Help us publish the story of the ‘Incredible Edible’ revolution

November 30, 2013 by
Filed under: Fellowship 

In a Guest Post, RSA Fellow Julian Dobson explains why he’s running an  RSA crowdfunding campaign to tell the Incredible Edible story…

ScreenshotAt the end of September Matthew Taylor wrote about a ‘revolutionary day’ for the RSA. He was talking not of one of the many exciting projects to emanate from John Adam Street but of the enthusiasm and passion for change of ordinary RSA Fellows.

He wrote that article the day after speaking at the gathering of Yorkshire RSA Fellows in Todmorden, birthplace of the now world-renowned Incredible Edible movement and a far cry from the grim industrial relic once described by the poet Ted Hughes in Remains of Elmet.

Incredible Edible has gone from strength to strength in the last six years, and now is the time to tell its story in a way that will inform, entertain, and most importantly help others. Many have been inspired by visiting Todmorden, listening to co-founder Pam Warhurst’s TED talk or hearing from the many other passionate Incredible Edible advocates and activists. So an Incredible Edible book is an obvious next step.

Incredible Edible has gone from strength to strength in the last six years, and now is the time to tell its story in a way that will inform, entertain, and most importantly help others

The story is told by Pam, chair of the Yorkshire and Humber region, with writer Joanna Dobson. Its aim is to share the learning from Incredible Edible Todmorden’s six years of ups and downs and inspire a new wave of changemakers – and to show that there’s much more to the Incredible Edible story than turnips and beetroot.

Incredible Edible is not just another community growing scheme. It’s serious about rethinking the local economy in the face of climate change. But it recognises that economies start with people.

It’s has come a long way since Pam Warhurst came back from a conference inspired to take action in her community; since community worker Mary Clear dug up her rose garden and planted vegetables with a big sign saying ‘help yourself’; and since ‘propaganda planter’ Nick Green turned the derelict medical centre where mass murderer Harold Shipman used to practice into a free feast for passers-by.

Today there are more than 50 Incredible Edible groups around the UK, linked under the auspices of the community network Locality. In France more than 300 groups have sprouted up, loosely connected via social media; and there are many more worldwide, from Montreal to Mali.

More importantly, the Incredible Edible ethos is filtering into the thinking of many other organisations. Urban designers are looking at how they can rethink towns with edible plantings. Schools and colleges are putting growing and horticulture into their curricula. Universities like Leeds and Leeds Met are creating edible campuses. In Lambeth there’s an Edible Bus Stop.

What’s happening in Todmorden provides clues about how to rethink places and communities in a harsh economic age. The work of organisations like the Trussell Trust with its network of food banks has demonstrated the need to take immediate action to help the rapidly rising number of people in the UK who are going hungry because benefits are delayed, a crisis such as sickness has struck, or because low wages are simply not enough to pay the bills and feed the family.

In such circumstances actions that empower people to take control of their food, that most basic of human needs and foundation of trade and exchange, become essential – not just a nice thing for nice people to do to make their towns look nicer.

What Incredible Edible Todmorden and its many offshoots are finding is that people can take action where they live to reconnect neighbours through conversations about food; they can rethink learning and teach their children skills and knowledge that have been lost in a supermarket culture; and that from that they can provide new opportunities for businesses.

What started with slightly anarchic plantings in public places is actually a model that can begin to reconnect communities and local economies. People are thinking differently about the town as a whole too, with an edible Green Route that connects the health centre, theatre, market, station and canal towpath, bringing a sense of unity to the town and creating important habitats for pollinating insects.

Our crowdfunding campaign fits in with the Incredible Edible ‘just do it’ spirit. Hosted on the RSA crowdfunding area, you can pre-order copies of the book or pledge as little as £1 as a gesture of support. If we don’t hit our funding target, nobody pays a penny. Time is of the essence and the campaign ends at 7am on 12 December, so if you’d like to support it, please join us. As they say in Todmorden, if you eat, you’re in.


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  • julian dobson

    If you’ve been following the crowdfunding campaign, you might like to know that with 2 days to go it’s within a whisker of its target – so thank you to all who’ve supported, tweeted or shared on Facebook and elsewhere!