The Nomadic Community Gardens
Last week I found myself exploring around Brick Lane doing a bit of street photography. My aim was to stick on a wide lens and try to capture some interesting still life. However I wasn't having much luck.
The best I could find was renown London based street artist Dale Grimshaw finishing up one of his latest pieces, which from an artistic perspective was stunning, however as a photographer taking a picture of someones artwork is not exactly anything creative. Luckily the graffiti artist had a crowd going which made capturing the moment of him finishing his work as passers stopped to watch more interesting.
Dale Grimshaw finishing his piece as someone watched from a distance.
Continuing on, I decided to head over to Allen Gardens, a known location for good street art which changes weekly around Brick Lane, so there was bound to be something new and interesting for me to see there. I thought if I can't find anything picture worthy today at least I can admire any new art that has appeared since my last visit.
As I found myself by the train bridge opposite the park where you can find the wall of graffiti, I noticed a fair few people coming out from the underpass that goes underneath the train track. It then peaked that I had never actually gone down that way before, even though I often come to this area.
So with no real interest in taking photos now, I decided to go explore a bit instead.
As soon as I entered under the bridge, I was greeted by a big sign and arrow pointing into what looked like an old abandoned lot. The sign read 'Nomadic Community Gardens' Market vendors preparing fresh fruit smoothies.
Intrigued, I decided to go in. The first thing I was greeted by were three life-size creatures made completely out of old tires. In their vicinity was more art pieces. So my first thought was this must be some sort of outdoor exhibition of some sort. Well, it wasn't. In fact, what I had stumbled across was a recently established community that had taken the old, unused building site and turned it into a place for people to grow crops and set up charitable stalls that members of the public can come to and enjoy.
Majority of the buildings here were hand made by those working within the community by using old recycled materials. One young man named Olly was hard at work setting up his 'shack' to start up a t-shirt printing shop.
I arrived at about 12:00 in the afternoon, so the place was not at all busy. Most of the workers here were still setting up their shops or continuing to build on their settlements.
On the left you can see Olly checking out the roof of his soon-to-be t-shirt printing shop. Himself and his friend Andrew were busy majority of the time I was there working on the structure.
So now that I found this place I knew taking some pictures of the people here would be the next step. So I walked around, spoke to a few people about why they were here and what they were doing.
One man I spoke to called Patrick was sat observing the many community workers as they got on with their jobs. I asked him about the place here as I still did not know much and he told me how it started as just a community garden for locals but then grew into the small hub it was after people started to take more interest in the huge plot of space this lot had. Starting with a small cafe opening to feed the workers and then expanding to a bar, bookshop
and food stalls with more opening up.
Patrick watching the community workers.
Opposite Patrick was an older gentleman, who was unpacking massive bags full of clothes and hanging them up onto the side of this wooden wall. The mans name was Gary, and this London born but Canadian grown gent had set up a clothes shop in one of the corners of the gardens.
Gary struck me as a very wild western type man. A real old school looking dude, someone who you'd see riding on the back of a Harley Davidson wearing a leather jacket in California. Instead, as I got to know him better, he was intact English, but spent over 30 years living in Canada and Alaska. Now he's back in England and has been working as a carpenter on the canal boats in London as well as a variety of odd jobs. His latest being establishing his thrift shop in the Nomadic Gardens.
Gary in front of his clothes shop.
Gary has been spending his free time gathering no longer worn clothes, a lot of them never in used as they still have their labels on them. Being determined to make a reputable name for himself in the community, Gary has only been collecting clothes that are not too worn and undamaged so that he has the best clothes available that people will actually be willing to buy.
I decided to stick around and help Gary out a little as we spoke. We decided to make a sign for the shop to put out on Brick Lane to attract more people down to the Nomadic Gardens as it is quite well hidden.
What I thought was a wall to begin with that Gary used to hang his clothes turned out to be his own creation. The idea was to build a multi-purpose stall that will act as a shop with an interior when open, and then collapsing to take on the appearance of a bus that kids can play on when he does not have his clothes on sale.
As it stands it does not have much of a bus look but he's working on it when he can. So far he has part of an interior made which he is using to run his clothes shop out of.
On the right, Gary is writing out his sign which I later took down to the high street to advertise. (Proud to say that even though it was just a board of wood which was not held down at all, it was there all day and evening until I left. Hopefully it is still there doing its job).
I decided to let Gary get on with setting up his shop and decided to walk around a bit more to see anything else I might have missed.
Behind the "Multi-Purpose Bus" was where the community kept all their reusable materials that make up their buildings. Inside the layers of wood and metal I met Isaac, who was helping to order the materials that were brought into the Gardens for the community members to use in an effort to build.
Luckily for Isaac he was right by the bar, so working in the heat and sorting through everything paid off with a chilled can of beer or cider. The bar was being run by a guy called Tony, who Gary told me was the man people in the community went to for things. I didn't speak much with him as he seemed very busy getting the bar set up for that evening, but from what I gathered he was the man to go to for anything. Thanks for the cider any way, Tony.
At the back of the gardens was the main seating/event area. A collection of old sofas and chairs placed around fire pits and tables which was shadowed by the amazing mural that stood over the complex. This area was the main chill out zone in the evenings when the place was filled with people coming to relax and socialise.
As the day went on, more people started to come into the gardens. By 5:30pm the place was full, and a live DJ was there to play music, and the smell of BBQ food filled the air as groups dotted around the grounds were cooking food and chilling out. By the Cafe and kids playground, a group was having a huge picnic with their children.
I enjoyed the last of my cider that evening talking more to Gary while listening to the DJ play Reggae to his small crowd of new-age hippies enjoying the moments they were in.
The view looking back towards the main entrance of The Nomadic Gardens shows the bridge which separates the tall cityscape London city and the reclaimed plot of land that is now slowly growing into an amazing outdoors community for everyone to enjoy.
To find out more about The Nomadic Community Gardens and learn about the work they do and any upcoming events then head over to their website here: http://nomadicgardens.weebly.com
If you see Gary, say hi!