In March 2020, Just after Seedy Sunday 2020 had happened, there was a lockdown due to the Covid Pandemic.
Seedy Sunday had really wanted to go ahead with the 2021 event but in the end felt it needed to cancel the event and do something with the seeds they had.
I asked them a few questions about these difficult times and how Seedy Sunday felt with it all.
You did an amazing job remote seed availability last year, it just goes to show the passion behind the event.
Did more people requesting seeds than you thought they would?
Thank you! We could never have done it without the support of Jackie and Infinity Foods. This is where our partnership really showed its value. 2020 had showed us how much people were appreciating growing and the need for seeds, so we were determined to make it happen. It was quite challenging to work out the logistics when we were all more familiar with organising the event.
In the end, Ros Loftin our committee member who leads on seeds, put together ‘variety packs’ of 10 packs of seeds to distribute to people who signed up. We also supplied nearly 50 small growing groups and new projects, many newly formed as a result of lockdown: community centre gardens, community allotments, food bank allotments growing food to serve community lunches. Ros made several hundred variety packs, an amazing amount of work, and made possible with more funding from Infinity, so we could buy more seeds. These were then distributed through your store in Brighton. Of the 500 who signed up to collect in store, I think only 50 or so didn’t collect their packs, which we gave out to the growing groups we’d made contact with.
Other than having to cancel last year’s event, how did the pandemic affect Seedy Sunday?
I had a real ‘moment’ in March 2020 after lockdown was announced. I’d heard about the huge national demand for seeds as everyone turned to their gardens and plots for solace and produce. We were all learning to value gardening, seeds and food security in new ways.
I stood in my plot and thought ‘this is what Seedy Sunday is for’ – a community creating resilience and enabling the sharing of seeds, and also of produce at times when we worried about some foods being available.
We also made contact with Seed Swap events in Bristol, Lewes and Cambridge and had Zoom chats over 2020 and 2021, which were wonderful for idea swapping, collaboration and general solidarity. Out of that group came a joint webinar between Seedy Sunday Brighton and Hove and Seedy Saturday in Lewes. We invited the wonderful Vivien Sansour from Palestine to talk to us about the history and culture of seed saving in Palestine. This was something we would never have thought of before the pandemic, and it was so wonderful to have an international connection. Seed Swap in Bristol also ran a series of great webinars. We also made contact with Gaia and their Seed Sovereignty coordinator for the South East, and connected with their work on community seed saving. And now most of our committee meetings are on Zoom, which is easier for everyone on these dark and rainy nights. So a lot of good has come out of the pandemic, in many ways.
What has been a highlight of being part of such a great event?
One of the highlights was when we hosted Gardeners Question Time in 2019, in the BHASVIC hall. Seeing Seedy Sunday through their eyes really made me appreciate what a wonderful event it is, and it was wonderful to hear it described on the radio show. And I got to meet Eric Robson, the former chair of GQT, and was able to get James Wong to sign my collection of his books!
What kind of difficulties have you had over the years and how have you overcome them?
In the past the problem has been dealing with the crowds! We used to have a queue of people waiting in the cold outside the doors at BHASVIC. Now we’re starting earlier (9am) at the Open Market with free entry and a simpler set up, I’m hoping it’ll flow more easily.
We don’t have a lot of problems beyond that, there is such a positive atmosphere around the event, everyone involved is so committed and enthusiastic. It is a huge amount of work during the run-up, but we have a brilliant committee and a wonderful group of volunteers. Plus the support and encouragement of Infinity Foods staff like Jackie Sweet!
Don’t forget this year Seedy Sunday Brighton is Back!