Rainbow Grow is a Hackney-based, LGBTQI+ led community gardening initiative. We are open to all those who support our aim of providing a friendly space for members of the LGBTQI+ community to grow and learn to grow edible plants in an urban environment. We meet regularly throughout the year.
We are a friendly, inter generational mixed group who grow edible plants, provide gardening support within the group and to others, host social events, arrange gardening-related outings, and at times cook & eat together. We are interested in skill sharing with other groups and individuals. This includes leading foraging walks, cooking healthy meals with what is grown, and making jam and preserves.
We have a special interest in growing differently coloured vegetables and those considered heirloom or heritage. We indulge in gardening all year ‘round.
Rainbow Grow has been gardening together since April 2017. Since mid-April 2018 we have been based at Hackney CVS (24-30 Dalston Lane). With lots of hard work and community participation in a short space of time we turned this neglected courtyard into productive and very attractive garden. It is now very well used by our membership, HCVS staff and everyone using the building.
We are hoping to set up a new LGBTQI+ led community garden in Hackney and continue to look for a more permanent base. Almost anything considered but we need access to water and secure fencing as we grow plants to consume. Ideally, any new garden would be in central area of the borough with good transport links. We would like it to be accessible and not directly on a major road. Do you know somewhere that might suit us? If so, please get in touch.
On 23 April 2018 we launched a Crowdfunding Campaign to help fund the construction of a specially commissioned arc-shaped planter (our rainbow), which was used as part of our raised-bed garden at Hampton Court (July 2018) and later will be the centrepiece of our more permanent community garden.
In advance of our participation in the RHS Hampton Court palace Flower Show we held pop-up plant a pansy sessions at various locations in Hackney. There are some photos of this our Facebook Page. Without even realising we were part of any competition, we managed to win a Bronze Medal for our edible mini-garden, Growing from Prejudice to Pride, which incorporated a rainbow shaped planter (designed by Clair Battaglino) and sculptures by Judith Glynn.
Post-Hampton Court we applied for a special Pride-linked grant from Tesco and were successful in receiving the highest level of funding thanks to the votes of our many supporters throughout London. The money is being used for education & outreach in the LGBTQI+ community. We will be hosting a series of training sessions, workshops, visits, & other events open to all but available to those identifying as LGBTQI+ at a subsidised rate or free. Ticketed events will normally be put on OutSavvy. Watch our Facebook Page and this site for basic information.
Mentioned as one of London’s Ten Best Food Growing Gardens, here’s what Jellied Eel said about us:
As the UK’s only LGBTQIA+ growing group, its work goes beyond gardening and incites social change from their base in Hackney. Their plot at the 2018 RHS Hampton Court Flower Show won with a rainbow of pansies, a beautiful reclamation of derogatory language. They also distributed rainbow chard seeds at Pride, displaying the joyful strength they bring to the community.
In February 2019 we became one of Capital Growth’s training partners, which means the training we are offering at our Dalston base will reach a wider audience of growers and place us firmly on London’s growing map.
We got a small amount of funding from Hackney Council to help create an accessible raised bed garden at the back of Age UK, Dalston.
On Saturday 25 of May we will be organising a mass plant-in of chard as part of the Chelsea Fringe. Never mind painting the town red, we are planting the town all the colours of the rainbow.
And to round off an amazing period we got £2,000 from Kew’s Grow Wild to create a Fungi Frontier at our base. We will be hosting a series of education sessions, practical training and other workshops with a fungi focus. A BIG thank you to The Tree Muskateers for their help in sourcing the most beautiful logs, which will provide a home for some of our fungi.
For Rainbow Grow as for the worldwide community, 2020 brought many challenges. The garden like many other venues was closed for a significant period of time and when we re-opened numbers and times of participation were limited. No evening sessions in the summer meant that participation by members who were working traditional hours could not garden. Once outdoor meetings of six people were allowed our coordinator hosted a few members’ evening meals in her garden. Two large tables in a spacious Hackney garden meant we could be physically distant but socially connected.
The garden survived lockdown remarkably well, especially as once strict measures were on the cards we rescued things in pots and our wormery. Seedlngs nutured by our coordinator were hastily planted once we were allowed access to the garden with a large number of tomato and other plants having been donated individuals and to community groups who had space to grow for those in need. We shared seeds with other gardeners in London and other locations.
In late September the 2020 Urban Food Awards were finally announced. Rainbow Grow was pleased to have been a winner in the Food For Good category. This category “highlights Londoners using food to bring communities together, promote social integration and celebrate diversity”.