Goldsmith's College 27th February, 23rd March and 26th May. This was a definitive evolution in my teaching career. Through my ongoing work I was contacted by a member of the Enviroclub, a Student Union student's organisation who were promoting the issues of environmentally friendly practice at college. Initially I was put in contact with various prominent students who had career developments in mind as well as the environmental officer at the university. It was clear that green issues were very low down the university agenda. What funding the Enviroclub would have received was probably measly. Still, I gave extended workshops in view of the opportunity to work with students on their home grounds indicating the disparity between National Curriculum education and prominent real skills yet to be fully introduced into it. There are certain universities that have made headway, including my former at Middlesex, initially a place where I took my permaculture design certificate through summer school. So to be invited to Goldsmiths, a place where I was brought up under the mentor of my musical brother, I jumped at the opportunity.
The first meeting was during green week. It was a low turn-out, considering there were other speakers. Still my passion was racing and showed a bit of rustiness in my teaching. I brought along organic fruit and highlighted the virtues of growing a biodiverse range of products. Campus grounds have ample opportunity to bring in volunteer organisations to make use of some of the redundant and neglected areas scattered about. As usual though, most decisions are bogged down in bureacracy.
The first practical meeting was open to outsiders too. We did a reconnaisance of the area and sussed out possible growing spaces. Our favourite spot was just beneath the balcony of the SU bar and nestled within 3 walls providing a very distinct microclimate with great shelter and solar gain. There were already a few scattered plantings and also a bin area. We set about doing a PASEexercise requiring an adventurous blitz on the area as to what could occur here. There were some wonderful ideas, anything from cinema projections to climbing frames. But it was also an area that collected cigarette butts by the hundreds from the balcony, and so would require consciousness raising. The other sites had potential. By the time of the following meeting the caretaker had reclaimed our initial choice. It was the same old story - stepping on someone's else shoes injects an air of urgency in what these people had neglected to do. Still, our ultimate choice looked good, and it was also out of the limelight so to speak, which probably downplayed the importance of the place and kept my work 'secretive'.
In our final workshop we did an on-site practical. The area was a very small triangular raised bed. After weeding out and removing the invasive ivy we spotted what was worth keeping. There was a huge kiwi on the adjoining chainlink fence and one of the students managed to spy a fruit in the period leading up to the SU open day. We had already planted spuds, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, some unusual stuff like Japanese Ginger. There was also comfrey and onions. The area would be transformed into a stage for upcoming musical bands. Because it was so small we built the stage on one corner of the bed so that it stood proud of the potatoes. This stage was detachable and made from reclaimed materials. I started off the proceedings and performed for about an hour. This was in stark contrast to the racket the experimental bands produced. The whole thing was a great success.
A word of warning when dealing with students. This whole project for them was an itenerant exercise. We quickly lost communication after that. They fiailed to harvest most of the food; they took a long time paying for the workshops; they lost materials, including books I have loaned to them; and they are unreliable. Such is the life of the student.