Jackson Mount takes us into the forest with Growing Solidarity, a community farm for refugee migrants
“It's really important to remember the therapeutic power of land and community,” says Sophe, one of the co-ordinators of Growing Solidarity.
- Joey Levenson
- 13 March 2023
Since January 2020, community farm Growing Solidarity has been working with people from refugee backgrounds and those living locally to build connections to self, each other, and the natural world through weekly facilitated sessions at Hempen Cooperative on the Hardwick Estate. “We organise quarterly public events and yearly nature connection programmes,” Sophe, co-ordinator of the project, tells It’s Nice That. “The nature and the landscape of the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty provides the setting and tools for these sessions, programmes and events.”
It’s a beautiful display of kinship rooted in the local community, and thankfully photographer Jackson Mount stumbled upon it by chance in 2020 and took to his camera to capture it all. “I randomly followed a route which led me to a small farm house surrounded by a few parked cars and caravans. In the front garden, a man with long blonde hair and his dog were lying in the grass, we got chatting and he told me that he lived there as part of a co-operative who grow and sell hemp products,” Jackson explains. From there, Jackson was invited to come down and volunteer with the farm. “These images are the product of my time with Growing Solidarity,” he says. “Time spent playing, chatting, planting, eating, looking and being.”
The series particularly highlights the members of the farm who were recent migrants to the U.K. from rural backgrounds now forced to live within urbanised areas. Growing Solidarity situates them back in a safe, welcoming rural environment. “There is a general feeling of pleasure about being outdoors, people are hanging out, chatting, working in the garden,” Jackson says of the community. “One of my favourite days spent at Growing Solidarity was with Meheman, pictured looking around a field with finger binoculars, because it was an incredibly hot day and there was a general mood of lethargy, apart from Meheman who just had this kind of endless pool of excitement and curiosity.”
The series perfectly captures that innate sense of wonder without ever looking down or infantilising its subjects. Every photo radiates with positivity, much like Growing Solidarity does itself. “We aim to empower each other, sharing and building skills together, while also making space to explore what happens inside us, between us and around us,” Sophe explains. “Unfortunately, many of the members of the growing solidarity community live in cramped temporary accommodation in Reading town centre with no access to cooking facilities, green spaces, places to meet as a community or communal areas.” Thus, Jackson’s photo series serves more as a simple personal project. It works as a twofold: one, showing off Jackson’s incredible prowess as a wonderfully skilled and thoughtful photographer, and two as a means of highlighting the incredible work Sophe is doing with the farm.
“Structures of power that govern our world have made it appear that there is no alternative society to the one we live in now, and as individuals living under capitalism we have been encouraged to become increasingly divided from one another and these bonds have been stretched even further, necessarily but painfully nonetheless, by the events of the last three years,” Jackson summarises. “Projects like Growing Solidarity represent the possibility of something different, the importance of thinking of new ways of being in the world, of being with the land and of being together.”
GalleryJackson Mount: Growing Solidarity (Copyright © Jackson Mount, 2023)
Jackson Mount: Growing Solidarity (Copyright © Jackson Mount, 2023)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. He was part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.