I hope it will be useful as an update and record of progress and process of activities as well as chance identify future challenges and prioritise targets.
I first visited the roof and formed the idea to build a garden in early Spring 2002, while running a gardening club with teachers Cynthia Tompkins and Naz Dagli. I approached Mitch Karunaratna, the then acting head in June 2002. At the same time Anne Doorman and I were negotiating with nursery staff to plant functional edible plants in front of the nursery and build a kitchen garden, rather than bland low maintenance prickly shrubbery.
While all this was going on I was involved in setting up a not- for- profit group, London Community herbalists (www.lcherbalists.co.uk). Our mission was to make herbal medicine accessible within our communities. This group, soon to become an Industrial and Provident Society, was the platform from which we were able to seek funding for the roof garden project.
In February 2003 we set about drawing and building designs for the roof. Ms. Dulay, then Head teacher moved the project on by promising to release money that encouraged us to employ the structural engineers. The first funding application to 'Awards for all' was completed with help from professional fundraiser Ian Mowl, in June 2003. During summer and autumn of that year Linda Bush a North Harringay parent joined London Community Herbalists and diligently submitted successful funding applications to the Scarman trust, Bridge house and the Community fund. From the beginning our funding remit was to build a project that was based on sustainability and community inclusion. Our aim was not just to build a roof garden but also to create a space that involved and celebrated the diverse communities of Haringey. We dreamt of an international roof garden featuring plants that were food and medicine from around the world.
We will need to bring in more money to fund development worker time after March as well as construction aspects of the roof.
The latest donation of two and a half thousand pounds was made so we can buy a specialist path product. The path will be wheel chair accessible, made from recycled wood and plastic and is guaranteed for forty years. Karen Demeza made the donation from a small amount of money left by her late husband Paddy Sheehy. Paddy was an active member of the P.S A. at North Haringey. He worked hard and with some success to build a P.S.A. that represented the diverse communities of Haringey. He was someone who believed passionately in inclusion and community involvement and Karen and her two daughters, both ex pupils, thought that helping us buy this suitable path would be an appropriate memorial to him.
help from the Children's fund, the kitchen garden has been built to
include a backdrop of perennials and a working area for a turnover
of annual plants. The theme of herbal planting has extended to the
rest of the infant reception area green spaces.
Sometimes classes have visited the garden in order to amplify various aspects of their curriculum learning.
Stella Cavanaugh was very supportive and helped bring in initial funding to get the garden going and it was a delight to work with enthusiastic children to prepare the garden for her leaving party.
We have begun to advertise and recruit grandparents to help maintain the garden. For the last month or so grandmother Anne Gilman and I have spent delightful Tuesday mornings pottering, weeding and harvesting vegetables and herbs for medicines. This grandparents' gardening club needs to be consolidated if the garden is to be maintained and kept tidy in the long term. We also need to co-ordinate a strategy for how children get the most from the garden in the future.
Practically there needs to be an outdoor tap so younger children can take part in a watering rota - they were all very keen last year. It would make sense to have water buts to harvest water from the roof. Also it would be good to have a small budget to buy some bulbs to put in now ready to come up in spring.
of roof Garden
It would have made sense to have all our building materials all lined up and ready to bring up onto the roof when the mechanical hoist was there to remove the asbestos tiles. However, this luxury was not available to us, and our building materials often have had to be begged, borrowed and stolen as the opportunity arises Through design principal and financial necessity (and I no longer remember which came first) the decision has evolved that the hard landscaping would be completed using recycled materials and different sustainable building technologies. This has brought a whole dimension to the project that introduces the children to environmental architecture choices such as whether a wall is earthquake proof, or gives off a high or low carbon emission in it's construction.
The main area that is not occurring according to schedule in relation to the building process is the renewable energy side of things. We would love to build some kind of wind pump to pump harvested rainwater onto the roof to water the garden. So far, for various reasons this aspect of the project has not been developed. If anyone has a particular interest or expertise in this area then please let me know.
Working with children
The children have been involved in the roof garden build from the out set. Initially, before any funding had been secured they were encouraged to submit designs and ideas. Some excellent submissions were rewarded with prizes donated by the alternative technology centre.
Later many children visited the infant parent's room to contribute ideas during design the roof garden week.
Then we came to make the fence. John Grace, our fence contractor spent a lot of time considering the children's own designs during the conception of the fence.
was the fever pitch exciting day when the year threes painted flowers
and all children and a couple of teachers created wonderful models
out of wax -including the now famous napalm death snowman. After much
discussion we decided to cast all the children's models on the strength
that no one would take responsibility for the artistic decision of
which ones to exclude! Thanks to money from Tottenham Grammar school
fund we were able to do this. Essex Castings did a wonderful labour
of love job turning the models into aluminium castings that I know
often involved welding back on arms and legs beyond the call of duty.
Casting all the models may have been a slightly sentimental decision
but I have noticed that children always immediately ask 'where's mine?'
when presented with the models, so I think it was worth it.
Different moments children have also helped with things like translation and staffing a display table on international day.
I have already mentioned that many children worked hard in the infant kitchen garden. The most satisfying moments for me have been the luxury of working with small groups of children over time. Sometimes there has been the opportunity to engage very bright children in stretching conversations about pollination and wider horticultural subjects. Sometime the intimate sharing work activity allows others space to muse and chat about home and school. Occasionally it has been a chance for children who are struggling with English to involve themselves in lessons. Or tell me stories about somewhere that they once lived that seems very different from London. And then there was the little boy who went from disruptive ladybird squasher to responsible and helpful head of pest control!
Most recent and very enjoyable work for me has been working with the year sixes on anti-biotics and anti-biotic resistance. This relates to my remit for delivering the roof garden project in the sense of engaging the children in considering and taking responsibility for their health. Both year six classes were bright, enthusiastic and inspiring to work with. They each presented a different delightful sharing assembly to the rest of the school and to parents. Six P's presentation focussed on the discovery of anti-biotics this century and the growth of anti-biotic resistance. It included the improvised classic line from a young actor as Alexander Fleming returning from his holidays: "oh no, I've left my Petri-dish out of the fridge, my experiment's ruined -it's gone all mouldy!" and the actual sombre words of the current Director General of the World Health Organisation, warning against the growth of anti-biotics resistance "Our grandparents didn't have anti-biotics. Our Grandchildren may not. Time is running out". Six D took the longer view of this history of anti-microbials and presented examples from ancient Egypt, the New Testament, folklore and the bubonic plague in Europe. I hope that the work we have done will inspire them to take an interest in the medicinal plants that we grow in the nursery garden and on the roof.
After each assembly parents were given leaflets on appropriate use of anti-biotics and invited to stay and discuss strategies against infection and discuss the potential use of kitchen remedies in combating viruses. Few parents were able to do so, but I hope this is a subject we can return to in the future. Perhaps when we actually start introducing plants.
We are still attempting to clarify insurance and liability issues so children have not been allowed on the roof while it is in such a building work is in progress. However visiting specialists who have been helping with the wildlife bed and the recycled material hard landscaping work gave short talks to year 4 classes on their respective areas of interest.
As we have made one of the beds out of recycled bottles and may make another out of recycled cans, it would be good to take some children on a trip to visit the local recycling centre.
In the medium term I would like to involve the children in a national project of collecting remembered plant remedies that is happening in conjunction with Kew Gardens and the natural History museum. This is another area where children would be involved by involving their families.
As a postscript to this section I would like to mention that we have also been working with a young woman who, for her own reasons feels unable to attend her secondary school at the moment. She is helping with aspects of the project and plans to work with her Inclusion Officer and the home tutoring team to develop these into presentations for her ASDAN award. This is a qualification equivalent to a GCSE. I hope this proves to be a positive experience for her. It is fantastic for us as she is making a genuinely practical contribution to the roof garden. It also demonstrates that this kind of project may feature 'Inclusion' on several different levels.
It is perhaps the area where activity has most been displaced through focus on issues of construction, of health and safety, of finance and funding, accountability and liability, partnership and management.
To say that this area has been neglected is not true, nor is it right to say that it has not been successful; in many ways it has. However we can definitely say that it has not been enough.
To date parents have been involved in the design process and some were involved practically in helping make the wax models.
Letters have been translated and sent out inviting parents to contribute skills to the project on different occasions. An e-mail list has been set up, and some correspondence has been sent through this. London community herbalists have a website includes pages on the roof garden website.
In March this year parents were invited to a garden committee meeting. Parents attending an evening meeting engaged in an astute and helpful discussion around management, accountability and support of the roof garden project co-ordinator. The meeting suggested that in the early stages of the project, it would make sense for the project worker to be supported and directed by a garden committee from London Community Herbalists. But that it should be the remit of the project worker to work towards setting up a garden committee consisting of parents and people connected with the school to be in place towards the end of the project delivery time.
Over the last few weeks several parents have consistently been involved in the construction process. Many more have loyally ferried shopping bags of bricks up the six flights of stairs. And two weeks ago I was rewarded with the memorable sight of Dads in hard hats supervising the more sophisticated winching up the side of the building, method of transporting bricks and cement.
workshops using the nursery garden to harvest and explore medicinal
uses of plants were planned but poorly attended. This was partly due
to timing and many parents have expressed and interest for future
events. But it is also an issue of reaching people. The workshops
were advertised with translated fliers going out by hand and in book
bags. I have talked to many different parents who expressed an interest
after and before the event. Yet over two mornings only two parents
The new fortnightly newsletter will be a good way of communicating
Liability, Accountability and such
Sometimes the lack of clarity of management and accountability is just the nature of the institutions and organisations involved. The question arises who is ultimately responsible for the project. We are enhancing the capital assets and prestige of Haringey council and might hope to have their co-operation and support. And in fact we have it in the sense of the match funding. Over and above this I continue to hope to identify key individuals who may share their expertise from time to time. This has happened in some areas and not in others.
Sometimes tasks have taken longer than they might otherwise of done, due to working in unfamiliar area - e.g. risk assessment ands health and safety reports. As a herbalist my craft and profession is entirely focussed around health, and my work has taken me to some dangerous situations across the world. However I have to say it really did take a while to get to grips with this area. Mainly in putting off time. Having said that, we have had good support from Marc Brocklehurst, Haringey's health and safety officer. I am satisfied with the health and safety policy one of our group has written and I think the risk assessment forms we have produced are very good. Particularly as they unpack the technical language and systems sometimes associated with these forms and attempt to show that health and safety is about applying common sense. This point is important in relation to a project that is attempting to empower and involve people at a community level.
Talking of empowering and working at a community level, I think it is important to flag up the lesson of the structural engineer's report at this point. It should be noted that while various people have asked if we have had one done, no- one has asked to see it and read it. And if they had done I think there is a good chance we would have passed it on with relief; the authority/expert concerned would have glanced through it and found it satisfactory - and the miscalculation regarding the span of the roof would never had been spotted. This only came to light because Linda Bush and I studied it with nervous amateur meticulous attention to detail .My point is not that I think no one in the council need take responsibility for their buildings. But that being circumspect with filtering information through the appropriate channels is important in terms of fulfilling our obligations to accountability, but may not be enough in terms of fulfilling our obligation to children and parents for the actual safety of the project. We can seek advice and support from experts but I guess responsibility ultimately lies with leadership within the school.
issues for the project can loosely be divided into structural and
The second area is personal safety in relation to people on the roof. We have already done some work with risk assessments for working with volunteers. They are currently covered under school public liability insurance. For this cover to be in place it is necessary that volunteers or workers are invited onto the site by the school, and somebody takes responsibility for giving permission. During the summer holidays Linda Bush who is a parent governor and Chair of Buildings committee took responsibility for this.
London Community Herbalists have been attempting to obtain their own public liability Insurance. We have detail of cover similar to that used by BTCV who employ volunteers in various construction projects. However we have been reluctant to buy it without seeing the detail of the education authority policy because it seems pointless to duplicate current cover without knowing if we are also duplicating the gaps.
Secondly we need to be clear about liability in relation to children. And we need to devise our own protocol for working on the roof that satisfies our own standards over and above demands of liability. We also need to satisfy parents.
this end I suggest we do the following:
Seek funding for capital costs for the water feature and the outdoor
Realistic targets or far-fetched wish list - well this depends on people coming forward. Is there an area that interests you?
All of these things are achievable but time flashes past so quickly and before you know time has past and things get missed out. Often this is fine and a reflection of the natural organic process. Occasionally there is regret. I only have one so far and that is to do with the lack of recording the process from the beginning. We did have an independent film company interested in filming the project early on and they do have some early footage. For various reasons -partly ever moving deadlines and poor communication on our part -their initial interest has not been followed through. Many beautiful images -pink and orange November sunsets over the London skyline; Dads in yellow hard hats supervising our makeshift pulley; new Head Teacher Michael Akindele mixing cement; Mums with shopping bags full of bricks huffing and puffing up six flights of stairs; delicious picnic lunches from Green Lanes laid out on a table among the tools and tyres - exist only in our memories. They would have made great film! Having said that Aoife Sheehy has recently joined the project as our archivist and has taken some really wonderful photographs.
It is my pleasure to thank many people. I will make it my business to make sure that on the web -site our full process is explained and that it is made clear just who's input into the project has made the whole thing possible. For now this is an arbitrary (and in no particular order) role call of people who haven't been mentioned by name in the report so far as well as a general thanks to everybody, named or otherwise, for their support.
I would have also been very stuck without the help of Clive Leach who has begun to take on more and more responsibility on the construction side of things as well making invaluable contributions to our health and safety process.
From very early on in the project Nick Ridout from Alumasc Exteriors, our green roof specialists, was been brilliant. He has never not returned a phone call and has consistently offered consultation and advice beyond the call of duty.
Shwetal Patel was the person in Haringey education department who trusted our vision enough to promise match funding from the Seed Challenge
Jeffery Smith Associates, our structural engineers, showed genuine interest for the wider aims of the project from the beginning. Their advice as expert individuals as well as professional specialists enabled the project to move from an idea to a real possibility.
Also school amalgamation build architects, Hazel, McCormack and Young, have brought expert advice as well as support and enthusiasm to the project.
Jason Hawkes, who many of you will know as Mr. Hawkes, the classroom assistant, who actually has a secret life as an Environmental Architect was so important for stretching the horizons of what could actually practically be achieved, during the design process.
Mark Brownless our traditional green wood craftsman is a calming and knowledgeable joy to work with.
Larsen and Matt Bulba from the earthship project in Stanmore Park
Brighton have brought technical expertise to our building process
and inspiration and vision in relation to the bigger picture.
Several staff who have welcomed me into their classrooms. Ms. Dagli, and Ms Popham allowed me to work with their children over several weeks, which was a great experience for me.
Thank you to Bridget King who laminates things at the drop of a hat and has been consistently lovely and efficient.
Matt Burge school site manager has been sympathetic and supportive of the project from the outset and has been flexible and strict with me in entirely appropriate measures.
And of course many parents, too many to name. have shown encouragement and support, morale and practical. Thank you so much to them.
And most of all thank you to the pupils of North Harringay. Every time I come into school countless smiling hopeful faces stop me to plead 'When can we go up on to the roof?' Our children's enthusiasm has kept the momentum of the project going more than anything.
The task ahead is enormous. So are the possibilities.
anyone has feedback, ideas, comments -positive or otherwise - in
I am looking forward to working with you all in the New Year!
Ronaldson, Roof Garden Project Co-ordinator