The North Leeds Green Gym is hosted at the Inkwell Creative Arts Centre, a project of Leeds Mind. This has proved to be a hugely successful collaboration. As the Inkwell staff and volunteers are focused on the arts programme in the former pub, they were somewhat daunted by the large former beer garden, but wanted to be able to use the space for events and a quiet space to share. Joining forces with an organisation that does environment has been an excellent match for Leeds MIND.
Individuals that have been coming to the Green Gym garden Group have been learning food growing, wildlife gardening and basic timber construction skills. They have seen how much food can be grown in a small area, and in recycled containers. They also benefit from being part of the vibrant Inkwell Arts Centre and receiving grateful thanks and praise from Leeds Mind. One volunteer commented: ‘I feel more confident and feel I am able to complete more tasks’.
Group members have talked about the gardening they are doing at home, and have shared their own ideas for things they would like to see in the garden, such as pallet planters and a scarecrow. Volunteers have also shared ideas they have picked up at other garden projects in Leeds, including the Leeds University Bardon Grange project.
The project took on half of the allotment space at Inkwell, growing a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, and has also created a series of flower and vegetable beds along one wall. The project is looking at increasing the amount of growing space, incorporating it into the large events area so that visitors to Inkwell can feel they are a part of the garden project. The group have planted squashes and marrows on the steep slope of the terrace, which along with some of the other vegetables have been cooked with the group and shared with other Inkwell site users.
TCV volunteers and Diploma students repainted the wooden fencing on the terrace and the garden sheds before the big annual open day, which was attended by local people as well as TCV volunteers. The garden has been visited by the Feed Leeds as part of a city-wide sustainability project. In all, a great impact. One volunteer said: ‘I have made positive impact on spaces in my community and makes me feel good that I am doing a worthwhile thing’.
This is an ongoing process; the two organisations have a similar ethos of helping people to recover through regaining confidence and learning new skills, as well as sharing their expertise with each other.
Since the project began on 13th March 2012, 72 volunteers have taken part in a total of 256 task days at the Green Gym. 15 volunteers have completed 5 or more task days.
We have been reminded again how quickly the months pass in a one-year funded project. Sadly, we experienced the death of one of the project Volunteer Officers by suicide and the impact this had across this project and the Hollybush Centre. The reflections on this have been shared with the TCV Risk team and a series of guidance and notes is due out shortly triggered by this and several other suicides across TCV.
The project has been promoted in a variety of different ways, including several press releases, one article in the Evening Post, the local media and ongoing Inkwell blog postings. Social media is used for communication, celebration and networking. The project has been promoted widely to local community groups and at local Healthy Living Network meetings across North Leeds.
The Garden at Inkwell has been funded by Health Amaze through The Health Lottery and NHS Leeds.