Donate your unwanted mugs to the Green Backyard for us to serve our beautiful volunteers and guests tea and coffee in! We will be very grateful and give you a free hot drink for your trouble (in your own mug if you like!).
Our Autumn got off to an amazing start thanks to Overground, a live arts jam organised by Blok Collective, which saw over 40 artists descend on the Green Backyard to create new artworks and run free workshops. The day featured live poetry and drama from performers including Keely Mills and the current Peterborough Poet Laureate MC Mixy. Members of the public were also treated to food freshly picked from the gardens and washed down with drinks from a mobile bar provided by Charters.
A hue amount of work went into making the event a success so massive thanks go to John, Shane and Brett for all the site prep, to Andy and Paul for their late night cookery skills, and to Pei, Sue, Pippa, Joe, Suzanne, Dom, Rosemary, Liz/Mum, Lisa and Luke for all their picking, chopping, carrying, driving, cooking, serving, pouring and generally smiling activities, you guys were amazing! Thanks also go to Stuart Payn and Alex Airey, the guys behind Blok Collective. Same time next year?
It was a cold day in January 2009 when I first visited the green back yard. I had heard about it through facebook but had yet to have a look. The open day was the ideal occasion to see for myself what it was all about. My first impressions (other than how cold I was despite 6 layers!) were that it was bigger than I expected and a little intimidating with the graffiti, me being a 40 something year old woman and not understanding such things!
The whole plot was covered in planting areas and raised beds with the hugest vegetables I have ever seen seen! However it was far to cold to linger outside! I headed for a group of wooden buildings, outside which, was a man turning wood with a foot-powered mechanism. This turned out to be one of the owners; local craftsman and gardener Renny Antonelli. After a hearty welcome I was directed to a green wooden house reminiscent of an Austrian holiday chalet.
Inside was cosy and warm and teeming with people. I felt immediately at home in this cosy cluttered haven .There were wooden benches made from rustic twisted branches, piled high with cushions, woven willow stars hanging from the ceiling, dried chillies and gourds around the fire and everywhere a hive of industry. In the centre of the room was a wood burner that heated both the room and the water for essential cups of tea. Behind that there were two women performing combined reiki and head massage which were very powerful and invigorating. In another corner were women teaching knitting and people sculpting in clay. There was soup bubbling on a tabletop stove and copious cups of tea.
Everyone I met that day was friendly and full of enthusiasm, The project is run in a sustainable manner so that the water supply was through taps but from a water container (presumably rainwater I guess) and the dirty water then recycled. The toilet I used was a straw compost toilet, which didn’t smell bad at all, and all compostable materials such as teabags were collected to be composted in the large composting containers in the allotment.
I have since been back to the green back yard quite a few times to volunteer, which is 11 until 4pm every Wednesday and Sunday. I have done some willow weaving, a little bog oak carving and learnt how to make seed pots from newspaper. I have met lots of new and interesting people and learnt a few things about gardening on the way. Renny and his daughter Sophie who set up the green back yard are very enthusiastic people, generous of their time and knowledge and their enthusiasm is catching. Every time I go there I do not what to expect, for instance I have helped dig a dragon from a giant mound of earth, fed chickweed to chickens and gone home with giant beetroots! My wellies have never been muddier or myself happier.
It is amazing what has been achieved here in the space of just a year; the green backyard was an un-used piece of land, which used to be allotments. I have looked through the facebook pictures and am amazed that there was nothing there a year ago. It was a totally blank canvas, which has taken a great vision and hard work to become all it is today. Many plans and ideas are still flowing and there are classes in various arts and crafts such as Willow weaving, rustic furniture making so you too can have a green back yard style chair, bog oak carving, cookery and drumming sessions once a month. I can’t wait to see what happens next at the green backyard. Oh and close up the graffiti is quite spectacular!
By Sue Hawkins, volunteer extraordinaire
Over the last few months John and the team have been working steadily on our classroom and this month things have really leapt forward. The floor has been laid using reclaimed slabs from Cathedral Square (so most people in Peterborough will have walked on our floor at some stage!), and the walls are finally in. The space has been used as dry storage ever since the roof went up so well done to everyone involved for working around shifting the mass of items which always managed to be in the exactly the wrong place at the wrong time!
In the polytunnel things have really flourished and the tomatoes are doing brilliantly. We’ve had a few problems with splitting due to irregular watering during hot weather, but things have settled down now and the plants have shot up. Favourites so far are definitely the yellow Tumbling Toms and the bright orange Sungolds which are absolutely delicious.
On Saturday 22nd we took part in the brilliant Randall Rootz Festival - an annual free music festival which takes place in memory of local musician Mark Randall and raises money for Sue Ryder Care. We spent an intense 8 hours entertaining children (and a fair few adults) with craft workshops using natural and recycled materials, along with the obligatory face painting. It was a brilliant day and we met heaps of lovely new people, thanks to the wonderful organisers for inviting us - see you next year!
The summer finally arrived, and with it came long hours spent watering! We don’t have any mains water at the Green Backyard so turning on the hose just isn’t an option. Obviously we harvest as much as we can from our roofs but once the water butts run dry we have to rely on water being brought in from elsewhere in containers on Renny’s van.
Between trips with sloshing watering cans we have been celebrating one of our volunteers winning a national award. John Garton met us in May 2009 when he was assigned to work at the GBY as part of his community service work order. He flew through his hours and has been volunteering with us ever since, rapidly becoming a familiar face and putting his building skills to good use. Through the ‘Greeniversity’, a project run by PECT which promotes the sharing of green skills, John completed a computer course to help him use the project’s website, followed by a Train the Trainer course. He then taught a very successful ‘wild food’ workshop at the GBY - teaching students how to skin, prepare and cook rabbits and game. Only one person fainted!
John was nominated for an Adult Learners Week Award by Janine Starling at PECT who said, "At the beginning John had no experience of teaching and was quite shy speaking to groups of people.
But since then he has shown tremendous development, carried out a number of courses and been involved in a number of training sessions. He has been a bit of a star to be honest. The way he has turned his life around has been amazing."
Well done John!!!
Happy birthday GBY!
Check out four years of the Green Backyard in photos - here
"I like the Green Backyard because it gives me something fun to do and it's better than staying inside" - James Humphries, age 11
"For me the Green Backyard is a really satisfying and therapeutic family environment" - Jo Schofield
"There's loads of good people here and I really enjoy being outdoors" - Molly Chambers, age 15
"A slice of heaven in a concrete jungle filled with wonderful people"
"An asset to community and social values, promoting change, peace and sustainability"
"It is a place where people, plants and life can grow organically. It is a space where new things can happen"
"The Green Backyard is the living, growing, healing heart of community in Peterborough and it makes the city a better place"