Introducing the London Mobile Seed Bank…
Those who have come to our events in the past few months may have noticed a new addition to our usual seed fare. Built by artist-research duo Sara Heitlinger and Franc Purg (who you might recognise from Connected Seeds), the bank is part of the Global Generation’s Seeds for a Better World project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Last year, Global Generation skilled up a group of local young people, about the importance of saving seed to counter global biodiversity loss and the corporate consolidation of the seed trade. The young people formed the ‘Seed Sisters’ and learnt how to save seed in part by connecting with older seed savers using oral history techniques. These established savers were able to pass on their long-accumulated knowledge.
This is such a simple but beautiful idea. We have found that it tends to be older generations who save seed in London. These fear the loss of seed saving knowledge, if there are too few younger ones wanting to take up these skills. To intentionally connect young enthusiasts and older seed knowledge holders is an exciting move to keep that knowledge alive. You can read all about the Global Generation project here.
Part of the London Freedom Seed Bank collaboration was to build an interactive seed bank. This was to hold some of our freedom seeds as well as the stories gathered by the Seed Sisters during their research. We got researcher, Sara, and artist, Franc, on board to build the bank with the young people and the result is really quite something.
The bank contains twenty different London-saved varieties from Calaloo to Mayan Jaguar Lettuce. They are contained in small clay pots, inspired by ancient amphora pots. Made by the young people in a workshop with Franc, each pot is unique. “Probably all ancient cultures around the world used fired clay pots for storing seeds,” says Franc, “The Canadian Mennonite University, in collaboration with the Métis first nations community, successfully grew an ancient variety of squash, “Gete-Okosomin,” from seeds that were found in 800 years old fired terracotta pots…Cool, dry, dark and breathable places are ideal for long-term seed storage and, which is what clay provides.”
At the base of each pot is a small sensor such that when the pot is placed on the reader, we can hear audio of the young people telling us about the seed variety contained in that pot. We find out who saved the variety, what properties we can expect and some information about how to look after them.
The box also contains a card game we use to engage folks of all ages and prior seed knowledge with our work. It involves the simple pairing of plants and vegetables with the seeds which produce them.
In a similar way, the mobile bank is intentionally interactive and tactile. People are able to pour the seeds into their hands for closer inspection whilst listening to the stories of those who have saved them. Seeds are often really quite beautiful, a fact frequently hidden away in dark envelopes. Here you can get close to them, examining their quirks and particular properties.
At the community events, we’ve taken the mobile bank to so far, including the Incredible Edible seed swap at the Garden Museum, we’ve seen wonder-filled engagement, particularly from children. That you can both touch or play with the seeds whilst listening to the stories makes it a multi-sensory experience. Children are easily enchanted by seeds, they seem to still get a feeling for the kind of magic of them – that from such small, seemingly inert or certainly non-living pellets can grow huge trees. What is nice about the bank is that it also encourages adults to get stuck in and feel some of that enchantment again, to feel the seeds in their hands and connect them to the growers and London gardens which produced them.
Want the seed bank at your event? Get in touch: email@example.com
all photos and video content by global generation