While the importance of local food-growing is fast gaining ground, the ability to conceive of urban food production actually happening within the bewildering array of structures and surfaces of the city is a difficult concept.
Walking the local neighbourhood with this Edible Map as a guide, the food-flâneur could start to picture a very different landscape of vegetable plots, orchards or beehives. Just add your imagination and the grassed areas around housing, the corner of parks or the many flat rooftops of this corner of Hackney will spring to life with psychogeographic food.
But the Edible Map is more than a visualisation tool. It also attempts to investigate examples of agricultural yields that the immediate area around Surrey Street could produce. This will allow the itinerant urban resident or visitor to visualise what percentage of their current diet could be supported using a locally grown food.
Drawing-over the usual cadastral A-Z map, the Edible Map intervenes with relevant data, icons and narratives. This translates ideas of “local food” into tangible, interactive and playful stories, reconnecting people to a sense of place through local food-growing.
Termed ‘urban agriculture’ by some, or perhaps put more simply ‘food-gardening’, this map reveals that the activity is already well established in this area of London. It is a ritual, a preparation, a reminder. As Roland Barthes states, “No doubt, food is, anthropologically speaking … the first need”. Taking the Edible Map as a guide walkers, can witness this “first need” escaping from the front gardens, and grassed spaces of south Hackney. Undertaken for perhaps pleasure, memory, or taste, these spaces are rehearsals of our ‘first need’, producing edibles and giving us a brief escape from industrial food commodification.
The Edible Map was produced to support a series of walks, undertaken in September 2010, as part of the PERMACULTURES programme at the Space Gallery, London. www.spacestudios.org.uk
The Edible Map was conceived and designed by Mikey Tomkins. It is part of ongoing PhD research. Five areas of London have been mapped for their food producing ability.