Melbourne Festival celebrates market gardening

The theme of this year’s Melbourne Festival celebrates the town’s market gardeners and organisers are thrilled that they have been awarded a £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant to research the history of the industry.

The funds will also be used to highlight what the three surviving Market Gardeners are doing to ensure the industry survives in the present day.

In the 19th and early 20th Century Melbourne had nearly 150 market gardeners, the industry declined dramatically in the 20th Century but three local families the Heaths, Jacksons and Sharps are still going strong and their produce is sold from their farms, at local farmers markets and to wholesalers.

The Melbourne Historical Research Group first started researching the industry in 2002 and during 2017 Melbourne Festival will build on the For The Love of Lettuce project by working with other Midlands based arts organisations to engage with local people whose families were market gardeners to collect their memories, anecdotes and images of the industry.

These memories will be used to create a large online archive over the next year with initial findings being shown at Melbourne Festival on September 16 and 17 and in Melbourne Library in the autumn.

It will also be used to brief professional artists to create sculptures, living pictures and installations from local produce reflecting our findings ready for this year’s festival.

Produce for the project will also be grown by Heaths Farm Shop, F Jackson and Son and William Sharp & Sons, members of Melbourne Gardening Club and at Whistlewood Common.

Melbourne Festival is also working with children in Melbourne Infant School, Melbourne Junior School, Melbourne Scouts and Guides, The Athenaeum Youth Club who will be growing summer vegetables and working with professional artists on creative projects this summer.

The Festival team are currently recruiting volunteers to help interview people about their memories of the halcyon days of market gardening in Melbourne. Please contact them if you would like to help out interviewing, gardening or making the tea.

The Festival team are looking forward to meeting anyone who would like to share their memories and old photographs and are inviting local people to join them for tea and to share their memories with their team of volunteers.

The team will be back at the Senior Citizen Centre over the weekend of  June 3 and 4 when you are invited to drop in for a chat during the Melbourne Festival Open Exhibition event.

More events will be arranged throughout the summer. Any photographs loaned will be copied and returned to their owners.

Sharon Brown from Melbourne Festival said: “Melbourne is a great place to live, our history is based on hardworking local people whose hard work made Melbourne the place it is today. Each year we have a theme for the Festival and this year we are celebrating our unsung heroes who for many years kept food on our plates.”

If you would like more information about how to get involved the festival team can be contacted through the Festival Office on 07765 819428 or email or via the Community Care Office in Derby Road.