Ilkeston grows a healthy attitude to good food with Eat The Streets

Eat the Streets.    'Pupils from the Granby Junior School, from left, Natalya Park, Ashleigh Spencer, Harriet Lee, Kelsey Smith and Ethan Marle show off the produce on sale from their Eat the Streets project, also pictured is Susan Smith the Director of Wash Arts who organised the event.
Eat the Streets. 'Pupils from the Granby Junior School, from left, Natalya Park, Ashleigh Spencer, Harriet Lee, Kelsey Smith and Ethan Marle show off the produce on sale from their Eat the Streets project, also pictured is Susan Smith the Director of Wash Arts who organised the event.

Imagine if you could just wander into a garden and pick fruit and vegetables to take home for free.

That’s exactly the idea behind Eat The Streets, a project by Ilkeston based Wash Arts.

Eat the Streets.            'Ashley Broadbent, from the Granby Junior School, checks out the progress of their school yard vegetable plot.

Eat the Streets. 'Ashley Broadbent, from the Granby Junior School, checks out the progress of their school yard vegetable plot.

Eat The Streets now has a number of locations in the town, all aimed at encouraging growing and sharing food.

An event on Friday celebrated the first stage of Eat the Streets urban food growing project.

Susan Smith, director of Wash Arts, said: “We have been working with residents of all ages to create edible gardens in public spaces in Ilkeston.

“We are also celebrating being awarded further funding to continue the project through to September 2016 which local residents can get involved in. We are kind of at the beginning stage at the moment. We had £6,000 of funding initially.”

Eat the Streets. 'Amelia Smith helps to harvest the cooking apples.

Eat the Streets. 'Amelia Smith helps to harvest the cooking apples.

Susan, who has trained in horticulture, set Wash Arts up after being forced to leave her job due to illness. She said: “I became ill with Crohn’s Disease when I was working as a teacher at a college and had to give up work. I had done some volunteer work in Derby and realised it was something there was potential for here so I set it up.

“We have been through some interesting times but we are happy with it at the moment. It’s a struggle at times but we do it because we want to do it.”

The scheme was started last winter and now they have funding - including £10,000 from Public Health England - to keep going until 2017. They have a vegetable patch on Bosewell Road which the public can use, and another across the road at the Arena Allotment, which grows food for the Arena Church, as well as one at Granby Junior School.

Susan’s colleague, Stella Couloutbanis, said: “I think a lot of towns need something like this. Some children don’t even know what tomatoes are. It’s about telling people you can eat healthy and can grow vegetables in a small space, not just an allotment.

Eat the Streets.'Matilda Jackson-Walters and Millie Tuckwood have a go at keeping the vegetable patch weed free when they visited the Eat the Streets event in Ilkeston on Friday.

Eat the Streets.'Matilda Jackson-Walters and Millie Tuckwood have a go at keeping the vegetable patch weed free when they visited the Eat the Streets event in Ilkeston on Friday.

“I think the 21st century has become quite selfish, it’s about doing something where you get something in return and getting a good feeling at the end of it. There is too much technology around but these kind of projects get people talking to each other.

“I think it’s a real haven for Ilkeston to have.”

The inspirations for Eat the Streets came from a scheme in Todmorden called Incredible Edible. A number of schools are now involved in the scheme as well as Bloomsgrove Day Centre and the Arena Church.

Sue added: “We have some permanent planting and annual planting in process. We are looking at other locations and working with other schools, encouraging them and then leaving them to carry on the garden.

“The whole idea is to encourage people to eat and grow their own vegetables, get out and do some exercise. The whole area looks amazing.”

Heanor Road resident, Rex Topliss, who attended the garden party, said: “There’s room for things like this in Ilkeston thanks to clever folks like Sue.”

Eat the Streets is funded by Derbyshire County Council Public Health. It is supported by Erewash Local Area Committee, Erewash Local Strategic Partnership and many community partners.

Volunteers that can ‘muck in’ are now needed.