We have worked on the garden in the Bearpit, St James Barton Roundabout, since 2014 when the Bearpit Improvement Group first asked us to come up with designs and ideas around creating a food based garden in the space. Since then over 3,000 volunteer hours have gone into the garden, with people from all over the city coming to support the creation of a beautiful and productive space in the city centre. Many people have stopped and said what a difference the garden has made to the space and over the years it has become an international example of what can be achieved using great design and good horticulture by grassroots community groups. It has been visited by people from all across the world, Including Norway, Korea and Ireland, and it has led to Incredible Edible Bristol being invited to speak with local authorities, grassroots groups and others both across the UK and in other countries.
At this point we must say again, as we have previously, that we are 100% committed to this garden.
However, over the last year there have been issues. Firstly our container and propagation area, the central point of our operations, were squatted and that left us in a very difficult position, unable to continue with other projects across the city as we had no space to work from. There has been some shocking online bullying and finally on Christmas day our founder, whilst recovering from a stroke, was threatened online. Throughout all of this we continued to work in the space, believing that it was the right thing to do and that the garden was worth fighting for.
However, last month, at our monthly work party, we were abused by the community living in the space, with our volunteers being subjected to sexual harassment and abuse from one person who claimed “This is our Bearpit, you are not welcome here”.
Whilst we are 100% committed to the garden we are 110% committed to keeping our volunteers safe and so have decided that until the space is safe that we are no longer able to offer volunteering opportunities in the garden of the Bearpit.
We think this is very sad for several reasons but mainly because we believe that in a divided society creating spaces of beauty in unlikely places supports bringing people together, helps them have conversations and brings to the fore that we all have more in common than that which divides us. From the beginning and right up to the last work party in the space we have had people come along from every postcode in Bristol, of all ages and from many of our diverse communities and with them they have brought joy and enthusiasm for the creation of change in that city centre space. But they have also brought their truth and their concerns about the space and have been there to support a better, more inclusive space for the city they call home. We are saddened that their wishes for the garden and the Bearpit as a whole have been trodden on by the few. We hope in time we can begin to pick up those dreams and continue work on the garden.
Until that time we are still very active across the city and you can find out more in our updates here and on social media.