Stroud Potato Day

Potato-2

Recently I have become a core member of my local Transition Town, Kensal to Kilburn. But for several years I have been photographing events and projects initiated by Transition Towns, all of which are about engaging in, or promoting sustainability. The Stroud Potato Day was my first venture to a Transition event outside of London, a 2.5 hour journey to be precise. The annual selling of tubers in this west country market town was flagged up in Rob Hopkins’s (co-founder of the movement) recent book, as it’s been running successfully for several years. The group positioned themselves in the town’s main indoor shopping mall, Merrywalks, in order to utilise the busy Saturday footfall. Passers-by and enthusiasts alike are able to choose between 18 varieties of potatoes to purchase. Tubers are for growing rather than cooking. As with previous years  business was brisk, with one variety selling out within the first hour and a half. Shoppers were drawn in by fresh cake made with potato flour, and the unusual sight of a Transition member donned  in a hessian sack. Thanks to Helen and all at Transition Stroud and Down to Earth for persuading me to grow spuds for the first time this year. More of my Transition Town images here.

Eviction Threat at Grow Heathrow

Eviction Resistance

Eviction Resistance

I have been photographing a community known as Grow Heathrow for over 3 years, a community garden and site for activists protesting against third runway expansion.

Recently there has been a threat of eviction from a landowner who wants to regain control of the plot, despite leaving it as dumping ground previously. Local support in the area is unquestionably in favour of the residents of Grow Heathrow, who throughout over 4 years have created a community hub.

The local County Court gave the landowner to permission to take his land back on the day of August 14th, but the show of support from residents and friends of the site was so strong, that Mr. Mallick didn’t have the means for eviction. There was also a massive media presence, with news of the day broadcast by the BBC and on The Guardian, Independent etc. Singing, dancing, speeches all took place, as well as gardening as usual, and meals served up made from vegetables grown on site or skipped.

More Grow Heathrow images here taken over the course of 4 years.

Energizing Brixton

Solar panels

I went on to one of the most powerful roof tops in London. It provides electricity for the tower block on which it sits, in what is one of the country’s most successful community energy projects.

Not only is it generating power for the tenants, but the much-lauded scheme provides interns from the estate with paid work. In the featured photo they are helping the professionals with installation, but previously they aided Brixton Energy with arguably a harder task, that of raising money from local residents to provide the investment.

The organization behind this project, Brixton Energy, sprang out of Transition Town Brixton. Despite all the good things that the Transition movement does, there is often a criticism that it’s mainly for the white middle classes, so it was particularly good to see the interns didn’t conform to this stereotype. In fact they live in the estate in which they are working.

When I arrived up top expecting positive vibe from the workforce, I was met instead with tension and sulking. The professionals’ expectations didn’t live up to the interns’ productivity, and the schedule for completion was running late. But the difficulties were overcome with the help of Agamemnon Otero, Project Manager, and Brixton was able to proudly reveal it’s 3rd solar rooftop on the Roupell Park Estate.

For more pictures see my Transition Towns gallery.

 

Book Launch: The Power of Now

Grapes 2

Last night I went down to be a part of the book launch by co-founder of the Transition Town movement, Rob Hopkins. The Transition Town movement promotes sustainability projects applying a bottom up approach, using a framework of local communities. Founded in 2007, the movement is growing rapidly and now boasts over 1,000 in  40 different countries. When listening to Rob talk it’s not difficult to see why the movement is so popular, as his enthusiasm is infectious and his ideas come across with clarity and logic. Change begins in small communities and spreads throughout neighbourhoods, towns and beyond, that’s the message.

The talk was illustrated using case studies from various projects, such as Transition Tooting’s high street pop-up shop with “nothing for sale, but lots to offer”, a space which served as a room for discussion, debate and workshops. Another was a shop in a Yorkshire village which, when threatened with closure, was taken over by the community in order to serve edible food grown and made by the community.

Crystal Palace Transition Town seems to be one of the most energetic at present, a fact backed up by the numerous speakers relaying projects happening throughout the area. An observer said he thought that the atmosphere had turned evangelical due to various whoops and hollers coming from a section of the audience. A revolution has come and planted itself in this corner of South London, and although it is usually a quiet one, converts can be forgiven for letting out a little celebrating when their Messiah has come to town!

Grow Heathrow 3rd birthday

 

Montage

I have been taking photos at Grow Heathrow for 18 months now, and the recent open day celebrating the 3rd birthday of the project was the busiest I’ve seen it. Well over 100 people came through the gates, many of whom were people from the local villages, but also friends, squatters and people interested in alternative living from further afield, plus John McDonnell, the local MP.

 

Grow Heathrow residents have for many months been threatened with eviction from the the landowner, and days like these are a good opportunity for strengthening ties for Grow Heathrow, which in turn reinforces the validity of the project. Highlights of the day included pizza assembly, music, site tours, erecting a wind turbine and yoga in the newly assembled  yurt. The last one was the only place I warmed up on what became a chilly evening. More of my Grow Heathrow/Transition Heathrow pictures can be seen by clicking the link.

 

Grow Heathrow feature in fLIP magazine

This is the second spread using some of the pictures I took at Grow Heathrow (see earlier post from Inside Housing). It’s the showcase magazine for members of London Independent Photographers, of which I have been a member for 6-7 years, and run the Shoreditch Satellite group meeting.

I’m so used to seeing my “precious” photos cropped, that it’s great to see these images reproduced as they were taken, and also my text unedited printed on quality glossy paper!

If you’re a photographer and not a member of LIP, do join as you’ll receive this magazine 3 times a year, amongst other benefits.

 

Grow Heathrow feature published by Inside Housing

 

I am really chuffed that some of my images from my long term project documenting Grow Heathrow have been published across 4 pages in Inside Housing magazine. It’s rare that pictures are used so well, without cropping arbitrarily by editors and designers. Some of the copy is also mine, though adapted by the features editor Lydia Stockdale to make it more relevant to the readership. I’m happy that a magazine with such integrity has dedicated so much space to such an important story, thanks everyone involved. I’m planning on returning to the site and continuing with the project. Click here to view the rest of the project.

 

Photofusion exhibition of Grow Heathrow pictures.

Photofusion exhibition

Photofusion exhibition

Thanks to Photofusion Gallery in Brixton for selecting 3 of my pictures for their Annual Members’ Photography Salon, which will open on 6th December. The pictures are all from the Grow Heathrow series, more about which is written below. They’ll be shown on a slide show.

The two featured above both depict housing. The photo on the left is of two participants preparing cob, a material used for house building composed of local ingredients: clay, sand, hay, water and earth. It is fireproof, inexpensive and has been revived in recent years by the sustainability movement. Mixing the ingredients was a very interactive, not altogether clean experience. I like the photo because, for me, it contains an element of romance between the two participants.

I have been trying to document the structures that residents at Grow Heathrow sleep in (top right). They are all unique and some very innovative due to the constraints that are placed upon them by using only renewable and found materials. This one is surrounded by tomato plants, and rather a lot of wild bushes, reminiscent to me of the Alaskan wilderness!

Foraging at Grow Heathrow

Apples, damsons and pressing

Apples, juice, damsons, hawthorns and pressing

Much of the weekend I spent at Grow Heathrow, an eco-village that is situated just outside the perimeter of Heathrow Airport. It started off as a protest against a third runway, and has evolved into a community that lives off grid, powering all of it’s own electricity through solar and wind power.

At certain times of the year they invite visitors to participate in events and workshops, like foraging and apple pressing which took place this weekend. I’ve been back to the site in order to photograph the evolution of the project every few week or months. Check out my ongoing project here.

The apple press we used was an old fashioned one that made the whole process very interactive, and a great way to pass the time while chatting to others. The damsons (miniature purple plums) tasted really sweet, but the biggest surprise was discovering mushrooms on the way back from the orchard. Puffball and another unidentified variety were picked, and collected. The former are round, white and have little taste but do well in stews or with garlic.

Hello and welcome

Transition Kensal to Kilburn planting allotments at Kilburn Tube Station

Hello and welcome to my new blog, set up to compliment my website and keep you updated on my recent activity.

By way of introduction, I’m a London based photographer and filmmaker living in Willesden Green, with over 15 years of professional experience.

My jobs consist of portraits, reportage assignments and events for editorial and commercial clients.

It’s always been a priority for me to engage in personal work as well as commissions, photography which reflects my own interests.

With a strong interest in environmental issues, I am currently focusing on Transition Towns. These are local networks that aim to inspire and support communities, in the switch from oil dependency in response to climate change.

What does that mean? Well on a practical level events and activities take place which could all be considered to be promoting the environment. Food growing projects are a way of getting people involved in producing their own vegetables, and are a good example, particularly in public spaces, such as the raised beds on a tube platform.