GROWers having an Eclectic Electric Picnic in the Irish Midlands

GROW Observatory
Sep 29, 2017 · 7 min read

Concluding our monthly theme GROWers — the people of GROW — we meet Davie Philip. In fact, Davie meets many GROW people in the Global Green area at an Irish music and arts festival — from community gardeners to TV presenters — as he reveals below.

by Davie Philip

Davie Philip

What is the Electric Picnic? Ireland’s largest music and culture festival brings people who focus on soil and sustainability together. At the beginning of September I spent 4 days in a field in the midlands of Ireland with a large community of growers, activists and culture creatives. I help coordinate the Global Green area of this 55,000 person festival.

Our mission? Communicate critical sustainability and resilience issues to as many of the attendees as possible. And, have as much creative fun doing so as possible!

Global Green’s community garden: the pop-up eco-village of this popular music and culture festival.

With the Cultivate team I’ve been working on Global Green for over a decade. It is an amazing opportunity to bring people together and also a chance to disseminate widely the ideas and approaches that we need to mainstream. This year we invited representatives from over 30 campaigns, NGOs and community groups to join us at Global Green and put a focus on growing and soil.

Bees are always a big focus at the Global Green!

Our central feature of in the Global Green was the Community Garden, which was co-created by members of Community Gardens Ireland and a number of Community Supported Agriculture Projects. Full of information, interactive art and places to chill, this convivial space was a hugely popular hang out over the weekend.

The GROW Observatory was highlighted through the the GROW DOME, an innovative spherical garden constructed in the WeCreate digital fabrication lab in Cloughjordan using open source plans released by IKEA designers.

The GROW Dome at Global Green

The dome received a lot of attention at the Global Green with conversations taking place in it during the day, while at night it was a canvas for projections that illuminated the vertical garden.

GROW Dome at the Electric Picnic from the inside

On the Saturday of the festival the GROW Observatory hosted one of the main panel discussions taking place in the Convergence Tent. This session was titled, ‘COMMON GROUND’ and explored the relationship between people, healthy soils and the need to save seeds. The discussion was skilfully facilitated by Ireland’s best known ecologist Anja Murray, who hosts the popular Eco Eye TV show and RTE Radio’s Nature File, and featured representatives from People 4 Soil, the Irish Seed Savers and Community Gardens Ireland.

The panel on seeds and soil facilitated by Anja Murray in the Convergence Tent.

One of the best things about this place and space — the Global Green — is how people get to come together and share ideas, opportunities and time together. From a GROW perspective, so many of the geographically disparate growers and food activists we want to engage with, come to this part of the Irish Midlands to spend time with us.

Let me tell you a little more about some of these GROWers, the people who are active in protecting soils and engaging citizens and who joined the community at Global Green.

Dee Sewell outside the CGI potting shed on Global Green

Dee is an award winning blogger, a community champion and the founder of the social enterprise Greenside Up. She is one of the drivers of Community Gardens Ireland the national network of community growers establishing vegetable gardens in the urban or rural setting. Dee teaches horticulture and is passionate about showing people how growing vegetables can save money and being outside in the garden with nature is good for their mental and physical health.

Anja Murray facilitated the Rewilding and Common Ground discussions at the Global Green and is a champion of soil. She is a leading environmental policy analyst and ecologist, an advocate for biodiversity and the protection of nature, and has been active in highlighting the importance of protecting our natural environment, wildlife and ecosystems. Anja has worked with An Taisce, Ireland’s National Trust, as a Natural Environment Officer on European and Irish environmental policy and as Land Use & Habitats Policy Officer at BirdWatch Ireland. She is now seen and heard weekly on Irish TV and radio where she hosts the most popular nature programmes.

Fergal Smith in the Seed Saver’s yurt at the Electric Picnic

Fergal is one of the most influential surfers in Europe who has become one of Ireland’s leading organic farmers. He grew up on an organic vegetable farm outside Westport in Co Mayo but now lives and works on Moy Hill Farm, a community supported agriculture initiative that he set up with fellow surfers in County Clare. (Watch this inspiring video of the surfer farmers).

Moy’s main objective is to educate the wider community on organic growing and sustainable living, while providing food and a common space for people, no matter their age, ethnicity or social status, to reconnect to the land. Fergal was with a team of young people from Moy at the festival promoting their crowd funding campaign to buy another 60 acres of land in Moy.

Susie Cahn (L) with Anja Murray (R) and journalist Lenny Antonelli discuss rewilding

Suzie is a community-minded permaculturist, trainer and garden designer who featured on RTE’s SuperGarden programme last year. Along with her husband Mike she runs Carraig Dúlra, a demonstration and training centre in the Wicklow hills. She is passionate about soil and community and has been a pioneer of Transition Towns and one of the main drivers of the annual Irish Permaculture gathering. In 2018 she leading the team who will coordinate the European Permaculture Convergence in Ireland. Suzie co-designed the garden at Global Green and spent the weekend enthusing people on the virtues of growing.

Joe Fitzmaurice and Deirdre O’Shea from Agri Aware in the Red Shed on Global Green

Baker Joe Fitzmaurice and his wife Julie Lockett established the award winning Riot Rye Bakehouse & Bread School in Cloughjordan Ecovillage. Joe was brought up in Dublin and is from a family that pioneered healthy eating, he and his sisters are behind Blazing Salads. He leads the Real Bread campaign in Ireland ands is an enthusiastic advocate for healthy soil, community and sourdough. At the Picnic Joe gave a presentation on the Common Loaf in Agri Aware’s Red Shed and spoke in the Convergence Tent on his experience as a baker in community.

Tansy Watson (Irish Seed Savers) and Joanne Butler (OURganic Gardens)

Tansy and Jennifer were part of Global Green through the Irish Seed Savers, a charity that runs a centre in East Clare, which includes a shop, cafe and twenty acres of beautiful woodlands, organic gardens and orchards that are open to the public. In their yurt at the Picnic with a small team of seed savers they promoted native apples and open seeds as well as taking part in the Common Ground discussion and contributing to the community garden. Irish Seed Savers was set up in 1991 to save heritage and heirloom vegetable seeds, potatoes, grains and fruit trees from extinction. The Association has over 800 varieties of organic, open pollinated heritage seeds in its purpose-built Seed Bank in County Clare.

Aaron campaigning for People4Soil at Global Green

Aaron is a Permaculture designer and an Irish ambassador for the People4Soil campaign. He was at the Picnic highlighting the plight of soil and collecting signatures calling on the European Commission to pass a Soil Directive which would safeguard Irish and European soils. The People4Soil campaign argues that over the past 50 years, Ireland’s soils have come under increasing pressure from intensification of agriculture, erosion, overgrazing, disposal of organic waste, industry and urbanisation. Aaron joined the Common Ground discussion and was with us on the green engaging people on the soil issue.

As the Electric Picnic gets ever bigger and more overwhelming, the Global Green pop-up ecovillage is a much-needed oasis of radical ideas, activities, performance and food — it reminds me of the more alternative, environmental origins of the three-day festival in Stradbally, Co Laois. And it’s a great mobiliser and animator for our wide and diverse community: in this, it plays an important role in nurturing potential future GROWers for the GROW Observatory.

Sun sets on another Electric Picnic…see you next year!

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 690199.

GROW Observatory Stories

GROW Food. GROW Soil. GROW Science.

GROW Observatory

Written by

Let’s collaborate to grow great food, improve our soils, and help science with vital environmental monitoring. Get involved!

GROW Observatory Stories

GROW Food. GROW Soil. GROW Science.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade