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Green thumbs up for Kitchen Garden

Around 500 city locals flocked to Eveleigh in the last weekend of September, as CarriageWorks launched its Kitchen Garden Project reports Ehssan Veiszadeh City News on 12 October 2009.

The project is a series of free community activities and workshops, based around the notion of creative sustainability and gardening for urban spaces.

Jamie Dawson, executive producer of CarriageWorks, said the project will focus on providing a platform for community networking for garden enthusiasts.

“For those of us who have home gardens you’re often begging the neighbours to take your cucumbers and so forth,” he said. “So what we’re realising is that there’s bunches of people out there who are able to do this, but there are no central places for them to come to be able to discover who else has got too many potatoes to swap for too many lettuces.”

Mr Dawson hoped the project helped raise awareness about the benefits of gardening. “Food has a massive environmental and health concern to this country and what we’re trying to do is raise awareness about that. [We want to] provide the impetus and the spark for people to take that knowledge and go out and help themselves and help others,” he said.

“We thought…what we can do as an arts centre in a creative context is bring people together and get them thinking a little bit differently about food – teaching people how to grow food, pretty much from the starting point, right through to harvest.”

CarriageWorks opened in 2007 and was billed as the new home for contemporary arts and culture in Sydney. It sits on the old Eveleigh Rail Yards at Wilson Street, and was developed by the State Government through Arts NSW.

The Kitchen Garden Project encourages participants to share their newfound knowledge with the wider community. “I’ve maintained from the start that it can’t be a passive program, it’s got to be active, where you come along, you learn how to garden and you take on the knowledge and share it with the rest of the world and just work in your own kitchen,” Mr Dawson said.

“It really is an active program in the sense that the participants get to do all of this for free, but we require of them to go out and actually be able to talk to their neighbours, friends and the community on what they’re learning here.”

According to Mr Dawson, active participation from the community was key to the long-term success of the initiative. “This is the start, and we’re very unapologetically saying that this is a pilot model and that we’re testing things and that we’ve got a great idea. We just need to refine it, and we need those initial people to come on board and take ownership of that, to help us refine it.”

Meanwhile, last weekend was also the opening of another major CarriageWorks event – the Sydney Children’s Festival. “The Festival is really about hands-on participation across every age of art form, through from gardening and dance [to] performance,” Mr Dawson said.

The Festival runs through the October school holidays and sees the site transformed into an artistic playground for kids aged 5 to 12 years old.