Greening the city – Southbank’s Festival of Neighbourhood

This month, Goodtrippers took a trip to London’s Southbank – usually a carpet of 1960s industrial concrete – to find a decidedly ‘allotmenty’ feel to the place…

The Southbank Festival of Neighbourhood, this year’s backdrop to the usual comedy, performance, music and drama that takes place over summer, aims to be London’s friendliest neighbourhood. Artists, designers, architects and community groups were invited to bring the joy and warmth of the village green, allotment and street party to the Southbank. And it’s refreshing to see the grey concrete area housing giant topiary, arty wheel barrow installations, an orchard and window boxes crammed with vegetables and herbs.

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First up as you approach from Hungerford Bridge, is ‘The Greenhouse’ full of herbs growing in 600 hessian sacks ready to be harvested and used in dishes in the nearby Riverside Terrace Cafe. It was originally designed by Andrew Lock in collaboration with local schoolchildren. Now you can smell the heavenly mint, lavender, sage and basil whilst reading the labels for recipes of the dishes they’re destined for.

Behind ‘The Greenhouse’ is ‘Octavia’s Orchard’ – 30 three metre high fruit trees housed in galvanised, steel street bins (prettier than it sounds!) dotted along the busy walk-way opposite the cafes and bars of the strip. Named after National Trust founder Octavia Hill, the orchard, by What If:projects, takes inspiration from Hill’s idea that “tenants and all urban workers should have access to open spaces… Places to sit in, places to play in, places to stroll in, and places to spend a day in.”London Housing estates are invited to ‘adopt’ part of the orchard and seating for their grounds at the end of the Festival’s season.

Turning back to the river, you’ll find Queen’s Walk Window Gardens, a large-scale allotment designed by Wayward Plants using reclaimed windows. Growing typical allotment produce such as courgettes, onions and tomatoes, the space is tended to by volunteers and aims to grow 500 meals as part of Capital Growth’s ‘Growing a Million Meals for London’ campaign.

Round near the Hayward Gallery you can’t fail to spot ‘The Sweepers’ – two gigantic pieces of topiary-style art by Shipshape Arts, inspired by Londoners who swept up the mess created by the riots in 2011. As part of the series, ‘Neighbours’ is another two-character supersize topiary installation behind the Royal Festival Hall.

Also near the Hayward Gallery is ‘Roll Out the Barrows’ – a ‘rollercoaster’ shaped installation of small wheel barrows planted-up with real plants. Part of the Edible Bus Stops initiative, the creators are inviting community groups to come forward and ‘adopt’ a barrow to tend to throughout the summer, then roll back to their community in September.

We didn’t get a chance to sample Luke’s Cafe (British food served from a humble garden shed) or have a drink on the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden and woodland garden, and there are plenty of other children’s activity spaces, murals and more dotted around the area.

Certainly a breath of fresh village air this summer!

For more information, including details of all the features and how to get involved, visit

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Promoting urban gardening and allotments
  • Growing fresh produce for local cafes and ‘Growing a Million Meals for London’ campaign
  • Volunteers involved
  • Sustainable and lasting impact with Octavia’s Orchard trees being replanted in London’s housing estates



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Kerry Law

Kerry Law (Founding Editor, Goodtrippers): I'm a PR and writer living in London. Since taking my first trip aged 2yrs (all the way from from NZ to the UK) I've loved travel. As a keen advocate of ecotourism and responsible travel, I decided to start Goodtrippers...

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