Gardens of Sanctuary is a partnership between City of Sanctuary, Social Farms & Gardens and the Permaculture Association. We have a vision of a network of green spaces with a culture of welcome, in which asylum seekers and refugees feel safe and appreciated as valued contributors and co-creators of community gardens and environmental projects across the UK.
For those who arrive to seek asylum in the UK, community gardens, city farms and other community growing spaces can offer vital and unique opportunities to find community, improve mental and physical health and to learn and share skills.
Our case studies and report are intended as useful resources for any community growing space working with refugees and asylum seekers, or who would like to do so in the future. All of our resources are free and available to download here.
The Gardens of Sanctuary project has developed from initial conversations between friends Ben Margolis and Sophie Antonelli in 2016.
Ben and his wife, Sophie North, had been welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to their smallholding in West Norfolk since 2012 (The Grange) where they were able to offer short-term residential retreats and volunteering opportunities in partnership with refugee organisations. Over the years as the project developed they were recognised as a ‘Home of Sanctuary’ by the City of Sanctuary network and as a LAND demonstration site by the Permaculture Association.
Sophie Antonelli is the co-founder of The Green Backyard in Peterborough, a 2.3 acre community garden which opened in 2009 and successfully saw off bids to sell their city centre site for development. Sophie has worked for Social Farms & Gardens (formerly the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens) since 2015, and in 2015 and 2016 made trips as a volunteer to the refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk.
In 2015 there was a phenomenal response from the UK public to the needs of people fleeing the war in Syria and elsewhere and many community growing spaces contacted projects likeThe Grange asking for advice and support to enable them to welcome people seeking sanctuary to their sites.
In 2017, City of Sanctuary, Social Farms & Gardens and the Permaculture Association agreed to work as partners to develop the resources to support a network of Gardens of Sanctuary around the UK. After receiving some funding from the Seedbed Trust they carried out an online survey, a series of case studies and a literature review which led to the resource pack and report which were launched on November 17, 2018. This is a great blog from the Permaculture Association about the launch.