The original BBA beds were installed next to La Baita Café near the Bandstand (hence our organisation’s name) by Victor Chin-Kit, Parks Manager for the Common, as he wanted to encourage some vegetable growing in Clapham.
Victor with the original BBA team
The following year (2013), Fiona Law, Diana Linskey and a few other enthusiastic gardeners set up the Bandstand Beds Association. And keen to support more food growing on the Common the London Borough of Lambeth (LBL) gave BBA an opportunity to take on some unloved and neglected space in front of the toilet block, near what had been the One O’Clock Club and is now The Spinney Nursery.
BBA’s second growing space
Now with two gardening areas on the Common, during the summer of 2013 Fiona and Diana, along with friends from Incredible Edible Lambeth and South London Master Gardeners, ran a Chelsea Fringe project: The Squash & Bean Swap. They held seed and plant exchange events and picnics on the Common, and grew a wide variety of pumpkins, squash and legumes in the beds at the Bandstand and opposite The Spinney.
Seed swap & picnic 2013
With help from Victor they also organised compost giveaways, using rotted organic material from the greenwaste site on Windmill Drive, Clapham Common.
Fiona decided to stand down from BBA in 2014 ad David Dandridge was elected Chair at the February AGM.
Most of the other large green spaces in Lambeth already had community gardening hubs in one form or another – Brockwell Community Greenhouses, Myatts Fields Park, and Streatham Common Rookery. Clapham had no obvious place for such community growing but it did have keen gardeners wanting to have a go and change this, and David and Diana were keen to see Bandstand Beds grow.
In the spring of 2014, permanent crops of blackcurrants, gooseberries, and rhubarb were planted at the beds opposite The Spinney (now our Fruit Beds) and our flourishing growing spaces began to attract more BBA members.
Once again, keen to support our group’s enthusiasm, Lambeth came up with an offer of a new area for food growing on the Common’s greenwaste site, know locally as ‘the dump’
At the start of 2015, we worked with LBL to bring part of ‘the dump’ back into community use. With in-kind support from LBL, help from Clapham Common Management Advisory Committee (CCMAC) to secure money from the Environmental Impact Fund (EIF) to connect a water supply, and grant funding from Awards for All, Love Your Roots, and Capital Clean Up we have been able to install a polytunnel and raised beds to create the food-growing corner on the former piece of waste land.
In the October, we held our annual feast and opening of our new community garden on Windmill Drive, Clapham Common.
The new community garden attracted a great deal of interest from local residents keen to get involved in local food growing. When we began work to reclaim part of ‘the dump’ we had just 10 members and at the end of our first proper growing season a year later in 2016 this had risen to more than 80.
With help from CCMAC we secured some funding from the EIF to install pathways and we though our community garden was complete, but then Lambeth Council had a suggestion. Acknowledging the success of our good growing project, they asked if we would like to extend the garden. What could we say?
Proposed garden extension
Once Lambeth Council had levelled the ground, the first thing to be placed on the extended garden was a new shipping container funded by This is Clapham. This has been converted into an onsite kitchen facility which is used to prepare food for our picnics and cook-ups.
With funding from Tesco Bags of Help we have been able to buy raised beds and other essential equipment. And throughout the summer of 2017 we ran a Spacehive crowdfunding campaign to raise over £5000 to install pathways in the extended garden, to make the garden accessible to everyone.
Aerial view of our community garden on Windmill Drive
To sum it up, we’ve done some really cool things. And we want these activities to continue and grow so that the people local to the Common can get more advice and growing experience, as well as sharing their knowledge and experience. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with us please get in touch with us!
David Dandridge, Chair;
Diana Linskey, Treasurer;
John Cross, Membership Secretary