Community garden project boosts health and wellbeing

09 May 2016

People living with – and recovering from – a range of health and wellbeing issues have benefited from a major garden design project led by V&A Museum of Design Dundee.

The V&A Dundee Community Garden has been jointly designed by professional designers and members of the public, and will be part of the new Slessor Gardens within Dundee’s waterfront regeneration.

Over the past three months, 20 members of the public have taken part in the project across seven workshops developed and delivered by the design studio kennedytwaddle and design engagement specialist Linsey McIntosh, with the support of landscape architects Macfarlane and Associates.

The workshops have been part of a co-design process between the community groups and the professional designers, including creating miniature gardens, visiting allotments to learn how people use gardens to rest and relax, a trip to Dundee Botanic Gardens to learn about different types of plants, and sketching designs in two and three dimensions.

The V&A Dundee Community Garden was supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Rank Foundation.

Peter Nurick, Communities Producer at V&A Dundee, said: “Garden design is a fascinating area which can have very significant benefits for anyone’s health and wellbeing, particularly for people managing a range of mental health issues.

“The design process that the group has undertaken has given them a new sense of confidence in their abilities, as well as being a platform to showcase their own creative skills.

“We wanted to make a contribution to the new Slessor Gardens in Dundee’s waterfront that was both a beautiful place to visit, and where the design process that led to the finished garden also benefited people from across the city.

“The participants have gained a great deal of self-confidence through the project, and we look forward to putting together a bigger team of volunteers to build the V&A Dundee Community Garden over the summer.”

The first part of the project focused on jointly designing the new garden and has now been completed. The next stage involves the landscaping and physical construction of the 100 square metre plot, with the garden opening to the public later this year.

Gary Kennedy of design studio kennedytwaddle said: “Over the seven-week process we have established an excellent working relationship in our co-design team, gaining insights and learning a lot from one another.

“It really was a genuinely collaborative process, with a shared pride in the outcome. We look forward to seeing the team again as the V&A Dundee Community Garden begins to come to life.”

Community participant Shonagh said: “I’m really happy to have become so relaxed and comfortable in this group – it’s been great to meet and work with such a knowledgeable and lovely bunch of people. I’m looking forward to continuing these relationships as we build, plant, nurture and enjoy the garden.”

Derek, another participant, added: “I learned a lot of ideas for working in the garden. I felt encouraged to do things. I learned about spacing plants and where to put them in the right places. I achieved a great experience. Being part of a team makes me feel important and occupied.”

The V&A Dundee Community Garden project received huge support from Art Angel, an organisation run by and for people with experience of mental health difficulties in Dundee. Art Angel offers high quality creative opportunities to help people work towards recovery and mental wellbeing.

Rosie Summerton, Manager of Art Angel, said: “The V&A Dundee Community Garden project has provided an opportunity for people in Dundee with mental health issues to be directly involved in making a positive impact on their environment, not only for themselves but for visitors and the community as a whole.

“It has enabled participants to engage in a new process with professional designers and to develop a new set of skills that can utilised within the community and shared with others. The project has empowered those involved, building confidence and self-esteem, and creating a legacy which will benefit many people for years to come.”

Image Credit: V&A Dundee / Dylan Drummond