I am very proud to have been a Kickstarter supporter. It wasn’t just at Berlin that we had the chance to write on her. One amazing private show, one guestlist experience to a terrific rock gig, a beautiful art book and so much music. She is a phenomenon.
That is a terrific idea. I’m going to suggest that our Comms Committee (staff, volunteers, trustees) all do likewise. Thanks for posting.
It was actually said by Jon Beech (@_jonb) on twitter and sparked a conversation about how senior officials could test the ‘lived experience’ of service users by trying to access their organisation’s website using a mobile phone. It’s been rattling around inside my head for a while and found its way out in the surroundings of a WordPress Users Wales meeting this week on responsive design.
I knew this was an important point when I first read it, and this is how it makes sense to me after the meeting. A few factual statements first:
- People use websites to find out what services are delivered by organisations;
- For large parts of society the Internet is the primary route they use;
- Many people are using mobile devices (mobile phones, tablets etc) to access the Internet;
- The percentage of people using mobile devices to do this…
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I love my job at Stepney City Farm. I love the Farm, the staff, volunteers and trustees and (most of) the animals: from Dunstan the Drain Avoiding Donkey and all the teeny-tiny guinea pigs that appear at regular intervals to the recently dear-departed Rodney the Kune-kune pig and Henry Ferret.
As I’m still unwell and my brain has turned to slush, I am going to take advantage and include this wonderful guest post written recently for us by the Guardian’s acting comment editor Libby Brooks.
Libby spent a month with us and now comes in most Fridays. We are lucky to have her and the other 90 or so volunteers who make such a difference. Her words, not mine, deserve the widest audience possible:
‘As my month at Stepney City Farm draws to an end, I am left reflecting on all the weird and wonderful things that I’ve done over the past four weeks. I chose to spend this sabbatical from my day job as a comment editor and columnist at the Guardian because, having spent the past few years commissioning and writing articles about how this country is – for reasons various, economic and political – going to hell in a handcart, I wanted to spend some time with people who are walking the talk.
Clipping the ferrets’ toenails or filling up the leaf mulcher may not appear to have anything to do with the global recession or benefits cuts, but the ethos at Stepney City Farm – self-sufficiency, education, community outreach – is exactly what a lot of folk are groping for at present, be that through the Occupy movement or even David Cameron’s much-derided Big Society.
Essentially, having spent a month here, I firmly believe that Stepney City Farm can change the world, and I’d challenge anyone to do likewise and not come to a similar conclusion.
I’ve done a load of things here that have made me think about much more than just the task in front of me. Planting broad beans to store in the polytunnel over the winter makes me realise what a different rhythm there is to working life when the seasons are in charge, and light and temperature cannot be fixed at the touch of a button.
Working in the media, there is an unappealing tendency to get sucked in by the notion that WE are the insiders, and WE know all the secrets of the universe. It’s been really good for me – humbling in fact – to be reminded that there are whole worlds of skills and knowledge for me to get learn from.
Stepney farmers like Tom have forgotten more about gardening than I will ever know. Feeding the goats one afternoon in the field by Stepney Way, and watching the cars speeding past, I was struck by the fact that – though I have a tendency to romanticise the countryside at something ‘other’ – all of the urban environment was once fields, and can be fields again, while fields themselves are human inventions of course.
Not that the majority of my time here has been spent standing around thinking deep thoughts while the goats go hungry. The great thing about volunteering here is that there is always something that needs done, and if there’s not then you can pass a pleasant half hour playing with the ferrets (my favourite farm animal by a country mile and no arguments).
I’ve helped to build vegetable beds, groomed the donkeys, landscaped the pond, swept up a lot of leaves and shifted a lot of hay and mud and general detritus around in wheelbarrows.
New ex-battery and one year resident ex-battery hens, Stepney City Farm, London
Zanier moments included chasing our rescued battery hens around as I attempted to spray their poor bare arses with anti-peck lotion. (These hens arrived with us in a terrible state, and were so traumatised that they were pecking at each others’ bald patches. Think on that when you’re choosing your supermarket eggs.)
And I shall never forget Goose Thursday. I arrived in the morning to the news that the local fox had attacked one of the geese in the night. The poor bird was barely breathing,and had to be humanely killed by one of the farmers. Then – and I genuinely think that this was what it would have wanted – we strung it up by the feet and plucked its feathers for down. Expertly gutted by our resident medic Katharine, the bird began to look a little less like a corpse and more like dinner, and I took on the task of roasting it with potatoes and fresh kale from the edible garden.
We made our own approximation of foie gras too, and saved the fat for another day. By 5 o’clock that evening – yes, I am going to say it, I can’t help myself – our goose was truly cooked and we sat down to a delicious roast dinner. Where else can you go from field to plate in under 12 hours? Or see every element of a bird, feather and feet inclusive, utilised?
It’s been a wonderful month, and I’m hoping that I can carve out some space in my working schedule to maintain my connection with the the greenest, greatest place in Stepney. And the ferrets would miss me.’
I’m signed off work and feel too rough to be more than brief, which is probably a Good Thing as I could write all day about the place that I most love. And then write some more. I first saw the Warren when my parents brought me, six weeks old, from a London children’s home, to their house around the corner. They still live there and I go back often.
It’s a vast, ancient, unique place: impossible to catch in photographs. It can be terrifying: people die in chalk falls or are washed away by stormy tides from the sea edge and foolhardy divers misjudge the depths to hit the rocks below. It is more often the most beautiful place on earth; wide blue skies, fresh salt air, thousands of chalk grassland, woodland and seaside wild flowers in spring and not a soul in sight or any sound apart from the crash of the waves or the yawping of gulls.
I’ve gone there for ever to pick blackberries and, more recently, sloes for homemade gin. On a clear day you can see buildings on the cliffs of France, just twenty miles away. High above you on the edge of the chalk and clay English cliffs, a Roman villa is sliding, inch by inch, into the sea. Martello Towers keep us safe from Napoleonic invasion and a young Second World War pilot looks for ever out on to the horizon.
There are fossils by the bucketload and rockpools full of crabs, anemones and mussels. Grasses rustle with newts and the occasional adder. Somewhere there is a buried rabbit, a toy lost by my brother more than 40 years ago. He comes here too, sometimes, to sleep, on the not infrequent times that he falls between the gaps in the welfare state.
It is a never-ending delight that my favourite novel, Riddley Walker by the sainted Russell Hoban, is set here and in the countryside around. The Warren becomes The Warnings as Riddley seeks to find out about his world. A book of strange and unsettling beauty, just like the Warren.
Every so often there are attempts to carve out safer steps, put up handrails and tame the place. Even when I’m too old to climb down safely over the rocks and would be glad of a more accessible path, I selfishly hope that never happens.