Roots and Shoots

Volunteering day at Roots and Shoots; a haven for people and biodiversity

I first visited Roots and Shoots in the Autumn, as the walnuts dropped from a tree planted thirty-nine years earlier. In the post-industrial wasteland of Lambeth a plant riot of a community garden was carefully nurtured, greenhouses built, and an ethos of the regenerative power of nature grown.

I am mesmerised by how much productive greenery is fitted into the space, and by the beauty of the working environment. There is a centre for young adults with complex needs, and indoors-outdoors spaces for these students and local families to actively participate and learn skills. Trails lead to enticing vegetables, raised beds, architectural flowers, beehives, and wild rampant corners.

Roots and Shoots, is the work-place of Sarah, who came on a Ceres natural dye-print course laden with dye-bounty of surplus carrot tops, marigolds, and oak-galls. We discussed R&S and the community it represents, and I asked to spend a UAL charity volunteering day there. This September I was invited to do some natural dyeing with the younger children as part of a morning of drop-in family activities, followed by an afternoon art with the young adults.

The night before, I brewed up natural dye-inks from bio-waste and local ingredients; red cabbage, blackberry, red and yellow onion skins, and turmeric ends. Sarah added to this stash with dye made from coffee, and R&S red grapes and green walnuts. Modifiers to change and enhance the colours were made from iron-water, and food grade citric acid and baking powder.

The family activity was under the oak tree in the wild garden, an idyllic location, we set up tables and watched the rain not quite falling. Sun out, brushes dipped, the children enjoyed abstract and representative painting with the plant based colours.

After lunch I gathered inspirational materials for the students; an armful of trailing flowers, patterned leaves, and long stalky plants. The afternoon class had time to make dye-liquor from red cabbage, explore the decorations found in nature by painting with the botanical inks, and use the modifiers to transform colours.

I finished the day happy to have been a tiny part of a bigger vision. A swapping of colour, painting and pattern, for learning about Roots and Shoots traditions, rhythms of nature, and ways of doing.

Many thanks to the team at https://www.rootsandshoots.org.uk/

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