Urban Growth: growing out of gentrification

The beginning of the second day of our master:CLASS event started at Pop Brixton. A slight change of venue from the sites for another of our master:CLASSes, Pop Brixton has been known for inviting a specific demographic to its container-laden space, with beer and street food drawing in the ‘young professionals’, it does not seem to be the site of an social enterprise focused on urban growing.

However, Bruno Lacey from Urban Growth Learning Gardens provided us with a both intriguing account of the work that they do within the site and out in people’s gardens. Urban Growth provide ‘Education, Employment and Environmental Transformation’ for Londoners. They train people up in the field of horticulture with an accreditation from the National Open College Network (NOCN), giving people practical experience in growing both ornamental and edible types of plants whilst also gaining a qualifications that can be used when looking for work elsewhere.

Many interesting plants were growing in the large poly-tunnel style structure where we were having the master:CLASS. Which not only provided growing space for Bruno and his team but also could be used easily by the public to work or relax, under cover. There was everything from Stevia to African basil growing in the planters, along with bell peppers and courgettes. We also learnt that the fertilisers used on site was created by a company called Quantum Waste, who make compost from only food waste, which makes a very rich fertiliser quicker than other composting methods:

Further to this valuable information, the nature of the site and its relation to the surrounding context of Brixton made for an impromptu debate upon the development of public spaces and how they are initially set up: whether they could be considered truly public if they are segregating certain members of the local area, and some would go as far as to say that such spaces are gentrifying areas, especially in London. This was contrasted with a place in Ghent, known as Le Site, where the site was left undeveloped and local people started to set up their own social initiatives and small-scale businesses which were created by the locals for the locals without any outsider influence.

This debate highlighted how knowledge cycles can come about through debate and conflicting ideas. The opposing arguments forces each side to consider ‘their knowledge’ on a specific subject, what they know, and re-evaluate or reconsider how they understand about the topic at hand. In this respect the knowledge is only cycled if both parties are willing to accept the validity of the other-side’s knowledge, but if they are able to, it can help both sides to share a wider range of knowledge on the subject.

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