THERE is an air of mystique about Dan Flack’s prospective mission.
His aim is to pretty up parts of Bradford to create a visual feast to commuters and those visiting the city - but he needs the public’s help.
Dan wants people to pinpoint derelict areas of land which could do with brighting up so he and his team of guerrilla gardeners can get to work and leave it looking blooming lovely.
“We need to be mindful that if the land is on the public highway we need to check with the council. We are looking for public spaces such as churchyards, streets, playing areas etc. Not people’s gardens,” explains Dan.
Guerrilla Gardening is believed to have started with ‘the Diggers’ - a 17th century group who fought for the right to cultivate land. Its origins may also stem to the hippie movement in the Sixties.
But prettying up abandoned and neglected spaces surely cannot do any harm and could help the city to flourish?
Dan, a self-employed landscape gardener, and his team think so - and they have plenty of experience to prove it.
It is a year since Dan joined ‘Grow for Health and Wealth’ a community allotment initiative which developed out of the West End Centre, based within St Oswald’s Church, Little Horton.
Based on an allotment site at Odsal, Bradford, ‘Grow for Health and Wealth’ was established to teach functional skills outdoors to people with issues such as unemployment and mental health problems.
“When I first started this project I was absolutely shocked at how deprived certain areas of Bradford are,” says Dan.
Some of the people attending the project struggle to read and write, but working on the allotment has helped them to improve on their basic skills, according to Dan.
There are around nine regulars and some who drop in every few months. One helper, who joined the scheme in November, explains how long term unemployment led to a mental health breakdown. His involvement began after his support worker introduced him to the West End Centre at St Oswald’s.
For him, and the many more who would find it difficult to work because of their underlying health problems, working on the allotment enables them to contribute to society.
He enjoys it because it is practical and he says it is therapeutic too. “Also I think it has given me some hope,” he adds.
A generous donation of surplus wood from Bradford timber firm, Arnold Laver, helped the team to create raised beds as well as a kitchen area.
Within the allotment Dan and his team are busy growing seasonal produce, such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, purple beans and beetroot, which they share with the local community. They give a regular supply to the West End Community Centre, based in St Oswald’s Church where it is put to good use in cooking lessons as well as the community lunch clubs on Wednesdays.
And the team get to sample the fruits of their efforts too!
Says Dan: “It is also used to promote healthy eating and getting people to try something new. We cook outside at the allotment straight from the ground and encourage people to try new foods.”
“We are only a small project but we are having a big impact.”
Dan explains they are now keen to branch out their good work and are hoping to encourage communities to look after their area by identifying wasteland which could do with brightening up - hence the guerrilla gardening idea.
“We are hoping to tap into that and plant wildflowers where people can see,” says Dan.
He says they are also hoping to work their wonders with willow to create some eye-pleasing sculptures too. “This is what we plan to do to make the wasteland areas better, drawing people’s eyes away from the litter and mess and helping nature along.”
Planting wildflowers should also encourage bees. “Hopefully there will be plants and bees everywhere in Bradford,” says Dan.
The Guerrilla Gardening initiative is expected to launch as part of the Bradford Councils beautiful BD5 week starting on March 3.
“It (Guerrilla Gardening) is very popular in other parts of the country. Bradford has great potential as there are lots of derelict areas or unloved kerbsides and back streets. I think it just needs someone to get the ball rolling,” says Dan.
“Wouldn’t it be great if people came together to beautify their street? It would look more colourful, cheer people up, produce a better environment in which to live, promote biodiversity and we would all get to make new friends. That can’t be bad can it?”
For more information about the initiative email firstname.lastname@example.org