Re: development: Voices, Cyanotypes and Writings from The Green Backyard



Jessie Brennan


This piece was written for Re: development, a book that brings together voices, cyanotypes and writings from The Green Backyard following my year-long residency there. Published before the land was finally safeguarded, it questions the capitalist logic of the site’s proposed development by the landowner, Peterborough City Council. It is presented here as part of a collaborative networked exhibition which celebrates the success of The Green Backyard's campaign to secure the land - as public, open, urban green space. 

 Jessie Brennan,  If This Were to Be Lost  (2016), painted birch plywood on scaffold, 1.9 x 19 m, situated at The Green Backyard, Peterborough. Photograph by Jessie Brennan

Jessie Brennan, If This Were to Be Lost (2016), painted birch plywood on scaffold, 1.9 x 19 m, situated at The Green Backyard, Peterborough. Photograph by Jessie Brennan

Development [noun]: ‘The action or process of modifying a site or property so as to enhance its profitability or suitability for a particular purpose; the conversion of land to a new purpose [...] The process by which a latent photographic image is rendered visible’.1

Oxford English Dictionary


It seems almost absurd – probably bordering on obscene – that there might be a blueprint in an air-conditioned, sterile office somewhere for some flats or a supermarket or sheltered accommodation, something like that. To put this on top of something that is so functional and necessary and not take into account the community value that it has already seems absurd, that that could be in someone’s plans and someone’s calculations as an alternative use for this site.2

Rich Hill, trustee of The Green Backyard


If this was to be lost […] it would be a complete abomination to this city to have lost such a precious resistance where ‘we don’t have to live life always being dominated by money’.3

Chris Erskine, volunteer at The Green Backyard


Among the borage plants there lies a toothbrush, its simple white length surrounded by vivid blue. It’s an object donated by a visitor to The Green Backyard (which is acting as a collection point) for refugees in Calais, and it is one of many hundreds of objects here that seem to invoke the voice of The Green Backyard: offering a conduit through which people close to the project can articulate its value. The objects that call forth the voice reveal, in turn, that those voices also tacitly object: through positive tactics of planting and communing, individuals speak of the necessity of The Green Backyard as public, open, urban green space, and why its proposed development must be resisted.


I first set foot inside The Green Backyard, a ‘community growing project’ in Peterborough, in May 2014, at a time when the threat of a proposed development by its owner, Peterborough City Council, was at its most heightened. What brought me to this site were questions of land ownership and value (framed by the long history of community land rights struggles) and the ‘right to the city’: whom the land belonged to.4


Because, of course, feelings of belonging to a place in no way necessarily mean it belongs to you, as users – visitors, volunteers and trustees – of The Green Backyard are all too well aware. Despite the current social value that this urban green space clearly provides, debates around the proposed development of The Green Backyard (and many other volunteer-run green spaces) have been dominated by arguments for the financial value of the land – referring to the short-term cash injection that its sale would generate – rather than the long-term social benefit of the site.


Across the UK, as in Peterborough, the financialisation of land and property means that regeneration plans and development proposals purporting to foster diverse and creative new neighbourhoods typically displace precisely the qualities, activities and communities they claim to support.5 Framed by the austerity politics of successive governments, and reinforced by cuts to local authorities, the apparent need and justification for redevelopment has become a well-trodden narrative. This is not to decry all urban development but to question the politics, language and intentions raised by such a term.


For instance, Peterborough City Council’s city-wide regeneration plans include the Fletton Quays Opportunity Area in which The Green Backyard is located and whereby


development will be supported, in principle, where it helps to secure the transformation of disused and underused land, in order to create an enhanced gateway into the city centre.6


This so-called Opportunity Area prompts the question: opportunity for whom? Although The Green Backyard is situated on a former derelict allotment site, its current status as a registered Asset of Community Value (since June 2013) demonstrates its significance as a thriving social space, not an apparent wasteland. Indeed, the term urban wasteland7 in public discourse has become a normative means by which to justify the reconfiguration and profit-making potential of a site and to de-emphasise any values that conflict with this objective.


So when many users of The Green Backyard speak of their feelings of care and love for the space – and why it must be safeguarded – those qualitative responses are increasingly ignored by policies that prioritise private development over public green space. Being closer to nature, finding peace and recovering from trauma, being accepted and forming mutually supportive social relationships, part-taking in a community that would not otherwise survive in the city, or learning about food-growing and environmental sustainability: all these are deeply valued, even if the state institutions and private interests with whom a community garden has to negotiate fail to fully grasp it. (And yet, if indeed we must calculate the economic equivalent, recent research shows that such qualities and experiences are exceptionally valuable: green spaces have a powerful impact on reducing health inequality and social disadvantage,8 saving financial costs on community centres and the NHS, for example).


There is also a second, firmly established narrative (particularly well-represented in the media) that places gardening as a pleasant, suburban pastime, effectively reducing it to a nostalgic version of Englishness along class divisions. However, what it refuses to acknowledge is the historical, radical politics of urban green spaces, from Royal Parks to allotments and community gardens.9 As a charitable organisation run entirely by volunteers, The Green Backyard sets out to meet the needs of a diverse range of people – specifically from low socio-economic backgrounds – local to Peterborough and further afield. As such, it is not only a haven of green and peace, but also a site for people’s political agitations. From public housing and anti-fracking discussions to community land rights debates, as well as more informal conversations around Brexit, the space hosts – and welcomes – negotiation and contestation between people who express culturally diverse and often politically conflicting points of view.10 (There are Green Party members and Labour supporters as well as UKIP and Conservative voters here.)


It is appropriate then that at The Green Backyard, among the spontaneous ordering of artichokes and DIY sheds, and the digging and dirty labour of the land, we should find a ‘quiet seasonal radicalism’.11 This is not simply a protest or gesture of refusal, however; it is a positive act: to garden – or to plant, paint, cook, contribute – is to embody and perform a practice and politics of care for the land and the people who cultivate it. Not all visitors to The Green Backyard come with distinct politics, nor do all volunteers work a patch to pursue an ideology; yet many discover values about land through their physical, emotional and social connections with it, and often experience a political awakening.


May was an appropriate month for my first visit. It shares the celebration of new seasonal growth with International Workers’ Day (May Day), a moment when the bucolic meets the political. What I found inside The Green Backyard, over the following years, is not local protectionism of the land but a critique of dispossession: inscribed in its democratic constitution and in the space itself – how it is claimed, shaped and planted – is a resistance to rapacious urban development and market-driven ideologies of progress. Instead, alternative visions are explored here, where the social well-being of all citizens and their rights to public, urban, green environments are valued. The Green Backyard is not simply a place of rest and repose from which to escape the world, rather it is a site for critical thought and action in which democratic struggles for the ‘right to the city’ are voiced, contested and fought for.


The Project

Re: development: Voices, Cyanotypes & Writings from The Green Backyard is an attempt to explore in The Green Backyard one of Britain’s most contested territories: land ownership, and its radical political shift from communal (later public) to private. It seeks to engage and challenge the broader narrative told by politicians and property developers of the need and justification for redevelopment. More specifically, it questions the capitalist logic of a proposed development of The Green Backyard and intends to offer alternative evidence – in the form of a visual and audio archive – for the current social use and value of the land.


Re: development brings together the voices and personal experiences of trustees, volunteers and visitors of The Green Backyard in the form of transcribed oral recordings, a series of cyanotypes that document the space through its objects, ten contextualising essays which write the site from a broad range of perspectives, and photographic documentation of two artworks installed in the public realm and in the garden. All this was realised during time I spent in Peterborough as a year-long ‘resident’ at The Green Backyard, when I moved to the city to live for periods of time in order to become closer to the project.



The voices are transcribed from an ongoing archive of more than 100 oral recordings contributed to the project by users of The Green Backyard. They are the voices of people for whom The Green Backyard is meaningful, in different ways: for each individual it can be a lifeline, a learning experience, or a place to contribute and grow. Each voice signals a webbed connection of communities and a solidarity between people who experience the land as a shared resource – along the lines of a commons, through their negotiated use of it – rather than simply an asset to be managed and exploited.


The oral recordings developed out of the inadequacy of images to articulate the full richness of the histories, skills, people and politics – inherent in the spaces of the garden – that are engaged in keeping The Green Backyard open and alive. A brief exchange of words – in the shed, on the vegetable patch or by the pond – led to extended dialogue with a great many individuals over the lifetime of the project. However, the invitation to speak about a significant object of choice and to record their oral contribution in private, led people to reflect frankly and intimately on why they feel the site must not be lost to development.



The cyanotypes take the form of a series of over 100 camera-less photographs (collated into the archive), created at The Green Backyard in a shed repurposed as a darkroom. They trace the materiality of the site through its everyday objects and plant life. The wide range of tools and organic matter documented generates lasting visual records – beyond the threatened lifespan of the place – their indexical image captured on light-sensitive papers exposed directly to the sun. A sink plug washer, an ashtray, a courgette, or a piece of cotton lavender: each object impresses onto the paper’s surface its shape, weight or transparency. In pointing towards its object-origin the image captures what has-once-been.


Cyanotypes were, of course, traditionally used by nineteenth-century architects and engineers to copy plans and designs, known as blueprints. The process was famously employed by botanist Anna Atkins (who illustrated the first photographic book) shortly after its invention by scientist John Herschel in 1842. Cyanotypes bring to mind initial ideas and ambitious ideals – and in their radical visions, qualities of The Green Backyard’s grassroots activism too – revealing utopian dreams, what may-yet-become.


A selection of the cyanotypes are presented here under which, between the paper folds, the reader can find a patchwork of voices.



The essays are the outcome of conversations explored with authors – an activist, writer, geographer, architectural historian, carpenter-historian, professor of environmental law, researcher of urban development practice, social thinker, art critic, and artist-writer – whose research each offers new and critical readings of the broader politics and practices of urban development in relation to public urban green spaces, like The Green Backyard. Some authors, such as Sophie Antonelli, co-founder of The Green Backyard, have intimate knowledge of the site, while others have only travelled there in their imagination, through the visual and audio archives (by viewing the cyanotypes and listening to the oral recordings); others have immediately recognised the hospitality offered from a single visit to the place, and yet others have come to know the space through years of place-based research in Peterborough.


In her essay Sophie Antonelli charts the journey – the learning, digging, struggles, and laughs – of transforming a former derelict allotment site into the thriving ‘community growing project’ that is now The Green Backyard. A different kind of development takes place here, she argues: based on egalitarian principles, it nurtures social relations as much as seedlings, and welcomes the imperfect spaces of the garden and the human vulnerabilities of its occupants. The value of the space – for the people who worked hard to create it (and now to preserve it), as well as others who come to find what they need from it – is deeply felt and laid bare; so too are the personal sacrifices, particularly time and health, made by people at the heart of the project. The battle to keep The Green Backyard open is not yet won, Antonelli admits, but the solidarity shown by the thousands of people who support it has opened up something greater still: an opportunity through which many people found their voice (an indication of which may be experienced throughout this publication).


Jane Holder, too, cites voices in her research on the role of law in the life and loss of everyday green spaces. Those voices are drawn from witness statements used as evidence in protecting places like The Green Backyard, by designating them town and village green status. Access to green spaces is a matter of environmental and social justice, Holder argues. However, the process of protecting this in legislation is severely challenged when the law conflates spatial and temporal conditions of a site (a significant number of people in a locality must have used the land for very particular purposes, ‘as of right’, for at least 20 years). These legal processes impose a heavy evidential burden on the people trying to safeguard the land, as they have on the individuals who are attempting to prevent the loss of The Green Backyard to a proposed development project.


In their essays, Anna Minton and Jane Rendell draw parallels between the threat of development facing The Green Backyard and the regeneration of public housing estates in London. Minton describes the ‘unreality’ of a financialised land and property market, which is ‘hollowing out’ the city and displacing thousands of people from their once working-class neighbourhoods. This giant land-grab – at the local level of The Green Backyard and on the national scale – transfers wealth from the poorest people to the richest, and has seriously negative implications for democracy and citizens’ rights.


Rendell’s text, a piece of site-writing in response to the artwork If This Were to Be Lost, returns us over and over to the different modes of capitalist losses and profits, through the author’s experiences of loss – anticipated and actual, such as losing her London council home – resulting from redevelopment. She finds in language (through a creative ‘irrealis mood’ or ‘unreality’ that expresses possibility) an opportunity – as in daily life – to challenge this process of destruction (rather than mourn it), and instead imagine a more emancipatory politics.


Ben Rogaly, Barbara Penner and Robert Biel each trace, in different ways, the politics and liveliness of The Green Backyard, and its multiple, interwoven histories across space and time. Rogaly, informed by his experiences of extended periods of time gathering ethnographic research in Peterborough, finds in The Green Backyard a direct challenge to ‘neoliberal common sense’ and a practical claiming of common usage rights of the land. The late cultural geographer Doreen Massey’s conception of space as ‘stories-so-far’ is offered as a critical lens through which to understand – and politicise – whom this particular place, and other contested spaces, belong to.


Barbara Penner’s text is an insight into the ways that natural composting processes (framed, for centuries, as waste) can be put to productive – and political – use. A brief contextualising history of dry sanitation from the 1840s to the 1870s, through to ‘radical technology’ of the 1960s and 1970s, lead us to the humble compost toilet at The Green Backyard. Drawing our attention to Karl Marx’s prediction of a ‘metabolic rift’ between humans and land, she suggests there is surely no more potent a critique of capitalism than transforming ‘waste’ and returning it productively to the land.


Robert Biel traverses the histories and politics of the allotment system in his written contribution, a fictional text and commentary in which, contained in a recently discovered manuscript, its author dialogues 200 years with the future – our present – to explore the revolutionary potential of gardening, and where its political act may have been betrayed. Across the pages divergent histories coalesce: the Chartists and their working-class fight for land; nineteenth-century photographic experiments; twentieth-century ‘food security’ discourse; gender fluidity; British colonial genocide; agroecology and multi-cultured agroforestry. Together they raise pertinent questions about current democratic struggles for urban space, its future sustainability and productive use, and particularly, inevitably, the global environmental challenges our civilisation faces.


In her text Maria Walsh travels to The Green Backyard in her mind’s eye, through the visual and audio archives – the cyanotypes and oral recordings – along a poetic path, for a time with Jacques Derrida and also Julia Kristeva, to explore the role of the creative archive. In the cyanotypes she identifies memory-signs that evoke the repetitions of cyclical time (as in the seasonal garden) and in the voices a free-association (of past lives and minor, unofficial histories) that, collated into The Green Backyard archive, become activated for collectively productive use. Losses as a result of neoliberal economies are distinct from losses inherent to psychic life, and the garden (along with the creative archive), suggests Walsh, is a living example of ‘mediating loss and turning it into “joy’’’ through multiple connections with the land.


Alexandre Apsan Frediani and Dougald Hine explore in their different essays the transformation, communication and language necessary for volunteer-run spaces to survive, and whose users are attempting to grow progressive projects in the city. Frediani examines the transformation that occurs when such grassroots organisations become visible within dominant planning structures (what was once ‘quiet insurgency’, appropriating marginal spaces, becomes tactics of ‘infiltration’ by users, such as writing a business plan in order to protect The Green Backyard from eviction). Their co-optation by market-driven processes of development may, argues Frediani, be resisted through practices of ‘fencing for freedoms’.


Finally, in his text Dougald Hine invokes the idea of ‘magic’ to reflect upon the qualities inherent in The Green Backyard, and other volunteer-run projects, by sketching out a model – beyond that of the public and private – which instead explores them within a logic of the commons. Hine identifies three forms of language (Inward, Upward and Outward) needed by people close to a project to enable it to navigate, negotiate, collaborate and coexist within a striated landscape – in which the language of intuition and everyday usage rubs up against the language of power and resources. Complexity and nuance may be the greatest form of resistance to development: for just as the human fabric of an eighteenth-century commons could not be reduced into written form, today the ways that land and language are used and claimed by the people at the heart of a project can never be fully assimilated into a logic that merely seeks legibility and economic reductionism.


While some contributing authors refer to The Green Backyard’s proposed ‘redevelopment’ (a term which strictly speaking involves the demolition of existing buildings rather than simply a change in use of the land), some of The Green Backyard users refer to its proposed ‘development’. Indeed, there is architecture on the site: The Hub, a single storey building that houses a kitchen (where meals are cooked and enjoyed in winter, despite the site being without electricity and mains water); a small timber awning (around which community events, such as the annual International Picnic, take place); and a large, pitched-roof, timber structure (often used for practical workshops) from which giant polytunnels extend. However, none of this has planning permission and therefore the buildings do not officially exist in order to be demolished; development and redevelopment are thus sometimes used interchangeably in this publication.



What is necessary here? (2014) takes the form of a photograph on billboard produced as part of a project for Peterborough intended to generate city-wide debate around ten questions, posed by ten cultural leaders, interpreted by ten creative practitioners. This is the question that first drew me to Peterborough and how I discovered The Green Backyard. What is necessary here? visualises the attempted land-grab of The Green Backyard and public urban space more generally. The printed and partially crushed image signals the bureaucratic processes of development: back-office decisions made at a distance from community sites, which have profound implications for their users and the democratic co-production of space.


If This Were to Be Lost (2016) is a temporary, large-scale, sculptural installation (painted birch plywood text, mounted on scaffold) situated at The Green Backyard. The phrase is adapted from an oral recording by a contributor to the audio archive, and its 19-metre length is visible to passengers travelling on the adjacent East Coast main-line train from London to Edinburgh. Informed by Doreen Massey’s conception of space, a ‘cut through ongoing histories’, ‘not a surface but a simultaneity of stories-so-far’12, the artwork is intended as a political provocation, activating the archive. If This Were to Be Lost raises many questions about what this community (and many others engaged in volunteer-run, urban green spaces) stand to lose if the land were to be lost to a proposed development.



The Green Backyard (a Charitable Incorporated Organisation run by an elected board of trustees) is situated on a publicly owned 2.3-acre strip of land in the city centre of Peterborough. Founded by father and daughter Renny and Sophie Antonelli in 2009, it has been transformed with the help of volunteers from a former derelict allotment site into a thriving ‘community growing project’.


The site, accessible by rail, road and foot, is enclosed by railway tracks to the west, London Road to the east, and a fast food diner to the south, while its entrance lies at Oundle Road to the north. Unlike allotments, whose plots tend to be marked out for the private use of individuals, The Green Backyard’s spaces have grown out of negotiated use designed to be open for everyone – whether engaged in work or rest, social or solitary activity. At first sight, what once might appear a ‘barrier’ to entering The Green Backyard, says one volunteer of its imposing metal gates, in fact protects ‘what the people inside love’.13


Inside those gates there is a spontaneous ordering of the land. A patch of bare ground demarcates the small car park. To the west, a row of graffiti boards brighten up a large ‘compound’ area within which recycled materials (used to build the architectural structures of the site) are stacked and stored. To the east are several shipping containers, one of which has been converted into a modest shop selling health foods and local produce (some grown at The Green Backyard). Moving further into the site one passes the orchard, the wildflower meadow, the pond, a collection of sheds, a caravan, and some scattered seating. At the centre of the site is the large vegetable garden sheltered by a hazel hedge, fruit bushes, and several willow arches. Beside this is the social heart of the place: the cob oven, picnic benches, a covered outdoor area, and The Hub building. Towards the back of the site are the compost toilet and pee-bales, the animals, the polytunnels, and to the south-east is the children’s play area, including a large open space where the white lattice of a geodesic dome contrasts, in summer, against green deciduous leaves.


Outside those gates Peterborough is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK, fuelled by a £1 billion regeneration scheme in the form of a City Centre Plan14 that sets out major changes for its future over the next 15 years. Peterborough has a history of population and economic growth: its designation as a New Town in 1967 led to the rapid expansion of housing – townships along the periphery of the city – and, since the Second World War and earlier, there were new arrivals: Italian migrant workers (including Renny’s father) recruited for the manufacture of bricks during the 1950s; people from the Commonwealth countries (mostly Pakistan and India) in the 1960s; and, during the last decade, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Latvian, Lithuanian, and Portuguese communities (after the expansion of the European Union in 2004).


Today, in keeping with the rest of the UK, this economic growth has produced many benefits for Peterborough, but it has also created deep inequalities: what was once the exploitation of labour in industrial capitalism is now repeated in services and distribution (in the banks and chain restaurants that surround Cathedral Square or warehouses along the outskirts of the city), though industrial agricultural production accounts for much of Peterborough’s economy too (the fertile soil of the nearby Fens consists of about half of all grade-one land – the most productive farmland – in England). In the context of the city’s ongoing regeneration, continual pressure on urban green space – allotment land and community gardens in particular – comes from developers and a council impoverished by funding cuts that feels obliged to capitalise on its resources by selling the land that it owns.


Any attempt at understanding the decisions behind the proposed development of The Green Backyard requires a brief examination of the broader historical transformation of land into private exchangeable ownership. Over the course of just a few hundred years, much of Britain’s land has been privatised: taken out of collective management and common use to be owned instead by relatively few individuals.15 Of all the radical acts of dispossession, it is the enclosure of the commons through a parliamentary process spanning the ‘Inclosure Acts’ between 1760 and 1830 (which was in fact a brutal consolidation of Tudor land appropriations already under way) that is perhaps the most contentious. The process of enclosing common land was generally referred to as ‘Improvement’ by those who organised and profited from it but, as historian E.P. Thompson writes, ‘The loss of the commons entailed, for the poor, a radical sense of displacement’.16


Enclosure created two entities at once: private property and a move from subsistence farming to wage labour – the essential preconditions for capitalism. This generated wealth and unprecedented social power for some by making others poor and dependent. Later, a different series of parliamentary statutes (the 1887 Allotments Act, the 1892 Smallholding Act, and the 1908 Smallholding and Allotments Act) provided local authorities with the power to acquire land for those now landless poor – initiated, some argue, as a means by which to subsidise poor reliefs (the equivalent of today’s welfare state benefits) by allowing households to generate a limited subsistence; a different kind of enclosure.17 Indeed, according to David Crouch and Colin Ward ‘the word “allotment” implies deference and allocation, qualities that indicate a relationship between the powerful and the powerless’,18 and where the political act of gardening may have been betrayed.


And yet, the allotment is anti-capitalist in two fundamental ways: in the very low rents charged for plots by councils, showing a clear rejection of speculative land market values; and in the legislation that prohibits allotmenteers from selling produce commercially. The Green Backyard, like many other community growing projects, intermingles the anti-capitalism of allotments with the strong utopian pragmatism of the Garden City movement and the eco-activism of community gardens (that emerged during the 1970s environmental movement, both in the UK and USA) with a claiming – and politicising – of land that is aligned to contemporary guerrilla gardening.


Land, after all, is finite and, as the historian Karl Polanyi wrote, just another name for nature.19 All of this matters, of course, because enclosure never really came to an end. What has emerged, after the apparent failure of the post-war utopian ‘public’ project of the state, from the 1980s onwards, is a neoliberal globalisation underpinned by a rhetoric of free trade, market forces and privatisation. This is the context in which The Green Backyard attempts to resist, even while fighting for survival.


As I write, the decision as to whether or not The Green Backyard will be allowed to continue to exist as a community garden is being made by Peterborough City Council (which, it is worth noting, has aspirations for the city to become the UK Environment Capital). In the time I have known The Green Backyard there has been a marked shift in relationship between it and the local authority, in how the space and its occupants are perceived. In December 2014 a ‘for sale’ sign was erected in front of the site by its owner, yet after a period of intense research and campaigning on behalf of the trustees and volunteers, by April 2016 they were invited to submit a business plan detailing the site’s financial viability. This relatively recent position that The Green Backyard finds itself in brings other challenges, with the prospect of co-optation by economic imperatives threatening to destroy the very principles upon which the community project was founded. Thus, the future of the site is still uncertain.


The lives of the people engaged in the struggle for community gardens have often been overlooked and marginalised by policy and academia alike. As such, the voices, cyanotypes and writings of The Green Backyard trace the deviated histories of its spaces. If The Green Backyard were to be lost to development, this project (the archives and publication) would become a potent trace of the social aspirations for shared land and the political failure to meet such demands. In this case, the story the archives tell would appear to be one of loss: the absence of what was once public space materially manifest; yet another form of enclosure. However, if the site is safeguarded, the archives will become a community resource and celebrated symbol of the hard-won fight for citizens’ democratic rights to nature in the broadest political sense, and in the ways Polanyi defined it, as a matter of social justice.


Ultimately, the spaces of The Green Backyard and instructions for how they are interacted with cannot be found in a blueprint, nor are they inscribed in a private development proposal; rather people find what they need through their active contribution to the land – which collectively belongs to them – and towards those who tend it. In a shared garden, time opens up for conversation and debate in the very act of slowing down. Today, considering the rapid reconfiguration of urban space by inequitable redevelopment, driven by the financialisation of land, from communal to private ownership, and the political crisis such public dispossession inevitably entails, perhaps what is most radical about The Green Backyard is its politics of hospitality: the gentleness with which it hosts people whose conflicting views, contested voices and vulnerable lives, as indeed each of us leads, are utterly welcomed.


1 ‘Development’, Oxford English Dictionary, accessed 8 September 2016.

2 Rich Hill in his oral recording for Inside The Green Backyard (Opportunity Area) , 2015–16. See page 16.

3 Chris Erskine in his oral recording for Inside The Green Backyard (Opportunity Area), 2015–16. See page 16.

4 The right to the city was first proposed by Henri Lefebvre in his 1968 book of that name, La Droit a là ville; ‘Landscape/space/politics: an essay’ Doreen Massey, (2011), accessed 8 September 2016., 12.

5 See Ben Campkin, Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture, (London: I.B. Tauris, 2012), 4–7; See also Loretta Lees, Just Space, The London Tenants' Federation and SNAG, ‘The Social Cleansing of Council Estates in London’ in Regeneration Realities: Urban Pamphleteer #2 ed. Ben Campkin, David Roberts and Rebecca Ross, (Northampton, Belmont Press, 2013), 8–12. Accessed 11 July 2016.; Anna Minton, Ground Control: Fear and Happiness in the 21st Century City (London: Penguin, 2012), 5.

6 Peterborough City Council, ‘City Centre Plan’ (adopted on 17 December 2014), 41. Accessed 8 September 2016.

7 Kevin Lynch, Wasting Away, M. Southworth, ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Book Clubs, 1990).

8 See ‘Urban green nation: Building the evidence base’, CABE Space. Accessed 8 September 2016.; ‘Community green: using local spaces to tackle inequality and improve health’, CABE Space. Accessed 8 September 2016.; ‘True Value’, Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens. Accessed 8 September 2016.; ‘The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing’, Garden Organic and Sustain. Accessed 8 September 2016.

9 George McKay, Radical Gardening: Politics, Idealism and Rebellion in the Garden (London: Frances Lincoln, 2011), 6–25 and 154–195.

10 For example, respectively: The Green Backyard trustee Peter Slinger’s talk ‘Back to the Future: The History of Housing Crises’ on 15 March 2016; volunteer Colin Honeyman-Smith’s anti-fracking event on 26 September 2015; land rights discussion as part of Smugglers Trail on 16 July 2016; a conversation between a UKIP voter and Jessie Brennan about the European Referendum on 23 June 2016. (Results of the referendum show that 60.9% of the population in Peterborough voted to leave the European Union.)

11 George McKay, ‘Radical plots: the politics of gardening’, The Independent, 1 May 2011. Accessed 8 September 2016.

12 Doreen Massey, ‘Landscape/space/politics: an essay’ (2011), accessed 8 September 2016., 3; Doreen Massey, For Space (London: Sage, 2005), 9.

13 Ben Middleton in his oral recording for Inside The Green Backyard (Opportunity Area), 2015–16. See page 23.

14 Peterborough City Council, City Centre Plan (adopted on 17 December 2014). Accessed 8 September 2016.

15 One of the solutions to this problem can be found in Dominic Frisby, ‘How to make the Queen and our Dukes pay their way: tax their land’, The Guardian. Accessed 8 September 2016.

16 E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth, 1973), 239.

17 Martin Hoyles, ‘Enclosure and the Division of Labour’, in The Story of Gardening (London: Journeyman Press, 1991), 37.

18 David Crouch and Colin Ward, The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture (Nottingham: Five Leaves, 1997), 274.

19 Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001 [1957]), 75.