How has your own experience shaped the projects you’re involved in? There are four main aspects that I’ve focussed on over the last 15 years: MENTAL HEALTH: The majority of my youth I cared for my Mum who suffered from a multitude of illnesses, including bipolar. She passed away in 2005. Sixteen years later I’m still working on my personal healing with counselling, martial arts and meditation. EDUCATION: In 2017, I discovered that I’m dyslexic. My test results were in the 90% range. I went through all my schooling and work life without a diagnosis. I have just secured a professional admin / PA to alleviate this burden. HOUSING: My home is the hub and base for all the projects; it carries a lot of responsibility. Grant funding isn’t an option for me, so I have created a methodology that places people care at the centre of a living economy. EMPLOYABILITY: I’ve applied for about eight jobs in the last three years, the latest being Head of Activism for Eco Talent at an organisation called Feedback. Despite navigating my way into some consultancy work for the same company, I was not even shortlisted for this role. As a consultant, compared to my counterparts, I’m not paid the full rate of other consultants. I would like to have the space to invest more resources developing a Consultancy and Training course, which increases racial justice and awareness in organisations, so that others in my community and beyond are given equal opportunities.
Ian co-founded May Project gardens to create a safe space for those on the margins of society to learn about food growing and nature connection
Can you tell us about your grassroots ecosystem? I’m one example offering an alternative vision to ‘Build Back Greener’.† Over 15 years I’ve demonstrated this locally in Morden, London, by creating a Grassroots Community Ecosystem, consisting of: •
May Project Gardens MPG (Community Hub) •
Hip-Hop Garden (Transformative Youth Program) •
Come We Grow (Outreach and Fundraising Event) •
KMT Freedom Teacher (Eco Artist for Social Change), www.3kmt.co.uk •
Bee Rooted Consultancy (Environmental and Biodiversity Inclusion Trainer and Consultant) Although COVID-19 disproportionally affects the most vulnerable in society, like me, it has allowed me time to reflect and bring into focus the important aspects of my work.
Please tell us about May Project Gardens (MPG), which we featured in PM93 MPG was established in 2006 from the derelict garden of my mother’s council house. I wanted to create a legacy for her with a community space, open to the public. For nine years it was self-funded through working several part-time and freelance jobs. It is a safe space, a brave space, and is open to the public 2-3 days a week. The project allows people to connect, learn about food growing and permaculture.
The garden itself was designed using permaculture by co-founder Randi Mayers. He is a Jedi of permaculture with a particular focus on Earth Care and when he departed to start his own family, I had no idea how I was going to maintain and manage what he had created.
I spent the first year observing and living in the garden, which enabled me to understand its seasons, microclimates and how it changes throughout each day. This gave me a fundamental understanding before implementing my own design elements.
Although I’ve made numerous mistakes within the garden (see panel) and the project itself, they have been my greatest teacher, transforming myself and how I look at the world. Working for the community Half of England is owned by 25,000 landowners, so it was important for me to provide a space for the landless. The open days are for anyone to come to learn about food growing and permaculture in an experiential and participatory wa y. The garden gives examples of simple methods that others can adopt, such as rainwater harvesting systems, a compost toilet, herb spiral and urban forest garden, ponds and a mini orchard. A straw bale outdoor classroom provides a yearround space for the Hip-Hop Garden programme, which I set up to support young black men (but not exclusively) who are struggling to find work.