Why Would You Want to Build a Community Garden?

Community gardens are becoming extremely popular, particularly in urban areas, where gardening space is rare and precious. While we do hear a lot about the positive effects of these gardens on health & well-being and local communities, but setting up a community garden can be difficult where personalities and priorities differ. This article describes how a local community is trying to overcome these obstacles. A good read and definitely good advice for our community garden in Grahame Park.

Greener Me

Community gardens are popping up everywhere – never in my life time has personal home gardening and community gardening been more popular.

Why would you want to start or build a community garden?

You would assume the answer is obvious but as a co-founder of a community gardening group in the inner city of Sydney, my experience knows everyone’s answer will differ.

This week I was asked if I would be interested in being part of building a community garden in my home town in the Wollondilly Shire.

I went along to the first garden planning gathering to meet the other interested people and with the goal of understanding what everyone’s reason was for starting the garden.

To assume everyone else will have the same goals, is one of the biggest reasons community gardens fail.

Our new home town community garden group, have agreed to write down their vision…

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Dirty Fun: A Community Spring Clean Event

Just before Easter I had the pleasure to organise a clean-up day on one of our most deprived housing and regeneration estates in Grahame Park and wow it event made it into the local press!

Julia Leszczak Spring Clean Article Grahame Park

Click picture for full article

Organising the event was a big pleasure as I managed to bring a range of partners of all sizes and backgrounds together to make this community day possible.

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden

The local community of Grahame Park came out to make a difference

Barnet Homes staff, Genesis Housing Association, Lovell, the Living Way Ministries and the Stonegrove Estate Youth Project, Saracens, not to mention all the wonderful partners helping by just turning up on the day or promoting the event, including the local 50+ group and the local library.

The idea was not only to give the tired public spaces a makeover and make them look fresh and inviting again, but also for the local community to take ownership and pride of where they live.

The success of the event was overwhelming and in the end we had over 100 helpers, residents and stakeholders from the local community, including MP Andrew Dismore and councillor Nagus Narenthia, who sprang into action and got their hands dirty.

Activities on the day included:

Painting of Railings and Benches

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The Regeneration Housing team painting benches in front of the local library

Planting Hanging Baskets and the new Community Garden

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Volunteers from the local community planting the new community garden

Painting the scruffy looking Plant pots in front of the community centre

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Busy little girls are painting the plant pots in from of the community centre

Sweeping, Litter Picking and De-mossing

Communiy project, community clean, community, community engagement

Even MP Andrew Dismore and Councillor Nadus Narenthia joined the local commnuity and got their hands dirty on the day

Of course the event wouldn’t have been quite like me without a small fun element…

There was great music all the way and for all helpers there was a free lunch, sponsored by Barnet Homes and provided by one of our local partners. Our young helpers then had the pleasure to take part in our Easter egg hunt provided by SEYP & sponsored by Genesis HA.

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden

The Concourse is getting new hanging baskets

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden, bbq

The BBQ crew kept all volunteers nourished and entertained

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden, easter egg hunt

Younger helpers are preparing for the Easter egg hunt

Oh did I mention that all helpers got a pretty Spring Clean badge as ID and favour… OK I might be the only one excited about that, but it featured our fabulous event flyer

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden

All helpers enjoyed themselves so much on the day and I was positively shocked that all of them came in different ages and from very diverse backgrounds.

Some might wonder, what the point of a community clean-up was if the estate was going to be regenerated anyway and I have tried to collect 5 points, that I hope might explain that such events are as important on Regeneration estates they are elsewhere:

  1. The target area is likely to exist for 2 or maybe even 3 more years. This is a long time and considering that people will still be using these spaces until then, a single day of doing a bit of freshening up does not seem unreasonable in comparison I believe. I mean, would you stop cleaning your kitchen, just because you might have one fitted within the next couple of months?
  2. In a recent survey residents identified scruffy looking public areas as one of their main concerns on the estate.
  3. Most helpers commented that it was great to come out and work in the fresh air and meet their neighbours.
  4. Many people enjoyed meeting their housing officers and got valuable advice on all sorts of troubles and this within an informal and relaxed setting.
  5. Meeting local stakeholders meant that most helpers got a better idea about activities and opportunities available on their estate. And while we do our best to promote all these opportunities via Twitter, newsletter, website and our resident magazine – nothing seems to beat face-to-face contact!

Here are some before-and-after pictures of the Grahame Park Concourse

community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden community, community event, community project, community engagement, volunteering, local communities, community garden railings before & after

Thriftmas of the Past and Happy New Year all!

It seems like an age and a half ago since Christmas, and as late as it comes I thought I take the opportunity to wish you all a happy new year – success, health and wealth!

bauble 2014

The latter was (remotely) the focus of the Christmas event which I had the pleasure to organise for one of our very deprived housing estates. It was called Thriftmas and aimed to address the negative  side effect which the festive season has to our finances every year.

In the previous nearly half of Britain had built up significant debt over Christmas, leaving every second Brit  starting the year struggling to pay off debts accumulated during the holiday season.

The idea of the Thriftmas event in Grahame Park December 2014 was to spread some Christmas spirit and help people realise that Christmas does not have to be expensive and that with a bit of creativity they can create unique seasonal items including cards, gifts and decoration. If you now are thinking of Little House in the Prairie and home made popcorn chains – then you’re definitely in the zone!

ppl craft 3

Grahame Park is one of the most deprived in the UK. Most of the residents here are on low income. A recent survey has shown that 71% of people on low income pay off their Christmas debt for the whole year to come.

Grahame Park residents took the opportunity to make their Christmas cards, gifts and decoration, thanks to excellent partnership work everything was available for free!

Our residents learned how to make personalised gifts and decoration with things they might already have in the household. Gifts made of baubles and pens, decoration made of cornstarch dough and of course cards made of paper/card and pictures, stickers and other lovely things.

150 visitors of all backgrounds and religions enjoyed making festive items, and felt a real sense of accomplishment. One resident stated that she “did not think to be able to make something as beautiful as this card.” Another one felt really “proud” of her dough decoration which will get a “special place” on her family’s Christmas tree. Other enjoyed spending quality time with their children and help them learn important skills such as cutting and “drawing letters” on the baubles, as well as rolling out dough.

ppl craft 2mother and child craft table

My lovely colleagues of the Barnet Homes choir happily came from the other end of the borough to warm our hearts with tradition and modern carols on this really cold afternoon.


Of course there was also face painting, popular as ever and the Christmas Puppet Show was of course one of the highlights and captivated parents and children alike, many of which had never seen a live puppet show before.

facepaint closekids watching ps

A special visit from Santa Claus (volunteering by our lovely caretaker) put a smile on many children’s faces and his small gifts caused a lot of excitement.


The library registered more new members in a day than they would usually within a week and they were happy to see so many new people, many of which were inspired to get books about craft and DIY.

maja and child

I am a true Christmas nutter and could have Christmas every day. However due to the big Black History Month event I did not have a s much time to plan this as I hoped.I hope for next year’s Thriftmas event to be better planned out and of course bigger! Do you have any ideas and tips on how to have a cheaper Christmas or on how to engage residents in fun budgeting activities? Id love to hear your ideas and am always interested in people who would like to join us for our events, whether it be with ideas, resources or helping out on the day.

Deb & me small

Happy new year everyone!

Black History Fun Day – Video & Press


I know it is late, Black History Month seems long gone and we’re all thinking about Christmas already… but I thought I’d just share this lovely video and a couple of articles which covered out event on 30 October.

Here is the video by Rui of Nutmeg Community:

Why is important to celebrate Black History Month (FB link)

James Caven from the Times wrote an article with photo reel which can be found here:

Times – Grahame Park celebrates Black History Month

I must admit that first I was first upset about the following article. It names a contributing organisation which was not at all involved in the exhausting and long-winded organising process of the event as main organiser. But, inspite of being the actual main-coordiator of the event I have overcome my über-inflated ego and am sharing this otherwise great article with you – I do love the pictures in this – Enjoy!

Article Barnet and potters bar press


Loved this post from August… it does give hope!

strangely peculiar

tumblr_mqlxfkfBSA1qg1y0vo1_400Found this on Tumblr:

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu said at the launch of the Free and Equal campaign in Cape Town.

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

Archbishop Tutu said the campaign against homophobia was similar to the campaign waged against racism in South Africa.

“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level,” he added.

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Standing together and proud – The Launch of the community focused charity Love Burnt Oak


This almost registered charity based at Burnt Oak Station (Barnet) was officially launched on 11th October this year.


Burnt Oak is one of the most deprived areas in the whole UK and has changed significantly in the last years. The shops, language and feel is very multicultural. In spite of being poor the Barnet ward has a few visible assets, including Parks and the first ever Tesco!

Love Burnt Oak’s aim is to bring together this diverse community, to give space and opportunities to meet and get to know each other. The project ma actively engages local stakeholders and encourages to combine resources and work in partnership in the mission to improve and create opportunities around employment, health & well-being for the local community.

There have been extensive needs assessments in the past, so I thought it a great idea to apply an asset based approach of community development at the event and asked visitors to join us celebrating Burnt Oak by sharing what they love about their local area.

The atmosphere at the launch event was buzzing with community spirit and people loved praising their local assets, being fully aware that within Barnet the area is mainly known for being poor.


This positive activity has given me the courage to embrace asset-based community work and left me and the visitors smiling – not to mention the stunning visual effect of the tree standing proudly showing off Burnt Oak’s wide range of assets.

Do you think that shared resources are a reasonable approach for community work in deprived areas and in times of diminishing budgets?

LBO launch Oct 14