It seems strange to be reflecting on a sad theme when we’re heading for midsummer, but the green garden of Sheffield is missing two of its brightest flowers this summer. The first was through the sudden death of Richard Clare. Originally from Brighton, he was a self-taught teacher of organic food growing since the 1980s, […]

It seems strange to be reflecting on a sad theme when we’re heading for midsummer, but the green garden of Sheffield is missing two of its brightest flowers this summer. The first was through the sudden death of Richard Clare. Originally from Brighton, he was a self-taught teacher of organic food growing since the 1980s, but looked more like a survivor of the 60s. Many Sheffield people and groups have benefited from his enthusiastic and wide-ranging expertise in practicalities from soil preparation to food preservation and seed-saving. He also branched out into the eco-politics of what he called ‘ediculture’ (edible horticulture). He taught that modern industrial agriculture is simply not sustainable. The system has been poisoning the biosphere in which we live, with toxins like oil-based chemicals, ‘monoculture’, genetically modified foods, and the recently banned bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. These are dark realities that ‘agri-business’ and the food industry don’t want to reveal, but Richard knew the answers; local food production and bio-diversity. And he did his passionate best to spread the ideas, which look certain to increase in importance in the future.

The man was a legend in his own lifetime. He even called his own website Organic Guru. I was one of the many who attended one of his introductory courses. He had a lot of empathy and was very committed to doing things his way. He could also be difficult, he called a spade a spade and didn’t hesitate to criticise when he felt it was due. Although he will be sadly missed, he has planted a legacy, not least in the many growing sites like Darnall Allotment Project and Access to Allotments in Crookes. His huge bank of heritage seed varieties, well adapted to Sheffield’s soil conditions, will be preserved by a group of friends and former students. Richard was encouraged to record his voice and wisdom in a series of lecture videos on a Youtube channel entitled Ediculture, thankfully preserving his immense knowledge. These are recommended viewing, the fruit of a life all too brief.

The Ediculture workdays and courses will continue. If you are interested in workdays, seeds or food growing courses, email info@ediculture. co.uk. It is still very much alive.

One of Richard’s sites is the Ponderosa park in Crookesmoor. Back in the 90s he led an environment group, one of his many activities, which planted trees there and pioneered the concept of ‘edible landscapes’. Many Sheffielders will know this as the site of the perennial Peace in the Park festival, which tragically will not take place this year. After a decade of cultivating love and peace in the summer sun, the voluntary committee faced an agonising decision. The usual run of pre-festival benefit gigs simply did not produce the usual income to see them through. Funding and cashflow is never easy. It was a long and difficult meeting. Flipchart paper was beginning to line the walls, but there was no other conclusion. The festival would have faced a loss of around £8,000 instead of generating income for charities as it has always done. With great reluctance the decision was made. Peace in the Park 2013 is off.

The organisers have really tried to explain the reasons on their website. They want to keep it free and keep the spirit alive, but there’s nothing that can be done now except to work on a glorious return in 2014. So please get out and support their benefit gigs and fundraising appeals. Next year, Peace in the Park will be bigger, brighter and better than ever. Sometimes we don’t appreciate what we’ve got till it’s gone, and renewal means new growth. We need peace festivals more than ever before. The world needs peace and cultivation, not war, austerity and destruction.

youtube.com/user/ediculture
peaceinthepark.org.uk
alt-sheff.org

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