East London: Digging in for Community
Spitalfields City Farm
Community gardening provides opportunities for older immigrant women to socialize while greening the neighbourhood
Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling East London streets of Brick Lane, the “Coriander Club” meets twice weekly to manage the community gardens at Spitalfield’s City Farm. The Coriander Club consists of mainly older women from Bangladesh, and this communal gardening provides them with opportunities to cultivate South Asian produce… and socialize.
Members of the Coriander Club tend to live in Tower Hamlets, an area better known for its street markets and curry houses than for its green space. With its rabbit hutches and guinea pigs, grazing heritage sheep, and abundance of vegetables, aromatic herbs and wildflowers, the Spitalfield City Farm is a definite curiosity in the area.
Despite its young and diverse population profile (24% of the entire Bangladeshi population in the UK is concentrated here ), Tower Hamlets remains one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. It has high overall levels of both unemployment and dietary illnesses (including lifestyle diseases such diabetes and cardiovascular disease; for more on this subject, see the Maslaha Project).
Lutfun Hussain, the current Project Coordinator of the Coriander Club, founded the initiatve in 2000 as a way to engage a specific group of local people that were considered at risk for social exclusion. However, something as simple as growing plants soon provided a greater sense of ownership, accomplishment and community. Today, the women keep fit and active by growing the organic vegetables for their families and the cooking classes help to promote healthy diets. Through its membership with the Women’s Environmental Network, the Coriander Club participates in cross-cultural activities during International Women’s Week, such as recipe- and seed-swapping, and it has even produced its own bilingual cook book.
We look forward to following how this Good Idea continues to grow.