Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Extreme localness

One of the reasons we called ourselves Starch Green is that it reflects our passion for making the most of our neighbourhood. We live in Starch Green and we are Starch Green. And since we adopted it, it's a name that has started to be more recognised in the area as more people dig around in local history and begin to find more interest in local heritage. We're also passionate believers in 'the more you put in the more you get out' adage. Certainly when it comes to community engagement.
When we heard that, following the success of the Edible High Road last year, there were plans afoot to run an Edible Askew Road, our very local 'high street', we felt we had to be part of it. Cathy Maund, Director of the Hammersmith Community Gardens Association, took up the role as official leader, in charge of all the grown-up stuff and everything horticultural. A band of us (latterly known as the three musketeers) took on the challenge of designing the publicity materials and devising a treasure trail.
The Edible Askew Road is working. Launched on Saturday 18th May as part of the Chelsea Fringe festival, it is a feel-good community project to put fruit trees along the Askew Road, promoting the idea of fresh, locally grown food, support our native bees and butterflies and generally beautify our patch. Early on Saturday morning the lovely little fruit trees were delivered to all the shops taking part.

We sponsored ours to go at Long Live Vintage in exchange for a 3 week 'residency' in the shop. By 11.00am we were set up on Starch Green (yes, our local green is called Starch Green) with our Treasure Trail table ready to go.

Lots of maps printed, prizes of Divine Chocolate Bees, the Hungry Caterpillar and 'Grow your own fairy garden' for the first few to complete the hunt - packets of wildflower seed to transform the city into an urban meadow for everyone. Caroline MacMillan had researched what all the shops were a hundred years ago - and each tree contained a clue for the treasure hunters to discover the answers. The hunt was enjoyed by children and adults alike.
The atmosphere was really enhanced by the lovely and lively Albert & Friends Instant Circus troupe, who performed on the Green and went up and down Askew Road on stilts and unicycles to spread the word. The library was running activities all day and the Askew Road Church had a plant sale.
Feedback on Twitter read like a dream: 'The Askew Road was buzzing', 'I went into two shops I've never been in before,' 'I've never seen Askew Road so busy.' The Eagle, opposite the Green, had a barbecue out the front and many wandered over there for a drink, lunch or ice-cream.
Well, it carries on until 9th June with the trees outside the shops. People can still do the Treasure Trail and hand their maps into Finlay Brewer or the Askew Road Library. And we're even doing a special trail for some of the local schools to keep them busy over half-term. Many thanks to all who have donated 'treasure': Rococo Chocolates, Seed Pantry, Seedball, Divine Chocolate, W6 Garden Centre and Hammersmith Community Gardens Association. And of course, thank you to all the shops, cafes, restaurants and businesses that have sponsored a tree. You'll have to walk up Askew Road, W12, to see who they all are - and what they were 100 years ago...
The benefits of being intensely local are all about a sense of well-being, community and belonging. I love that sense of going up the road and nodding and calling out 'Good morning' as I walk to the shops, pick up my daughter from school or take the dog for a stroll.

Photos by the third musketeer, Annie Pennington, whose trees for Digitalplot and Askew Business Network are outside Askewine.