Tag Archives: Sheppey horticultural society

Kate Chapman’s blog post about the weekend.

I’m not very good with keys – so when I arrived at the Medway Road allotments in Sheerness on Saturday afternoon, I was convinced I’d brought the wrong set. I couldn’t get any of them to work in the padlock. Perhaps I’d brought the keys for my allotment back home in Nottingham by mistake.

After a phone call home and a deep breath I went back to the padlock and tried a few more times. I opened the gate and my panic subsided. It just takes patience – patience is a virtue – patience is a virtue which I seem to have in small quantities.

It strikes me that patience is something that good allotmenteers have plenty of – patience and faith. Looking at the rotated plots of heavy clay with the tops of tiny onions poking through, I was impressed at the patience and faith of experienced gardeners.

I needed a good dose of these myself. I was getting worried that I wasn’t explaning my idea for the art transmission project very well to the allotmenteers. Did it sound like pretentious nonsense, do they think I’m some kind of journalist, will I be able to make it work?

I’ve discovered that the only way to keep my doubting heart at bay – is to stop thinking and start doing. On Saturday afternoon , even though the sun was shining, the allotments were quiet. I had forgotten about the Grand National…………..

I decided to take a simple route and start with an easy question. I’d ask people if I could record what they were doing and then see if that would lead into a conversation about what they hear when they’re on the allotment and what the sounds mean to them.

I spotted a woman I hadn’t met before doing some digging so I asked her if I could record her. She agreed quite readily. I pointed the microphone at her spade and off she went. It’s hard work – the earth is heavy. This was more than just digging – she had to dig out big clumps, set it down, chop them up with her spade and then put it back into the bed. All for this for spuds.Good old spuds. “Good for the bingo wings too!” she assured me.

She told me that she’s a carer, and the allotment is her way of getting away from it all for a while. She liked the sound of the birds. She didn’t know anything about them. She just liked to hear them.

After that I wandered around in the sunshine, recorded the birds and the resident cockerel who was in fine voice. I headed to the Nursery Close allotments and recorded Dave’s bees. I was so mesmerised by the sound that came through my headphones as I recorded them that I forgot that bees might sting.  It was like entering another world, eavesdropping on a conversation in a language I couldn’t understand.

Back at Medway Road I found Steve hacking away at the ground on his plot in preparation for rotivation and then a spot of spud planting. As I approached him across the site, it struck me that the image of him leaning over, chopping into the earth with so much effort, is an image as ancient as mankind. The sound was intense too – his physical effort, the pause as he swung the cutting tool above his head and then brought it down onto the hard ground with a deadening thud. I recorded him for a whie and then he wanted me to have a go – so we agreed that he would record me doing it. At first I was barely tickling the surface of the ground – but I eventually got a bit of a technique going. After a few feet of ground I was exhausted. We stopped and looked at all the ground he still had to cover.  Rather him than me.

After some rotivator recording for the rotivator symphony I’m planning, I chatted to Mr Poppy. Peter Poppy is 87 and he’s lived in Sheerness all his life. He has many stories to tell.  He showed me around his allotment. He’s planted 100s of onions – he likes them baked with a Sunday roast. When he was five he could drive a horse and cart. He grew up delivering coal across Sheppey until trucks and vans took over from horse power. This still pains him and when he talks about it, it seems as though it happened only yesterday. He’s a horse lover. He talks about the horses he had as if they were members of his family.

In spite of all this recording, I still unsure about what it is I’m making. People suggest more sound for me to record and they help me to do it: kettle boiling, tea making, hoeing, mowing, potato planting, the polytunnels flapping in the wind, watering seeds in the greenhouse, filling a watering can, distant voices chatting. Where it all leads I’m still not quite sure but with a little patience and faith I think green shoots will start to show.

post by sound artist Kate Chapman



podcast Kate Chapman

podcast http://youtu.be/oB-0oaY96Dk Kate Chapman sound artist who is working with The Sheppey Horticultural Society on the Daniel Monday night community show at BRFM Bridge radio

Kate Chapman’s first weekend on Sheppey

It was a chilly start – the coldest weekend for ages but all wrapped up and ready to go I embarked on my audio adventure with the Sheppey Horticultural Society.

I started off at the Medway Road site – not many folk around on a Saturday morning – the plots were looking perky in spite of the cold and there were figures in the distance bent over their spades and forks. I decided that the first step was to introduce myself to people and to start some conversations.

My idea for this project is make sound postcards – that’s postcards made in sound. Yes – it’s a tricky thing to explain but quite a simple thing to make. I want to ask people what sounds they enjoy or notice on their allotment and then record those sounds with them. Then I’d like to ask people to write a postcard to someone from their allotment – sending a message as you would when you’re on holiday.

I’ve no idea how people will respond to this idea on day 1 I decide that the most important thing is to meet people and to have a chat.

It’s good to have such a simple mission on a cold and windy day but I also feel slightly awkward interrupting people as they work.

At the Medway Road site I chat to Norman who is trying to work how best to secure a rotivator inside his estate car. He’s been on his allotment since 7am even though he was MC-ing at a ballroom dancing gig the night before. Ballroom dancing is his main passion with vegetables coming a close second. He calls me over to his rows of enormous leeks and gives me a couple. There’s an amazing oniony smell as he cuts away the heavy soil from the roots.

Everyone I meet on the Medway Road site tells me I should chat to Mr Poppy – an allotment veteran with many stories to tell. Strangely I don’t meet him until Sunday but when I do it turns out that his weekend is not going well. His wheelbarrow is missing and one of his chickens escaped on the A249 whilst he was transporting them.

Amanda and Tom are running the shop. I ask them about sounds they associate with their allotment. Tom talks about the Easyjet planes heading for Southend airport that cross the site every day at 2.30 and make that distinctive sound that planes make as they get into landing mode. He says its regular as clock work “Mr Poppy sets his watch by it”. I also meet Jim who’s emptying sacks of manure onto his plot. I ask him about sounds he likes and he talks about his kettle coming to the boil on his stove in the shed.

Over at Richmond Street, the shop is open and there’s plenty of activity. Dave makes me a coffee and I meet Chris who shows me his new homemade chicken coop complete with four handsome inhabitants. He’s new to the allotments but he loves it already. In spite of the cold day, he’s brought burgers, buns and a barbecue which he’s planning to fire up later. I admire his optimism. I ask him about sounds he notices. He says the sound of the geese that fly over the canal next to the allotments and just as he says it, the geese are off – honking away as if on cue. Yvonne has the plot next to Chris, she’s treasurer of SHS and she’s putting two new panes of glass in her greenhouse. I record the sound of her clipping the glass in and I admire her elegant painted nails.

“How do you keep them so perfect when you’re down here so much?” I ask. She says “They’re acrylic – tough as anything. Lots of people comment on them. When you’re retired, you have time for things like that”. I ask her about sounds she notices and she refers to the rotivators which have been humming away all morning. The earth is thick and clay-like – really hard to turn over and so rotivators are essential. Yvonne describes a symphony – or perhaps a cacophony – some low pitched and some high pitched, some close up and some in the distance. I like this idea.

So – once Dave has shown me his beehive,  I’ve chatted to the community police officer about preventing allotment break-ins and I hear about frogs in the canal that sound like ducks (intriguing) I make my way back to Chatham feeling as though I’ve got off to a good start.

post by sound artist Kate Chapman



podcast Dave Hale from The Sheppey Horticultural Society

#podcast http://youtu.be/hfAn47IjfPM Dave Hale from The Sheppey Horticultural Society. on the Daniel Monday night community show at BRFM Bridge radio

first visit to the horticultural Society

Alottments – I had my first visit to the Horticultural Society and I couldn’t be more excited to start working with Kate Chapman and the allotment holders. Already heard some great stories from some very interesting people!

Golden Gloves – Another great night at the gym, some new faces showed up and the training was as intense as ever. Can’t wait to make our next visit!

post by photographer Simon Martin 

Sheppey Horticultural Society

A couple of Sundays ago Louise and Daniel met Dave Hale, Chairman of the Sheppey Horticultural Society, at their allotment plots in Sheerness to discuss the project in more detail. As always it was a relaxed atmosphere and we were able to see what the Sheppey Horticultural Society does at the their best

post by Daniel