Town is the Garden Chapbooks (Book)

Co-Editors Joss Allen and Caroline Gatt

How might a rural agricultural town rethink its relationship to food and to food growing in an era of increasing awareness of climate and ecological emergency? These beautifully produced books capture the diverse approaches to this question by the Town is the Garden project in the northeast of Scotland. Set of seven chapbooks, col. illus. throughout.


The Town is the Garden (2017–20) was a three-year creative community food-growing project run by Deveron Projects, a socially engaged arts organisation in the northeast of Scotland. The project set out to explore how a rural agricultural town might begin to rethink its relationship to food and to food growing in an era of increasing awareness of climate and ecological emergency, from the community up. Through a collective investigation into the processes of learning and sharing skills related to food growing, the project explored how a community might also begin to pay better attention to the entanglement of human and more-than-human worlds. Food became a lens through which to investigate more broadly the dichotomies between culture and nature, ecology and economy that together with the colonial, racist and patriarchal systems have led to the current environmental catastrophes. 

This set of seven chapbooks captures the diverse creative learning programme developed through the project. Working with a range of practitioners that contributed to the project, the series includes critical texts, instructions and recipes, and poetry.

Story I and Story II contextualise the project and include an essay by art historian Elisabetta Rattalino on artists and art practices working with food and farming, alongside an introductory text on the project, written by Joss Allen and Caroline Gatt, the project coordinators and series editors. 

Compost includes an essay by Maria Puig de la Bellacasa titled “Permaculture practices as ethical doings”, which explores the relationships of care developed through permaculture practices illustrated through the example of making compost. This is paired with three compost recipes for making cold compost, hot compost and working with hugelkultur. 

Seeds includes a text by Dawn Finch on practices of seed saving, blending seed saving instructions with poetry and a critique of the industrial seed economy. Dawn Finch is curator of a Huntly-based seed library developed through the Town is the Garden project, the Strathbogie Seed Collective, a poet and a children’s author.  

Plants includes a text by Eleanor Brown, an Aberdeenshire-based forager, which documents her foraging year through a number of recipes and anecdotes. This is paired with a text by anthropologist Alexandra Falter on plant-human relations; particularly those studied through her field work in the Bolivian Andes.

Garden includes a text by gardener and architect Joe Crowdy exploring queer ecology and role of plants and gardens in fostering human sensuality and intimacy. Joe delivered two workshops in Huntly on this topic, one with the local school’s LQBTQ+ group, who the project has been supporting to develop a garden in the school grounds. 

Orchard includes a text and series of drawings by Jonathan Baxter & Sarah Gittins on their project Future Fruit, commissioned as part of the Town is the Garden project. Future Fruit explores how an existing orchard could be rethought in response to the current climate and ecological emergency, particularly drawing on the work and theories of Patrick Geddes. 

The original project had a very specific geographical focus in a literal sense but the themes are topical and universal – this set will appeal to anyone with an interest in the project principles and themes.  

A stunning set of beautiful books; a thought provoking and thoughtful gift for a friend, or for yourself.

Joss Allen can be found at the edges of the garden, amongst the weeds and compost heaps. He is an artworker and gardener exploring how creative practices can shape earthy politics, community economies and ecological ways of being, in playful, radical, responsive and meaningful ways. Through his work, he likes to engender collaborations across disciplines, peer educate, tell stories and build communities. His work has been influenced by his time as a support worker for adults with autism, a labourer on an organic farm and a refuse collector, among others. He recently co-ordinated a three-year community food growing project, Town is the Garden (2017–20), with Deveron Projects, Huntly, Scotland. Joss currently lives in Helsinki, Finland where he is in the process of establishing a local seed library and pursuing a Ph.D research project on seed saving and story.

Caroline Gatt is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, University of Graz and Co-Investigator on the project '(Musical) Improvisation and Ethics' funded by the Austrian Science Fund. She is an anthropologist and performer, and her research interests include collaborative anthropology, environmentalism, laboratory theatre, design anthropology, ontological politics and ethical self-formation. She is author of 'Breathing Beyond Embodiment: Exploring Emergence, Grief and Song in Laboratory Theatre' (2020)and An Ethnography of Global Environmentalism: Becoming Friends of the Earth (2018) and editor of the special issue of Collaborative Anthropologies 'Considering Onto/Epistemology in Collaboration' (2018), and The Voices of the Pages (2017).

The Seven Chapbooks

Story I and Story II – written by Joss Allen and Caroline Gatt, the project coordinators and series editors

Compost  includes an essay by Maria Puig de la Bellacasa

Seeds – includes text by Dawn Finch

Plants includes texts by Eleanor Brown and Alexandra Falter

Garden – includes text by Joe Crowdy

Orchard – includes a text and series of drawings by Jonathan Baxter & Sarah Gittins 

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