The parking lot on Alfred Gelder Street in Hull is not normally the source of much attention. Its grey, concrete setting means that it mainly attracts motorists seeking to drop off their car before exploring the city centre. This all changed recently!
On Thursday 19th September, local fruit and vegetable growers injected this monochrome parking lot with a fresh and vibrant burst of colour. Decking the space with installation art, wheelbarrows of locally grown produce, fresh flowers, as well as multi-coloured placards sporting inspirational messages, the growers transformed the parking lot into a magical space, championing messages of hope and solidarity.
The growers behind this initiative are part of an organisation called GOSH (Garden and Open Spaces Hull), a collective of local growers who are committed to making Hull a happier and healthier place. Although their focus is wide (ranging from rewilding, to improving public health, to solving food shortages), they have one main goal: community led open space management.
The movement is committed to working alongside Hull City Council in order to tackle some of the most pertinent social issues facing the city, planting seeds of change from the bottom up.
GOSH member Kate MacDonald explains the importance of collective, community-based action, citing bureaucracy and stilted communication between the citizens and the council as the main reasons for inaction. ‘This is about bringing people together,’ she explains ‘Let’s just get back to being human beings’.
This statement is closely aligned with the group’s motto ‘Solidarity not Charity’, which seeks to present these issues as the responsibility of all human beings, rather than just a charitable few.
GOSH was established earlier this month, in the wake of the first wave of coronavirus, and its presence becomes increasingly important as we head towards a winter of Brexit induced uncertainty, and a ferocious second wave of the virus.
“The pandemic showed us how fragile our systems are. As a city we’re facing the devastating consequences of covid, Brexit and climate change. We need to work together to ensure we all have access to fresh, healthy food and the means to grow it ourselves,” explains Elizabeth Heywood, a member of ecological group The Green Corridor. A far cry from the stockpiling of chickpeas and pasta, which occurred before lockdown, GOSH champions healthy, altruistic and sustainable methods of preventing food shortages. Be it through collective gardening or sharing that extra cabbage with your neighbour, GOSH encourages mutual support groups, in which communities and neighbours look out for each other.
In addition to the devastating effects that the pandemic had upon the country’s health, coronavirus led to many economic casualties, resulting in a 59% increase in the demand for emergency food support, beginning this February. This surge in demand means that food banks – which were already at full capacity before the pandemic – faced enormous challenges to provide adequate food packages to those in need.
Kate Macdonald explains that GOSH seeks to be a long-term continuation of the mutual aid and food support groups which were established at the height of lockdown, ensuring that every citizen of Hull is able to access fresh and healthy food. In order to achieve this aim, they actively encourage people to share seedlings, allotment space, and the food that they harvest. The availability of local fruit and veg is particularly important in light of the pandemic, as obesity is now known to almost double your chance of dying of coronavirus.
For too long, eating a healthy and balanced diet has been a luxury, only available to those with the time, money and resources to cook homemade meals. GOSH seeks to change this, by ensuring that all citizens – no matter what their socio-economic backgrounds – are able to access health and fresh ingredients.
As well as solving the serious social issues that have been highlighted by the pandemic, GOSH seeks to change Hull’s landscape, transforming, grey, derelict areas into luscious green growing spaces. Championing a series of rewilding projects in order to increase the biodiversity of the city centre, they are committed to creating beautiful, natural spaces throughout Hull. Hoping to swap pollution, litter and concrete for butterflies, flowers and bees, GOSH seeks to make Hull a better place for all- humans and animals alike.