When Eugenie Aroutcheff from Rutherglen in Scotland set out on a mission to establish more outdoor growing activities for children in her community, she ended up creating Grow73, a powerful community gardening initiative re-connecting people with their community, history and nature.
Eugenie’s story started when she and her friend Lynn approached their council for some space in their local park to create some raised beds. Using wooden planters made by a local wood recycling project, Eugenie started to develop connections with people of all ages who wanted to get stuck into some growing!
Eugenie said, “The fact that we barely had any budget was the making of Grow73 – we didn’t need big infrastructure but just wanted to show people you can start something from not much at all.”
The Big Lunch
Keen to build a connection to green spaces for more people, Eugenie discovered The Big Lunch and decided to hold one at the community garden in Overtoun Park.
“We held our Big Lunch in the park and asked people to bring along a picnic. We had 75 people turn up! People played music and chatted and it felt like the beginning of a community.”
The Big Lunch has now become Grow 73’s signature event, with over 200 people getting together each year to enjoy music, food and a few hours spent enjoying the great outdoors.
Telling Rutherglen’s story
After working with storyteller Amanda Edmiston at her second Big Lunch, Eugenie decided to grow a new idea that combined the experiences of local people with gardening.
“People were always talking about the old days. During the industrial era, people used to come from Glasgow on the weekend to enjoy music and theatre and green spaces, but when industry closed down, it left a legacy of polluted land.”
Realising that people had lost their sense of pride in Rutherglen, Eugenie introduced the idea of ‘reparative plants’ and started growing sunflowers to symbolically cleanse the earth. She set up Greening CamGlen, a network linking environmental groups in Rutherglen and a neighbouring town also affected by the legacy of industry.
Eugenie also worked with Amanda and eight primary schools and two care homes to dream up stories inspired by the town’s history. These were used to create sculptures in Overtoun Park and a mural at Rutherglen station filled with memories and anecdotes and surrounded by bee-friendly plants – all designed to welcome commuters and visitors to Rutherglen!
The Bee Line
Putting Rutherglen firmly back on the map is Grow73’s latest project – a 6.2km stretch of green pockets linking the town’s train station with Cathkin Braes country park.
“In the same way bees pollinate, we wanted to pollinate a community. It was about making connections with people as we identified green spaces along the road. Places like nurseries, health centres, schools and rugby clubs have all taken on planters full of nectar-rich plants with space to add their own plants too.”
As well as introducing large planters, Grow73 distributed over 650 growing kits to local people, which led to the Bee Line expanding far beyond its initial stretch. With people all over Rutherglen now creating and contributing to green spaces across the town, a spectacular multi-layered map has been created with walking and cycling routes, and QR codes detailing plants, wildlife and flowers in each spot – all further connecting people to the place where they live!