We recently visited Conquer Life in Bootle, to find out how Grow Wild funding has helped them to transform their new space. Here Sharon from the Vibe Project talks about their garden and the impact it has had for local families.
Vibe is a project hosting free activities for young people between the ages of eight to 18 and everything we do is free for every child. We run early intervention projects as well as outreach in parks and school playgrounds. We also run two weekly open access events at our venue, one for children aged eight to 12 and another for 12-to-18-year old’s.
Each term, we look at creative ways to get young people engaged. By doing this we learnt that local kids really wanted to do gardening. However, in our previous building, we didn't have the space to make that possible. When we saw the Grow Wild opportunity we thought, oh my goodness, this would be amazing.
The inspiration for the project with Grow Wild was our new building. The garden required a lot of work when we first moved in, and we were looking for support with this so we could start growing. We wanted to create an area that could support families with food, as well as with emotional support. When the kids saw the garden they wanted to help move all the stuff that had been dumped in the garden previously and get straight out there.
'We wanted to create an area that could support families with food, as well as with emotional support.'
The garden at Conquer Life before starting the transformation project
The initial focus of the project was clearing, the garden was filled with waste from years of fly tipping. We're not gardeners and didn’t really understand what we needed in the space, so many of our early plans for the garden changed. When the kids came to the garden, they would play, paint plant pots and they had ideas about how they wanted things to look. Because they didn’t fully understand the growing aspects of the project the visual aspects of creating the area were very important to them. Initially we looked at the project as something to educate young people, but what really changed for our team was our understanding of the impact the garden has had on the wider community.
'Initially we looked at the project as something to educate young people, but what really changed for our team was our understanding of the impact the garden has had on the wider community '
Grow Wild funding has enabled us to begin creating a fantastic space for families and young people. Starting our garden has allowed us to grow plants, educate and bring people together. Most of the people who attended our projects didn't have a garden, some of them had never eaten lettuce. Our tiny garden, just the beginning of our community growing opportunity, is huge. You don't realise at the time but when you take a step back you can see it’s the beginning of something for the kids. During the process of this project, we’ve been able to engage families who have English as an additional language, supporting their integration into the community, and helping their children to access more services. It's also inspired me to build an early intervention project around foods.
2 young people at Conquer Life raking in the garden
The next step is to review the planting advice from Grow Wild and complete our wildflower garden. Before accessing the resources, I wanted the area to look pretty, and it can, but what’s important to me now is understanding what the plants do and how they impact biodiversity in the garden. Everybody we work with has gone into the garden at some point, whether that be staff, parents, or other children.
'Before accessing the resources, I wanted the area to look pretty, and it can, but what’s important to me now is understanding what the plants do and how they impact biodiversity in the garden.'
This building was derelict for a long time, it's been nice that some of the neighbours have asked if we needed anything, some have donated items but mostly people have been interested in giving their time.
In the garden we are looking to plant borders of UK native wildflowers. We don’t know how we're going to do that specifically yet, but we will once we finish watching the training videos. The Grow Wild supporting resources have been great, the information we received was fantastic, consistent, and really supportive. It's probably one of the best funders we've had in relation to support.
'the information we received was fantastic, consistent, and really supportive. It's probably one of the best funders we've had in relation to support.'
The transformed planters in the Conquer Life garden
The biggest changes we’ve seen to the biodiversity of the space is an increase in insects. We also had a robin come in and sit next to us in the garden when we were clearing rubbish. There were all kinds of insects and worms he could eat. When we removed items, we came across a bee’s nest. It wasn’t causing any damage, so we thought it beneficial to leave it in the garden.
When we were planting the kids were sometimes able to take produce home. This meant they were able to see things growing and they would often bring the harvest back in a sandwich. It was the biggest thing for me, the children seeing they could grow something and eat it. Everybody wanted something they had planted, to show their parents. I'm hoping that our work will influence someone to start growing themselves, look at food differently, look at where they live, see they can make something beautiful, change it and care for it. Planting one little thing can have a massive impact on our community and the way that they live.
'Planting one little thing can have a massive impact on our community and the way that they live.'
The lettuce is nothing, but the lettuce is everything isn't it?
The transformed garden at Conquer Life
Grow Wild Community Grants
The project with Conquer Life was one of seven projects supported by a Grow Wild Community Grant in 2022. If you're interested in applying for a grant or finding out more about the other groups funded, explore the resources below.