In 2013, Clive Hamilton was unemployed. A former sales manager, he had been out of work for six months and was struggling to find a new job. Noticing a piece of overgrown land associated with his local church, he hit upon the idea of turning this space into a fertile garden.
‘The area had become associated with anti-social behaviour and I thought it could be put to much better use, especially as I had been reconnecting with my childhood experiences of growing food,’ he says.
Gathering support from local residents, private business and other groups, Hamilton cleaned up the weed-ridden plot of land and began to cultivate it. Growing in the City was born.
"We created a community garden space. It was very open and inclusive, growing fruit and vegetables principally. We use most of the food ourselves but, when there is a glut, we just go around to local people and neighbours and offer it to them".
Over time, Hamilton came to realise that many of those working in the community garden were middle-aged, older men who had been unemployed for a while and no longer felt valued by society.
“Through conversations with them, it became clear that they wanted a space to be creative in themselves,” he explains.
Acting on this impulse, the group constructed their very own ‘Men’s Shed’, using scrap wood to build it and start making things within it.
Having heard about their work both at Growing in the City and the Men’s Shed, U+I approached the group with two projects, as part of their regeneration work at Mayfield in Manchester: building benches and tables for GRUB, the site’s pop-up food scene and creating a permanent community garden for the space.
The first task was completed earlier this year, contributing to GRUB’s inaugural summer season at Mayfield. The second is a multi-year project, involving Growing in the City and other community-based groups, acting collaboratively as the Green Health Alliance.
“Over time, we want to create a vibrant area of green space in the city centre that people will want to visit and linger in. It is a key part of U+I’s overall aim to create a community and anchor people to Mayfield,” says Hamilton.