A little patch of ground

Community project combines food growing with creative arts to inspire connection with nature

A community project linking two groups of people, one in a rural and one in an urban area, is helping people to explore their relationships with the natural world through food growing and creativity.

Since May, the A Little Patch of Ground project has seen 25 local people from the South Devon area meet each week at Dartington Hall, while 25 local people from East London meet at Artsadmin’s Toynbee Studios.

Each group, which is culturally diverse and includes people between the ages of 5 and 87, has been coming together to create permaculture inspired vegetable garden and take part in creative activities.

Through creative writing, storytelling, photography and drama, the participants explore the relationships they have with where they live and the wider natural world around them. At the same time, the project gives people the opportunity to eat together and share thoughts on food, climate change, sustainability and interdependence.

The scheme is culminating with multimedia performances and exhibitions in October, which will take place in each of the two locations and will also tour within the local areas. The performances will enable the groups to share their experiences, stories, and ideas with the wider public.

Each group meets independently in their respective localities. However, they have been sharing their contrasting urban and rural experiences with each other throughout the process and will take trips to see each other’s ‘little patches of ground’ at the end of the project. For some, especially the children involved, it will be the first time they have left their own rural or urban setting.

“I came to meet people and grow a sense of community, and I seem to be doing that,” says David (63), one of the participants, while Jenny (7) says she took part to “grow and learn how to make the biggest carrots.”

Having previously taken place in Liverpool and Doncaster, A Little Patch of Ground is now in its third year. It was created by Encounters, an organisation delivering creative projects, workshops and events that inspire creativity, dialogue and exchange between people of all ages and cultures. They seek to reconnect people to their own instinctive and imaginative power to shift how they see the world and their place within it.

Encounters creative director, Ruth Ben-Tovim, and associate artist Anne-Marie Culhane, say they developed the project with a desire to “respond creatively to the challenges of climate change and to develop new ways for communities to live that are interconnected and sustainable.”

The vegetable gardens are created according to permaculture principles and this is embedded throughout the project, which also draws on the work of eco-philosopher Joanna Macy.

Encounters are running the initiative in collaboration with Artsadmin and the Dartington Hall Trust and is supported by the Arts Council of England, Transition Town Network and the Permaculture Association.

“A Little Patch of Ground is an example of art and sustainability combined with social justice, which is an exemplar project for Dartington,” says Dartington Hall Trust.


A Little Patch of Ground performances take place at Dartington Space, Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon, on Fri 7, Sat 8, Tues 11 October. To book phone: 01803 847070