The annual Big Dig day kicked off the growing season on Saturday 21 March 2015, and this year saw almost 2000 people come out to support activities taking place across 193 gardens in 36 towns and cities. The event, now in its fifth year, has become an invaluable part of the community food growing calendar, helping groups to get their projects ready for the season ahead and find new volunteers.
The Big Dig Day 2015 focused on helping new gardens to get involved, attracting 120 new gardens to be involved in the day and with 80% of these reporting they would take part again. Of the 2000 volunteers getting their hands dirty over half of these had not visited the gardens before. In London, where the Big Dig day originated as part of Capital Growth, a recorded number of 109 gardens took place.
The value of the day was clear in the feedback - Jane Ford from Aldernay West Community Garden in Poole stated “I was really surprised how many turned up to help, even though we were just digging. There was a great atmosphere and camaraderie, the children really wanted to help and even had a game of football at the end. I made new friends and renewed old ones. I would really recommend it. A great day had by all in the community”.
The gardening projects taking part included community gardens, farms and schools. One schools, the Horniman Primary School Allotment Project, commented “as a school gardener with a very small number of hours a week, it was wonderful to achieve so much while having so much fun. One of the highlights for me was hearing a child who hasn't had much opportunity to garden say " I love gardening" while leaping up and down!! I feel the Big Dig campaign is like a catalyst getting these events happening which might otherwise not happen and supporting small projects like ours.”
To complement the activities a Schools Big Dig was also piloted in London between the 16th and 29th M 2015 and successefully matched five corporate volunteering groups with schools needing help to set up or improve their school food growing space. This is set to be rolled out in London throughout the year.
Big Dig and Capital Growth are projects of Sustain. The Big Dig day was funded nationally through the Big Lottery Awards for All, and in London was supported as part of the Urban Food Routes programme.