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Oh, What a Harvest!

Looking back at the Unexpected Garden’s community event

Image – Matt Baker

On Saturday 10th September, Harvest Festival was held in the Unexpected Garden, Stranraer’s newest outdoor community space.

A day full of music, performances, workshops and creativity, Harvest was an opportunity to bring the community together, celebrate and take a moment to reflect on the journey the Unexpected Garden Team, its supporters and volunteers had taken to transform a previously unused area of land on the waterfront of Stranraer’s ionic harbour into a community garden filled with flowers, edible pants and spaces to relax.

Six months ago the Unexpected Garden team stepped foot on what was an inconspicuous patch of green space, used regularly by dog walkers. With a lot of planning, digging, laughter and fun, they managed to turn the space into a little oasis in Stranraer. 

Image – Matt Baker

After many weeks of hard work, this oasis, the Unexpected Garden, was in full glorious bloom and ready to welcome the town for an afternoon of family-friendly fun. Harvest was a sea of colour and life – attracting not only the locals but also an influx of bees and other pollinators enjoying the flowers in the garden. An array of fabulous performers animated the garden with their lively, off beat shows and musicians provided the soundtrack to a fantastic day.

Harvest Festival and The Unexpected Garden are part of a national project called Dandelion; Scotland’s contribution to Unboxed, a year long UK wide festival of creativity which aims to develop our understanding of where food comes from, down to the basic principles of ‘growing your own’. The team in Stranraer are part of a cohort of 13 garden teams who have all been using art and creativity to share the message of ‘sow, grow, share’.

Harvest was a culmination of the event series that ran over the summer and was a really important opportunity to bring more people than ever into the garden. The festival day was really special, with an abundance of smiling faces enjoying the space, food and entertainment which included; a dedicated kids corner with creative workshops and activities like, scarecrow making competitions, magic shows and musical instrument making, plus musical performances throughout the day with sets from: Paragon, Drum for Fun, Dandelion Musician in residence, Bell Lungs and Kissing the Flint, and interactive performances from the Bippity characters and gardener, Hugh Bushey Babcock and his psychic leek, Leia.

Image – Gregor Anderson

Of the Harvest Festival, Beth Piggott, Creative Producer of the Garden said:

“One of the highlights of the day was our delivery of the community meal. Over the past few months we have worked with Simon Preston and the Fed-Up Cafe to create a menu for the town that could be served at the festival. After collecting stories from people across the town, we devised a menu that reflected the people and the traditions: sweet potato and chilli soup to represent the warmth in the community; beef stew with nice leafy greens in tribute to the beef farming and livestock which is ever present on the local green landscape, a vegan boxty represented links to Ireland and our victoria plum cake commemorated the lives of those lost when the MV Princess Victoria Ferry sank in 1953.”

On the day the garden also hosted a produce swap which was a big success and the team were delighted to be able to give away a selection of vegetables grown in the garden and invited others to bring their own to the table. 

Image – Gregor Anderson

The garden is a shining example of the possibilities that regeneration has to offer at a time when lots of exciting conversations are taking place about what could be next for Stranraer. It’s wonderful to think that the unexpected garden is one of the many new building blocks of change in the town, supporting innovation and creativity locally. 

Supported by so many local and national businesses and organisations including; Ulsterbus, Burns Real Ale, Dumfries & Galloway Council, Incredible Edibles, Stranraer Academy, and Soleburn Garden Centre, the Unexpected Garden Stranraer also captured the imagination of both Caledonian MacBrayne and The Northern Lighthouse Board who both donated large scale props in the form of a decommissioned lifeboat and two sea buoys respectively.

Of the donations, Mike Bullock, Chief Executive of the Northern Lighthouse Board said:

“It’s an honour for our decommissioned buoys to be part of the Stranraer Unexpected Garden Project. The buoys served at sea for many years helping keep mariners safe and had reached the end of their operational life.  We are therefore delighted that they have found another role being reused as part of this innovative project where they can be enjoyed by the local community and act as a symbol of Scotland’s rich maritime heritage.”

Still glowing in the aftermath of the festival, which put smiles on so many faces, the UNexpected garden team are still working to realise a vision for the future of the garden. Right now, they’re focus is to keep the garden alive, and who knows there may be many more Harvests to come! 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the garden feel free to drop me an email on [email protected] 

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