January 2020 – Over the past year we have been working to embed our dispersed model across Gresham. Our aim is to create an eco-neighbourhood, based around:
- community gardening and food growing
- ways to bring streets and neighbourhoods together
- improving local environments
- community arts
- activism and community organising based on a grounded and appreciative sense of social change.
Over the year we ran exactly 100 local activities, ranging from alley make-overs, gardening clubs, street parties to meditation groups.
January 2019 – Chris and Andy are invited to present our initiative to a gathering at The Emergence Foundation in London. Andy’s presentation brings a tear to more than one eye. There’s a feeling of a cluster of very diverse projects which are all trying to make the world a better place and bring out the best in people.
November 2018 – We brought together community activists, artists and gardeners in the first Gresham Gathering. The aim was to dream a more beautiful future for the area. An inspiring and creative day was had by all. We mapped out current assets and resources, worked in clay to share our hopes and agreed a set of guiding ethics that would shape our work together. More details can be found in the report of the day: gathering 2018 notes.
August 2018 – We’ve had to rethink our approach completely. The land we had our eye on (alongside Union Street) is not going to be available to us. So we’ve decided to take a different tack. In partnership with our good friends at Northstar Housing (Britain’s No1 Housing Association) we’re looking at renovating streets one at a time and forming tenants into co-housing units that they run collectively. The model will include:
- A network of tenant-renovated high quality, ecological homes
- Tenants forming an intentional co-housing entity which manages these homes and runs communal facilities
- A shared set of values and principles which all tenants agree to sustain
- Spaces between these homes filled with green shared-space where food is grown and plants bring life and a sense of wellbeing
- Communal facilities such as a dining space, a laundry and a place just to hang out. Also a community base for local organisations such as IPC.
- Times when the community come together to share food, culture and to enjoy each others’ company
- A prominent place for public communal art which reflects the diversity of residents.
1st June – The result of Isabel’s exhibit at Tate Modern: these planting boxes made from the recycled Gresham Horse. We’ll be out and about in Gresham today planting these boxes with strawberry and mint plants that people can take care of at home. This is the next stage in the growth of Gresham Community Garden!
25th May 2018 – In an exciting development, artist Isabel Lima is invited to exhibit at Tate Modern in London. She uses her work to give voice to the people of Gresham and to promote our project.
2nd May – A day of interesting twists and turns regarding the Community Allotment/Garden. Looks like we’ll need a “Plan B”.
30th April – Great news! We’ve been funded for a year by a new funder called The Emergence Foundation. They are particularly interested in supporting the development of people who will be advocates for the environment. So that’s definitely us!
9th March – Today we started work in earnest on the community allotment, which in time will produce healthy organic food on a piece of land that has lain derelict for a decade. Today local residents and asylum seekers started propagating seeds at a local community centre. These will be transplanted in the spring.
2nd March – Meanwhile discussions have been ongoing with Middlesbrough Council and Northstar Housing. We have permission to start with the Gresham Community Allotment, so things will start happening soon. (At long last!)
28th February 2018 – Here’s a short video we prepared for another funding bid. Keep your fingers crossed for us! (Luckily they said they’re not too bothered about “production values” – which is just as well since I did this all myself.)
February 2018 – Talking of funding, we’ve grateful to three organisations who have agreed to help out: Northstar Housing, Oasis Foundation and Seedbed Trust. This will certainly help get the garden up and running.
January 2018 – Well, the winter has been all about funding. We’ve been working hard to identify potential funders and to submit bids. We’ve done a Lottery bid plus several smaller proposals.
10th November – Great meeting with Northstar. Happy to have them as partners. We’ve agreed to hold a meeting of partners to agree shared “Key Design Principles” for the Gresham development. Great step forward.
9th November – busy day. Early meeting with the Council lead for Regeneration. Then planning our next moves for the community garden, followed by mima community lunch. Finished off with a crammed meeting of the Gresham Community Forum where we got a very warm welcome for the plans – especially the idea of a community allotment.
30th October – community groups meet at mima to continue pulling together our proposal. The aim is to get this finished by the end of November and then submit it to funders so we can get things moving in the spring.
21st October – we brought a walking tour down to Gresham from mima. Visiting artists and local people were at mima for the opening of a new exhibition into the housing crisis. So it was natural to show them Gresham and the future site of the eco-village. We got such a positive response to the plan for affordable housing and eco living. It seems we’re on message with the spirit of the times!14 October – Our first on-the-ground action. We occupy a portion of the land at Gresham and start work on the Gresham Community Garden. First step is a wild flower meadow in the shape of the Gresham Horse.
12 October – Community groups meet at mima to develop a joint strategy. We are aiming for a large funding proposal to support all the elements: housing, gardening, renewable energy and a learning hub.
1 October – The report funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation is complete! It shows that the concept of an Urban Eco Village is definitely possible and has local support. The focus is on Gresham so we call is GrUEV. You can read the full report here.
24 September – The Gresham Horse comes alive! The 5m high community art work is moved from mima to the site in Gresham. Dozens of people from the local community come together for a community picnic. A good day was had by all!
21 September – Really productive week:
- got a positive response from both Middlesbrough Council and Northstar to the draft Declaration of Support (read it here)
- The Council are processing our proposal to turn three empty properties into community resources
- spent time this morning with the wonderful Andy Falconer who is doing fantastic outreach work with young people
- spent the afternoon at Street Ahead – another great community group that are coming on board. They have strong links throughout the community.
Really need to focus on funding next week!
14 September – Busy day at mima. Good to be seeing everything that goes on here: community lunch, the horse and community garden. mima is such a valuable partner in this work. There’s so much to build on here. Also doing work on some of the more boring stuff: drafting a memorandum of support for the partnership and looking for sources of funding.
11 September – submitted a formal request to Middlesbrough Council on behalf of our partnership – to renovate up to three vacant properties for community use and for temporary use of some of the land so we can start the community allotments.
7 September – Working with Isabel Lima, Community Artist, at mima to build the Gresham Horse with local refugees. A great project – maybe some of these men will help build the eco-village and become future tenants.
Also met with Andy Falconer a great detached youth worker doing work in the area.
29th August – plans are starting to emerge for a larger redevelopment of the whole vacant site in Gresham. Could the eco-village be an integrated part of a bigger process? Can we influence this process so it puts community and ecology at its heart? Discussions are on-going!
Friday 25th August – on-site visit to three disused Council properties in the Gresham area. Could these be refurbished as part of a training programme to prepare for self-build?
23rd August – Oasis Foundation Trustees meet and re-confirm their commitment to the scheme and to raising funds to support it.
22 August – Meeting hosted by MIMA to explore how the eco-village could fit within a larger plan for community-led redevelopment of the Gresham neighbourhood.
10-21 August – 10 day Permaculture Design Course at Cloughjordan EcoVIllage in Ireland. Lots of useful content: organic food production, green building design and community building.
July – Early meetings with Northstar Housing and at MIMA to explore the concept of an eco-village in the Gresham area of Middlesbrough.
June 2017 – Paul Hamlyn Foundation agree to fund a scoping exercise to explore the possibilities. Here’s how it all began:
April 2017 – Northstar Housing agree to partner with Oasis Foundation on building an eco-village in Middlesbrough.