An update from Warren Draper about what’s been going on at Bentley Urban Farm during lockdown, and what the future holds.
The tragedy of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected every single one of us. Grief and illness are obviously the deepest and most immediate of wounds, but even those whose families have not been directly touched by the virus itself have faced isolation, uncertainty, anxiety and stress. But in the light of all this misery we have seen the best in people too. Individuals and groups came together to support those in need. Even before the first lockdown Bentley Urban Farm began working with a number of groups to help get fresh, healthy food to vulnerable people who were shielding. We still use the profit and any surplus from our veg box scheme to donate fresh produce to community kitchens and food banks. If you’d like to support us please visit our Open Food Network shop.
At the end of the first lockdown I realised that our site itself could be of immense value to individuals, schools and community groups by providing safe, socially distanced, outdoor spaces where people could still conduct important work even if their usual venues were off limits. I put out an open invite for artists, individuals, schools and groups to get involved with transforming the site. As a self-employed artist, with practically no economic support from government, I know all-too-well how hard things are for a lot of people financially, so I opened the site up on a quid-pro-quo basis. Anyone could ‘rent’ space on the site, but that rent could be paid by doing a spot of weeding or in exchange for some pallet wood or other useful resource. The uptake was amazing.
BUF started as an anti-food poverty project, teaching people how to save money by growing their own food. We have always had an ecological focus, adopting environmentally friendly permaculture growing techniques and using reclaimed materials that would otherwise go to landfill. We’re an upcycled market garden designed to prove that our communities already have the skills and resources they need to build a better, brighter, healthier and happier future for all. But by opening up the site to artists, schools, individuals and groups we have opened up new avenues and broadened our focus. BUF has become an outdoor wellbeing space with a focus on art, music and therapy with our initial food growing and environmental initiatives at their core.
For the sake of brevity, and for fear of missing anyone out as so many individuals and groups are helping to reshape the future of the site, I will not list everything which is currently happening and/or evolving in this article. But I will say that I am very excited for the future of Bentley Urban Farm and am looking forward to seeing you as life once again returns to normal. In fact, the way things are shaping up, I think we’re going to do much better than the old normal.
We are in the middle of creating a number of outdoor and indoor classrooms, workshops, art spaces and even a specially designed sound room. These will all be open and accessible for artists, individuals, community groups, schools and colleges to use on the aforementioned quid-pro-quo basis. We will also be hosting regular community arts, music, therapy, growing and nature events for all to enjoy… as well as a festival of DIY, grassroots creative culture which, in an attempt to get more people involved with resting art and culture rather than simply consuming it, only those who physically help build the festival will get to enjoy.
We’ll have more information on our Facebook page and website as things begin to open up. We’ll also be documenting our new Good Vibrations: No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds music project in Doncopolitan as it unfolds. If you, or a group you know, would like to get involved then feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on 07846 439982.
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Doncopolitan is currently being funded by Arts Council England Emergency Covid-19 fund, which is enabling us to develop our print magazine and festival into an online format and pay local artists and writers to feature on our site. We want to continue to develop this once the funding has ended. We want to create paid opportunities for artists to write and create on their own terms. We are reaching out to you as a regular reader to ask if you could become a patron of our work. Becoming a Patreon is really simple; you can pay as little as £3 per month which will allow us to continue to be an independent voice for our town.
Find out more about becoming a Patreon here.