I’m Sally, I’m a full time Mum and part time community grower in Penarth Growing Community and local campaigner and placemaker with Penarth Unlocked. I’m a mostly plant-based peace warrior. I experiment with living through various projects that occupy my days. I read every morning. I write when I feel full enough. I value creative space and take time to draw, my current work is ‘EarthStudy’.

I’m keen to grow a garden as a way to grow community. I am learning about sustainable and regenerative urban living and local food, creating maps to the future through our Penarth Growing Community project, supported by Gwyrddio Penarth Greening. I’m learning about being kind to the Earth. I’m interested in where the wild things are, and wish I had the time to keep ‘the placemaker’ blog that I keep thinking about. I’m a dreamer, an idealist, a worrier and mostly a futurist. I organise events that bring people together and make them feel all squishy and connected to each other.

What does the idea of a ‘beautiful world’ mean to you?

A beautiful world feels like stepping out into the world from my front door to fruit trees, bird song, children playing, shared space for street parties and raised beds for growing together. It’s happening upon someone to say ‘hello’, how’s your day?, and feeling a connection because we have a life of shared experiences. 

It’s a short stroll to the local coop where I can find all the produce our family needs, sourced from within a 50 mile radius at the maximum. It’s a nip around the corner to Benthyg to use the large mesh frames they have there. I started making another batch of paper for my drawing projects last week. 

It’s time to draw, write and ride my bike, and for my little boy to ride his next to me. It’s the time spent on checking our solar array in the garden, a tweek here and there to keep it all working smoothly, there’s not much more satisfying than knowing my tech is powered by our own source, anything left over goes into the community pot for our shared facilities and the electric bikes we co-own as a neighbourhood. 

It’s about feeling connected to my self, others and the Earth, living well, frugally, simply, in elegant sufficiency and flourishing creatively.

Any words of guidance for others wanting to get things going in the places where they live?

Build a strong core group to collaborate with. Share the work equitably. Expect the process to be iterative and unfolding. Start small with one tiny action, build on the success of that. Don’t let the naysayers beat you down. There will always be challenges to creating things that are outside of the mainstream. Rules and regulations are changeable with good communication, persistence and time. 

When do you feel most alive, most creative and joyful?

When I’m in a group, working together to create something – theatre, art or a performance or community event of some kind.

What actions are you taking in your own life to live more sustainably?

In January 2020 I started an experiment to see if I could make a switch to organic local food for our family. I’ve completely changed the way I shop, and the way we eat. I used to do all our shopping in Aldi. Then, I watched a Horizon programme over Christmas that got me concerned about the pesticides used to produce food.

The path unfolded in a myriad of ways. I started thinking not only about the food we consume, but all the chemicals we have in the house and their impact on the Earth. I started reading about voluntary simplicity and frugal hedonism. I stopped buying clothes for myself. I switched to Bio cleaning products, I now make my own hair gel and lip balm.

With the turning of the decade, I resolved to grow a garden as a goal for the next, not only in our small courtyard, but in our community. I signed up for a Permaculture Design Course with Shift Bristol and Global Gardens and have begun a dialogue with others as part of the GPG Penarth 2020 campaign to form a growing community here in the place where I live. 

And, I started making everything we eat from scratch, almost. Local organic food is expensive, so to fit our budget, we eat mostly plant-based, and FEEL GOOD! 

I buy most of our food from Jo’s organics. I only buy what we need, planning the meals for the week is vital. I buy the food in the most raw state possible, dried beans etc. Yesterday I bought 500g of brown lentils for £1.59, cooked them and measured them out in a can, I got 5 cans. I froze them to use over the coming weeks. If I’d bought tins of lentils, it would have been more like £6. I know I am privileged to have the time to do this, but it is a conscious choice to live better with less, and that includes less money for holidays and other things.  

I started going to the farmers market in Riverside, but I don’t enjoy having to drive there, I’m trying to walk everywhere if I can. Then, the path brought me to Coed Organic. We now have a regular veg bag which we share with my Mum. So proud to be part of this CSA, and delighted to be the Penarth collection point for other locals who are part of it too.

What challenges are you currently wrestling with? What support might you need to overcome those challenges? 

The thing that I find hardest is dealing with conflict in groups. Working with people is hard isn’t it! I’m experimenting with working collaboratively as we organise the Penarth Growing Community project.

I think for me it’s been about aiming for decentralised organising, this feels like it has emerged in the way in which all folks involved hold power and responsibility that feels like it is shared, each taking ownership of certain aspects of the project, with shared decision making, making sure we communicate often about things as they progress. It’s been a creative process that has ebbed and flowed. I think I’ve learnt much about collaboration and co-creating.

In terms of support, I’d like to form a peer group structure where a max of 8 people support one another in a variety of ways and carry out the work of the Penarth Growing Community project together, sharing the tasks like admin, social media, emails etc.

What do you feel hopeful about?

There are so many people in our pretty town working on projects that demonstrate ways we can live better together, and more gently on the Earth. I feel hopeful that Penarth can become a place for sharing inspiring stories about people living in a more sustainable and regenerative way.