OLD TIDEMILL WIDLLIFE GARDENTURNING PRIVATE INTO PUBLIC
The project that started it all, and our biggest to date. As a group of artists looking for space to live and work, we fortuned upon some rooms in the Old Tidemill Primary School, taking care of them as guardians. The site quickly showed it’s potential, with additional school halls, canteen, gymnasium, playground, and most importantly: the garden.
In 2012 a group of us sat down to think of how to open up to the public and engage the local community of Deptford. The fact that this coincided with an olympic games play day, set the tone for the projects to come.
For the next 4 years we grew and developed the site, setting regular activity projects, winning awards to help the different projects run, got further involved in the local community and collaborated with more people than we could even begin to name.
This project made us question: what roles does a public or community space, in this instance a garden, have in the lives of those who choose to use it? In its nature any space requires maintenance, and active labour, but what can the space offer in return? We found direct reciprocity through the fruits, vegetables, and plants; to the indirect relationships and networks it forged. A sense of joint purpose. The use it allowed and the acceptance an open wild space like such has.
From this point of view, the roles are potentially infinite, and much like the way nature adapts itself to protect, conserve and develop, we also believe it helped the personalities that engaged with it to adapt. Over the years we challenged the space as much as it did us, opened it up to risk potential, through additions of such structures like treehouses, and growing projects like Wildlife Gym. We ran ‘Do it With Others’ campaigns, ‘Open Saturday’ make spaces, and invited whole festivals to use the site. Being able to work, deliver, and have a hand in forming ideas, projects and communities around such a space was an incredible privilege, hosting together some of the best thinkers, local community members, activists, and artists gave so much to everyone there and the garden itself.
A few years into regular openings, a group of garden users made up of local residents and parents of children from the old school formed a friends of group to support the garden and give it’s management and opening more focus. The group has grown and changed along the years, with many of the friends moving on to form what is now Deptford Neighbourhood Action, a local forum setting out a residents neighbourhood plan.
As well as engaging further with the wider community of Deptford, we began campaigning with the Friends of Group on behalf of the garden, and adjoining housing blocks, that were all losing out in a planned development for the site. This proposed the destruction of the garden, Reginald house, and creation luxury flats on site of the Old School. The plans were initially deferred in a local council planning meeting.
In 2016 Assembly moved off site as the guardians were removed from the building, and in 2017 the running and future of the garden was handed over to the Friends of Group who have continued to campaign for the protection of the garden whilst maintaining the public opening of the space for the community. You can follow the campaign and link up with the group managing the garden now through the Old Tidemill Garden Facebook page.
THE GARDEN WAS INCLUDED AS A CASE STUDY by MAYOR OF LONDON 'GREENER CITY FUND' JUST LAST YEAR.
THE GARDEN WON MULTIPLE GRANTS AND AWARDS FROM LOCAL AND NATIONAL ORGANISATIONS AND CHARITIES. OTWG WON A TIMEOUT LOVE LONDON AWARD IN 2016.
NEXT PROJECT ➜