Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Of murals, raised beds, fences and tipper trucks

It never ceases to amaze me what my job requires me to do. Not that my job description isn't long, but to be fair, it's a tad vague. So today, it was driving a hired tipper truck from Paisley via Blochairn to Shettleston. The mission: delivering enough compost to fill 4 raised beds and filling the very same with the compost.

All of this part of a programme that gives young people an opportunity to make a local change, a change that should contribute in some way to alleviate the effects of child poverty. The effects of child poverty are such that this gives the groups of young people a relatively free choice of what their project will be - as long as it can be done within budget (£1k) and within timescale (6 months) and can demonstrate to have a positive impact well beyond the group.

It is doing time right now, for both of my projects. Today, it was all about the Fuseastics, the 8-11 year olds at Fuse Youth Cafe who are implementing their grand plan. There is a mural to be painted, the raised beds to be filled and planted, a new fence to be painted. It's all go and although we're not done yet, it already looks rather good.

The kids chose this particular project for a good few reasons. The youth cafe is a great venue for young people and it's still expanding its activity programme. The building sits within some concrete grounds, which have rather a lot of potential. In many areas of Glasgow, there are very few safe outdoor play spaces. Yes, there is a swing park locally, but it's often vandalised, there's dog poo, adults can be seen consuming alcohol or worse, and it's also not particularly enticing - you know the kind of mass produced swing park with the same 3 items up and down the country. It's boring and not particularly safe. Plus for this age group - they've kind of grown out of swing parks but aren't old enough for unsupervised outdoor activities.

So what could be better than doing something with the outdoor space that the youth cafe has on offer? It's not huge, but big enough to make a start. There were issues to deal with: loitering at night time, lot of traffic and the fear of vandalism or theft. The solution to this: a fence that both keeps the kids safe and those that have no business being there out. It's not about a locked space, just a clearly marked space and a space that looks used and part of the youth venue.

The group also wanted to make the outdoor area more colourful and fun - ideally with climbing frame, football pitch and other things that would take about 10 times the space available to us - so bringing things into the doable realm, they decided on planting flowers and vegetables, which will link in to cooking workshops and potentially getting an allotment at the nearby community allotments.

The mural will also contribute to making the outside look brighter, rather than a cement garden, and to shout out that this is a young people's place (and not a pub - the building used to be one and still looks a bit like one).

Next week, we'll have a planting day with the eco group from the local primary school. The following week, the new outdoor play space will be launched. It seems a long way to go still to get it finished but it can and will be done.

With the changes, hopefully there will be more children and young people using the youth cafe, and they will be able to spend more play time outdoors which is proven to have positive physical and mental health outcomes, and which also contributes to better concentration at school. Gardening is great for people of any age, and it'll give the young people using Fuse an opportunity to try their hands at some vegetable growing which they can then also use in their cookery workshops. Knowing where food comes from and how long a process food growing is will hopefully foster healthy eating habits without a raised finger.

And what's more, hopefully the change project may give some sort of inspiration that it is possible to transform a space locally on a relatively cheap budget by pulling together different people to make it happen.


Raised beds are not just for planting...

The compost has arrived. See the steam? It was rather smelly but that's a good thing, right?

Getting the compost into the raised beds

And at the end of today, that's what it looks like:

Jobs still to be done: paint the fence, paint the raised beds, varnish the paint, buy plants and plant raised beds, complete mural, launch the whole shebang with a Spring Fling. Time left: 14 days. Gulp.

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