Story Garden: a hidden oasis in King’s Cross

Camdenist talks to Nicole Van den Eijnde, Joint Director of Global Generation, about the educational charity reconnecting Camden locals with the earth

“I think of gardening as a revolutionary act. We live in a world where everything is shiny, fast moving and industrialised, a world where we grow up not knowing where our food comes from. The act of gardening, of having your hands in the soil, watching something grow and eating it together brings you closer to other people and to the peace and quiet we all need”, Nicole reflects.

We’re sitting in the Story Garden, a patch of land squished between the Francis Crick Institute and the British Library. In 2009, Global Generation set up their first garden on a development site in King’s Cross, the Skip Garden, a very literal name for a collection of skips out of which the garden was grown.

Four sites later and in 2019 the Story Garden was born. Leaving the station’s crowds behind and walking into the garden is like entering another world: there’s an oak circle of baby trees waiting to be distributed around local schools and housing estates; inside the polytunnel the scent of sweet peas is heady and outside one of the buildings, a ceramicist has just finished a session with asylum seekers and refugees.

At the heart of Global Generation is the idea that we are not separate from nature, encapsulated by the charity’s ‘I, We and the Planet’ approach, or as Nicole describes it, “an interconnected way of viewing the world. Our ancestry goes a lot further back than our parents or grandparents,” she says. “We’re all made of stardust.”

Story Garden encourages its users to reflect on their own identity whilst considering the ways we are connected to communities of people, plants and animals, and the tangible actions we can take. “The planet should be a valued, sacred and respected place,” says Nicole. “The more spaces we have for people to get involved at a local level, the more we can create different microsystems that may join up and become part of a mainstream system.”

Camden itself contains a myriad of stories and the garden has become a place where people can share these with each other. “It’s wonderful to see people from different cultures bringing their knowledge around growing. Even though the younger children don’t come from farming backgrounds, their parents or grandparents often have. There’s an opportunity for intergenerational knowledge sharing. Sadly, that’s something we seem to have lost touch with.”

In a world that profits off a scarcity mentality, it’s easy to think we never have enough. Nicole cites the natural world as an inspirational antidote to this mindset, “nature has an abundant mentality, there is so much goodness, there are so many possibilities, there’s so much growth.

Being in that environment changes your mindset and the way you approach things.” Nature is also a wise teacher when it comes to navigating change, “I think we can find it hard to deal with change and complexity, but we can learn that from nature and the way it adapts. That’s what makes gardening a revolutionary act.”

GROW

Twilight Gardening: Wednesdays 4-6pm

Family Saturdays: weekly 11am-3pm

globalgeneration.org.uk / @globalgeneration

This article also appears in our latest free print magazine: Camdenist Presents: GROW, available from locations across the borough and Central London

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