Words by Smiley Team
A campaign group with the aim to seek greater representation of ethnic minority Britons has launched a community gardening scheme.
We Too Built Britain was founded by Zehra Zaidi four years ago following Brexit, in the hopes of lessening divides and connecting people together. Recently, Zehra has worked on the We Too Planted Britain campaign, which has led to the naming of the first ever rose to be named after an ethnic minority Briton.
The scheme has also donated 5,000 free roses to be planted in 700 community shared gardens across the country.
“Lockdown and the pandemic showed us the importance of community and the restorative power of nature," says Zehra. "When we talk of ways of bringing us together as a nation and building a connected society, gardening may not be the first area that people think of.
“However, every gardener will tell you that gardening is communal, restorative, and creative. There is something magical and grounding about planting something in the land, it connects you to the land.”
The rose created by Harkness Roses was named John, after John Ystumllyn, gardener and first recorded black person in North Wales. John’s marriage to his wife Margaret was also one of the first recorded interracial marriages in the UK.
Zehra hopes that John and his rose, which will be planted across the country this month, will stand for tolerance and community.
“We are incredibly proud of the John Ystumllyn rose," says David White of Harkness Roses. "We have also been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the We Too Planted Britain Scheme and the stories people have shared about their community garden initiatives and what the rose signifies to them in terms of helping to bring people together.
“After the last few years with the pandemic, we need to focus on our collective healing and mental health. We hope our scheme goes some way to supporting people and bringing communal joy.”
One of the plantings of John’s rose is even taking place at Buckingham Palace, and the scheme will run again in 2023.
Previous campaigns from We Too Built Britain, include the new 50p ‘Diversity Built Britain’ Royal Mint coins and the ‘Hidden Heroes’ statues campaign.
“After Brexit, we felt quite fractured as a country and I think some ethnic minority people felt the narrative from some people was somewhat divisive," says Zehra. "But you need hope for a positive future, and hope comes from people, each of us doing what we can.
“I started the We Too Built Britain campaign to tell the stories of under-represented people in Britain by using cultural symbols, with the aim of showing what we have in common. But to also understand and value our uniqueness and differences. After all, life would be boring if we were all the same!”
GET INVOLVED: You can follow the campaigns and activities of We Too Built Britain via their Twitter account @WeTooBB.
VOLUNTEER: To find a community garden near you, visit the RHS finder website.