Community spirit growing in Leafair and the Fountain

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Community workers in Leafair and the Fountain believe that their recent win at the Pride of Place awards in Limerick is a step towards bringing the two communities together.

The Foyle Community Gardening initiative is organised and managed by Derry City Council. Residents living in the Fountain and Leafair are part of the initiative and have created community gardens and allotments in their respective areas.

Derry City Council entered the Foyle Community Gardening initiative into the ‘Community Gardening’ category at the Co-operation Ireland Pride of Place awards and in front of a crowd over 900 people they took first prize last month.

“We’ve been working with the people from Leafair now for quite a while,” said Fountain community worker Jeanette Warke.

“We hosted a ‘Cook It’ session outside in our allotments garden and the people from Leafair were there. It was a great day and the food cooked by local chef Ian Orr was top notch. That day was just one of the many times that we, in the Fountain, worked with the people of Leafair.

“As a result of us all working together in the Foyle Community Gardening initiative friendships have developed and when we visited the community garden in Leafair we all exchanged tips on how best to grow vegetables and plants.

“The residents of both the Fountain and Leafair want to keep the relationship going. Next year to mark the Fountain’s 40th anniversary we will be running a market along the interface on Bishop Street. We want communities from all over the city to bring along the vegetables and fruit from their community gardens and sell it at our market. It’ll take place on September 7 next year and I just know it’ll be a great day and it’ll see the hustle and bustle of community life return to Bishop Street once again.”

Peter McDonald, Leafair Community Centre Co-ordinator, said that he was delighted that the initiative allowed young children from both communities to get involved.

“I think because the Foyle Community Gardening initiative is so inclusive it was always in with a great chance of winning. The project takes in young people, families and older people - everyone got involved.

“It was joy working together with the people from the Fountain. I work closely with the community group at Caw and Nelson Drive and I know for a fact that the Foyle Community Gardening initiative is not the last cross-community project that Leafair will be part of.”

The Leafair community garden is located in a lane way behind the community centre. Peter said that the lane was once regarded as an area with high levels of anti-social behaviour and added that residents now feel safe as a result of the area’s transformation.

“Several houses back on to the community garden and before it was built several of the people living there had to nail their gates shut for fear of what would happen to them.

“As a result of the Foyle Community Gardening initiative the area has been given a complete facelift and the sense of community that we had once lost is back again.”

Local horticulturist and gardener, Gareth Austin, who helped to co-ordinate the Foyle Gardening Initiative said it is one of the most rewarding projects he has ever worked on.

“It’s all about the people and the people in the Foyle Gardening Initiative are a pleasure to work with.

“Whilst the main aim of the project is to grow flowers, plants and vegetables it’s just as important to see friendships and relationships between communities grow too.

“Everyone involved in winning the award deserves credit. I think about £5000 has been spent on the Foyle Gardening Initiative and when you consider the runner-up in our category had about £350,000 to play with it shows you just how significant a win ours was.”

The Mayor of Derry Councillor Kevin Campbell said the award was an indicator of just how passionate local communities are about improving the look and feel of their areas.

“These awards once again recognise the work of our local communities who actively work together to improve our local surroundings and enhance the natural environment for the good of our citizens.

“The accolades celebrate the contribution that community groups and individuals have made to our communities and their environment. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate everyone involved.”