Pig in the City
Nestled between three primary schools, a council estate and the East London Line, Spitalfields City Farm is a colourful two-acre oasis whose hand-painted décor far outshines the overshadowing bling of Bishopsgate and famous Brick Lane Beigels just up the way.
A former railway depot, the farm was started in 1978 by local residents in need of allotments. I’m told that backyard farming is only a recently extinct East End tradition, so animals were a natural addition to the growing community gardens. It’s astonishing how many are now provided for amongst the herb plots and Spode-dominated bric-a-brac walls (not to mention the land confiscated for ELL development) – the temptation to sponsor Pants the Sheep or the ‘Crazy Ducks’ is almost overwhelming.
Head straight for the children’s zone and seat yourself under the pergola with the chickens. Stay there long enough and a volunteer pops over to offer you a cuppa, or show you how to keep the geese away by pretending to be an aeroplane. The path meanders through Guinea Pig Village boasting its own Gherkin and Truman Brewery, via the pink telephone box where Pants takes refuge, back past the miniature wildlife garden offering ‘Peace & Calm’ from next door’s playground, and into the Volunteer Veg Garden, where Itchy the pig snuffles the reasonably priced manure: Pre-bagged £2, Bring your own Bag £1, or Do It Yourself for free!
Among all this, the farm workers devote their time to engaging the young, the youth and the not-so-youth in growing, cooking, arts and mentoring, upholding the SCF values of collaboration, creativity and ‘space’. As you leave via the donkey paddock, the ram sculpture, graffiti-ed into a blood-thirsty sheep demon, lands you back in a more twisted reality.