Nov 02

Sunflowers for Change

New Cross may only be known to you as one of the places where the traffic gets snarled up on its way out of London. But this SE corner of Zone 2 is also home to a vibrant, extremely diverse community, Goldsmiths College and a growing trend of community action. As well as the volunteer run community library and learning centre: New Cross Learning the Sunflowers for Change project has just completed its second season with gathering momentum and widespread impact.bird sunflower sunflower bee sunflower dig
In 2013 community organisations Grow Wild and Artmongers initiated an environmental education and community engagement project across the most polluted and desolate areas of New Cross. The aim was to plant 1000 sunflowers to create habitat for bees and other pollinators, while bringing colour, life and beauty to a neglected urban area.

Key messages of the campaign were around educating local people about the value of green spaces in urban settings and the need to support local pollinators as well as encouraging them to engage with improving their local environment to become agents of change.

The project has recently completed its second year (2014) during which community participation and the reach of the project has grown considerably. This year over 1,300 sunflowers were planted along the A2 – one of the most polluted roads in the UK – on 13 sites including areas owned by Goldsmiths College and Sainsbury’s as well as high street shops and cafes, front gardens of housing blocks and outside the Post Office by 70 volunteers. Skills transfer and accessibility are some of the key benefits. See their facebook page for more info Facebook page.

The project has created an extraordinary environment, making New Cross friendlier for people, bees and other wildlife. The A2 is a traffic heavy urban area so the addition of sunflowers had a powerful visual and emotional impact, creating a sense of possibility and sending a message to passers-by that something special is happening in New Cross.

We started Grow Wild after a successful collaborative bid to the Big Lottery by 5 local community organisations. Artmongers has been producing public and participatory art interventions in the area for years, turning dead space into live space. I love being part of both of these organisations embodying positive change and empowering communities


Here’s some of feedback about the sunflowers

 “I have really enjoyed walking past them on my way to uni and have been pleased to know that the bees and insects will be nourished by them.”

“Every time the bus goes past the sunflowers I have a big smile on my face.”

“As soon as I see the sunflowers I feel I have come home and home is a nicer place.”

“It has been an absolute joy. I made sure my route to and from my place of work incorporated walking past a bed of sunflowers. I loved seeing the bees and birds enjoying them too. The sparrows went crazy!”

“All that beauty and colour – I am sure it encourages people to take more care of their environment.”

“It has made me proud to live in New Cross.”

 “It’s nice to see that people make an effort in New Cross.”

 “It brought me smiles and joy – made ugly places beautiful, connected me to nature and creation – all on the A2.”

 “By empowering us to realise we can change the places we live in.”

 “Challenging widespread apathy about the shared urban environment.”

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