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INSPIRED Blog Series: The May Project

Posted on 6 May 2021

Written by:

Deborah Ajia

We dive once again into another Inspired series post! The series was conceived to help share stories of projects that are championing and enabling civic leadership and cross-sector collaboration in relation to shaping buildings, open spaces, homes or neighbourhoods. 

Green and open spaces have become a haven for most of us over this strange period. Allotments have seen record numbers of applications and parks have been used for exercise, mindfulness and socially distanced celebrations. But what if you don’t have a garden or hyper-local green space? The May Project is an award-winning, London-based grassroots organisation, whose goal is to empower marginalised groups to address poverty, disempowerment and access to resources and influence.

The birth of the organisation is quite a harsh one; when co-founder Ian Solomon-Kawall lost his mother, who he’d cared for his whole life, he wanted to create a legacy for her. In 2007, he found solace and healing by transforming his late mother’s council house garden into a community space.

This initial act of transforming a garden is a catalytic example of how social change can happen at a micro-level. It also shows how people can band together, with limited resources but lots of tenacity to create a site which the community can use to share knowledge, grow food, and to ignite creativity and togetherness.

Their ongoing projects include Permaculture Garden. Permaculture is an approach to land management and philosophy that adopts arrangements observed in flourishing natural ecosystems. Their garden has growing beds, a water butt system, compost toilet, cob oven, insulated treehouse, forest garden, ponds, an orchard and eco-built outdoor classroom, which is very impressive! I follow quite a few London based community gardens, but very few of them feature such a varied number of areas and assets.

The Hip Hop Garden Programme also helps and engages urban youth in a curriculum that is inspired and led by nature through hip hop culture. The programme is made up of 5 AQA accredited modules; Wellbeing, Food, Hip Hop, Employment & Entrepreneurship and Event Management.

The May Project also celebrates environmentalism and social change through events and media. Their Come We Grow events series showcases acclaimed musicians, DJs, artists and activists coming together to spread awareness of the movement. Co-Director Mona Bani heads Untelevised TV, May Project’s media platform, as well as Come We Grow radio and The Untelevised:The Podcast

“MPG supports the marginalised, the minimised, the left-out, the forgotten and encourages dreams, big dreams, teaching perma-culture through the creativity of hip-hop. Their work is so important! ”

– Beverley, Local Resident

“ In the midst of anger in the UK and rejection of asylum seekers and refugees, it’s good to know there’s someone offering support.”

– Refugee support worker

“ MPG allows me to experience anarchy and community compassion in action. It is very inspiring! ”

– Garden Volunteer

Overall, the ethos of the group is to help marginalised groups, including people from different backgrounds and ethnicities (such as migrants), while using various methodologies and media, which helps to  awaken change and drive empowerment through the teaching of key skills and immersing members in nature. 

Micro spaces and innovations can have a big impact on a local level. The May Project plants seeds of change by providing practical, affordable, and collective solutions to inspire local people to live sustainably, while also challenging power structures that don’t serve their interests.

Fostering togetherness while using connective tools such as nature, food.the arts and especially music can lead to personal change and thus, in time, collective social change. Ultimately, the project’s way of bringing people together through the power of the earth and the miracle of growth and yield has inspired me to connect with my local community while sharing what I’ve learned about growing food, tending to soil and creating the right environment for wildflowers.

If you’d like to get involved with or donate to The May Project please click here.

You can also check them out on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.