BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

Friday, 28 September 2012

Final Major Project: Identifying the "question"

Through research I am looking to set up the "through question" in order to tie up the story. I will be putting questions to our newest contributor, Dr. Richard Wiltshire:
Research Interests urban horticulture labour mobility in large organisations employer provided housing Japanese economy and environment Biography Richard Wiltshire obtained a BSc from King’s College London before completing an MA at York University (Toronto) and a PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He taught at the University of Washington and Tohoku University (Japan) before joining the Geography Department at SOAS, which merged with the King’s Department in 2001. A Japan specialist, working on urban and environmental issues, he is also internationally known for research and advocacy on community gardening. Looking for the “through question” • There is a current demand with spare land in short supply, growing waiting lists and limited funding. • Estimates of waiting lists exceeding 100,000 are widely reported • In most areas, waiting lists have not been a focus of concern since the oil crisis temporarily boosted demand in the 1970s. • “The need for allotments, community gardens and urban farms is likely to rise with the growth of interest in organic farming and as a result of rising housing densities and the consequential reduction in the size of many gardens. The number of allotments required in any area is a function of demand and therefore it will be appropriate to use a demand-led methodology, based on local authority records. It is obviously desirable for local authorities not only to provide and rent allotments, but also to keep a waiting list as this helps to identify the level of unmet demand and its spatial distribution. Accordingly there is likely to be a need for a population-based provision standard, coupled with an accessibility standard or distance threshold.” • Solutions can be found in “cross-boundary” working: “The London Borough of Camden, for example, has been able to bring some relief to applicants who might otherwise wait several years for a plot by encouraging them to apply for plots in Barnet, Haringey and Brent, with the active support of the allotment officers and managers of devolved sites in both boroughs.” • The sign of a successful allotment is being oversubscribed eg: Thurrock - only seven of the 30 allotment plots were occupied. Now all the plots have been taken and there is a waiting list. Bury - In just two years the site has been transformed: all plots have been filled and the waiting list has grown to over 60. Some plots have been split in half to make it easier for plotholders to keep them well cultivated. • Some blame recent media attention which can sometimes create unrealistic expectations about the time and effort required to keep a plot in good condition. • Examples of a typical waiting list are starting to be published online. E.G Prior Street Gardens (Greenwich) has a waiting time of 14 years. • The only realistic hope for aspiring growers in the short term lies with alternative gardening projects. These are currently attracting a great deal of popular attention. The Womens’ Environmental Network ( has for years supported food growing within areas of social housing in London’s East End. The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens ( provides similar support to urban farms and gardens throughout Great Britain. The Capital Growth project ( aims to create 2012 new growing spaces in time for the London Olympics, and the Landshare project (http://landshare.channel4. com/), a national initiative to match aspiring growers with landowners, has already attracted many thousands of inquiries.

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