Myatt’s Fields Park, a 14-acre, Grade II listed community-run park between Brixton and Camberwell, has won a community market award for its vegetable growing during lockdown.
The Urban Food award is a result of volunteer efforts to grow and sell vegetables direct to the local community as well as producing and distributing more than 50,000 seedlings to first-time growers.
Until the pandemic hit, the park had been a lively social space with a local market stall which sold produce from the community greenhouse to help fund activities.
Marjorie Landels, chair of Myatt’s Fields Park project, said: “This is a great boost for all the people in the team at Myatt’s who worked so hard, particularly throughout lockdown to ensure that local people could grow food at home.”
The community-run park was founded in 2000 and became a charity in 2005.
The park was completely renovated in 2010 after nearly 10 years of fundraising and campaigning, and since then organisers have run hundreds of food programmes and employed many local people to help the community efforts and park upkeep.
Over both national lockdowns, parks have become a vital social space for those wanting to meet someone from outside their household in an outdoor location.
Community development Manager Victoria Sherwin said: “Lockdown meant a massive change in what we did and didn’t do, and it is still having an effect on the park.
“We also had a big uptake in people wanting to volunteer in the park. One fantastic thing to come out of it was the dozens of people who became litter-pickers and helped clear the park of rubbish every day.”
After the shift away from community activities in the park, the team has distributed approximately 45,000 seedlings to 440 households as a result of the huge demand for home growing during the lockdown.
Victoria said: “It really was a huge team effort as a core team of part-time staff worked incredibly hard to plan and deliver the seedlings in a way that was safe.
“People stepped in for each other if anyone was sick and planning together gave us the benefit of a huge range of skills.”
She said that everyone on the team deserved a mention for their hard work, and gave a special mention to the family who run the cafe as they had volunteered at the greenhouse throughout the summer, watering and caring for the plants.
She added: “It’s really an award for our whole community because without everyone coming together, it couldn’t have happened.”
However, closure of activities in the park has meant that the community-run project has lost most of its income from events and weddings.
The park had received core funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Lambeth council, which Brixton Blog reported on last year.
The funding is due to run out in May 2021 and the pandemic has made the need for funding all the more pressing.
Victoria said: “We have concentrated on sustainable income, including hires in the park compound.
“We have seen a fantastic rise in people donating to the park every month and really hope that people will continue to do this as it provides some stability in an uncertain world.”
The team is determined to continue their good work and will attempt to achieve a gold award next summer from London in Bloom.
They hope to plan a proper celebration of all their achievements once the coronavirus guidelines allow them to do so.
If you would like to support Myatt’s Fields Park in any way, you can do so here.
Other local organisation, notably Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, also won awards.
The greenhouses won the “Growing Wild” award. “This acre of green space in the heart of the park provided a haven for local people and wildlife to come together,” said the citation.
South Norwood community kitchen was highly commended in the “Good Food for All” category – “Working to give everyone access to delicious healthy food, cooked with love, and shared among friends through free three-course meals, tackling social isolation and helping build strong community networks,” said the judges.
Of the 10 “Food for Good” champions selected from across London, two came from Brixton:
Migrateful, based in Brixton, helps refugees and asylum seekers on their journeys to employment and independence. Set up in 2017, it runs cookery classes led by migrant chefs struggling to integrate and access employment due to legal and linguistic barriers.
Brixton Library’s Read and Feed scheme. During school holidays, the library runs twice-weekly activities and provides nutritious food for families living in food poverty.