of community and positive social interaction are alive and well; and have been since its inception. The space which holds so many plots and greenhouses is about more than just growing food; it has played host for many events and initiatives which are geared towards a communitarian spirit.

Once such event was The Big Shettleston Sleepover. Tents were pitched, hot food was cooked on site and a marvelous evening was passed by all on a cold March night. The event was a massive success and achieved its aim; to raise awareness regarding Fuel Poverty, a plight which is a part of many people's lives in the East End of Glasgow and throughout the city at large. Money raised through sponsors was converted into Electricity Cards and Gas Cards so that those suffering through Fuel Poverty may find relief. Such an event is indicative of the role the Community Garden seeks to play in the local community, raising awareness of issues which affect people’s lives and bringing the community closer together.

This is seen also in the Community Clean Up event. Children from the local community and beyond met at the garden and then picked up litter in the surrounding streets. Young people set an example as they took an active hand in showing people in the community how it's done, how we can promote the value of respect for the streets in which we live by keeping them tidy off our own backs.

The growing levels of interaction between the local community and the Community Garden have been witnessed during our August Family Fun Day, which is increasing in popularity each year. Families are made welcome, food is eaten courtesy of harvests from the many plots and a good time is had by all, adults and children alike.

The incident with the fire may have been shocking at the time, but as time passes and the fear goes with it, we can remind ourselves of the great work the Community Garden is doing in the East End of Glasgow. Indeed, looking forward, we can see that the incident with fire did indeed cast a dark cloud, but one which has a silver lining.

The wall behind the Potting Shed also fell victim to the blaze and has since been leveled. This has emphatically improved the aesthetic qualities of the space, enlarging the central area and opening up the garden so that the eye can fall upon more flowers, more tidy plots, all the way to the back where the fruit trees and berry bushes line the back wall. And as the area is opened up, so does the possibility that this space can be utilized, so as to open up new opportunities for positive social cohesion and interaction with the local community.

The Potting Shed and the Smelly Welly Club are gone, for now. But Shettleston Community Garden is still here, as are the many dedicated volunteers who are still open to the local community and look forward to welcoming new friends to a place where faith in community is alive and well!