Grasp the Nettle is the latest film from director (and friend of Another Kind Of Mind) Dean Puckett. This documentary explores the experiences of a disparate group of activists who came together in 2009 to create a sustainable community outside of the mainstream on a patch of derelict land at Kew Bridge, west London. I was involved in this project too (indeed, it was at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village that I first met Dean and his ever-present camera!), photographing and writing about the site as it grew and changed over the eleven months of its existence. It would be true to say that this was a place that inspired me both practically and creatively – and I wasn’t the only one.
Here, Dean describes what inspired him to make a film about the Eco-Village:
There was an intoxicating energy about the place, a sense of freedom from a system which many of us recognise is unequal and destructive. Yet this rag-tag bunch of occupiers defied conventional stereotypes of the ‘ecowarrior’. Most of them were ordinary people from different walks of life – some were students, others were former professionals. And they had come together to not simply occupy a piece of land, but to transform it, bit by bit – in an exciting and unnerving sense, creating their own reality outside the system. I wanted to truly understand this emerging hotbed of radical practice that was both outside and inside wider society, the people involved, and the way they understood what they were doing.
So he got his camera out – and the result was Grasp the Nettle. Having been successfully screened at a number of festivals, the film is now available online for anyone to watch – wherever, whenever and for free. I’ve posted it above, so now it’s your turn to meet the inhabitants of Kew Bridge Eco-Village and see what you think…
Long-time readers may be familiar with Dean’s name from my posts on ‘The Crisis of Civilization’, his previous film collaboration with Lucca Benney and Nafeez Ahmed – which is also available online if you haven’t yet seen it.
Here’s something I’m really excited about. This is the trailer for Grasp The Nettle, the brand new film from some of the team behind the successful indie remix mash-up documentary The Crisis of Civilization (2011). Filmed during the immediate aftermath of the 2008 banking collapse and beyond, Grasp The Nettle follows the lives and experiences of an eclectic group of activists involved in two radical social projects in London – the Kew Bridge Eco-Village and the controversial Democracy Village in Parliament Square.
Sadly, Kew Bridge Eco-Village was evicted on Thursday 27th May. Police, bailiffs and security guards appeared in the village at 8am, quickly (and fairly peacefully – although there were no arrests) removing the residents – all except for one, who climbed a wooden tower on the site and refused to come down for about three hours!
Armed with my camera, I managed to get down to the site by about 9.30am and captured these shots of the stand-off between the Eco-Village resister and the (slightly exasperated) forces of law and order…
Since June 2009, a remarkable group of people have been acting as caretakers of a patch of derelict land sandwiched between Kew Bridge, the A315 into central London and the Thames.
This is a busy, congested and built up corner of west London where available land is at a premium, and this site had lain empty and unused for several decades before the eco-villagers moved in last summer.
Now it is a thriving example of sustainable living, as well as being community garden project and home to a fascinating array of plants and wildlife – the latest in a long line of different functions.
The site has always been much more than just a piece of wasteland; it actually has a long history, probably dating back at least as far as the Bronze Age, and mainly because of its central position between the river and a main road. The A315 has long been an central route in to and out of London – it is built over a Roman road and was later also an important coaching route.
There had also been a ferry (and later a bridge) at Kew since at least the 17th century. You can thus easily see how the centrality of the site to river crossings and main roads would make it a logical plot of land to locate a business or build other property, and how this would eventually give it an element of historical significance.
Recently, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village in west London. This fascinating project aims to create a sustainable community garden on an acre or so of derelict urban land which has been the subject of a now decades-old planning wrangle between the prospective developer, local residents and the borough council.
Sitting empty, unused and unloved on the banks of the Thames for almost two decades, the site was soon taken over by Mother Nature, and the eco-village is now home to an amazing array of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, ladybirds, foxes, a rare type of biting spider (!), as well as several neighbourhood cats who have obviously viewed the site as their very own private feline fiefdom for almost as long as it has been derelict.
I first visited the eco-village back in the summer, when the whole area was covered in the familiar pink of patches of rosebay willow-herb and the vivid purples of newly-seeded buddliea bushes, as well as any number of other, more curious and less common plants and herbs – all of which attract wildlife of all kinds, even on such a resolutely urban patch of land as this.
However, despite the fact that they are becoming more and more common in urban areas, and that the eco-village provides an ideal habitat for them, there is one species I have yet to see there – bats.
Everyone has their favourite animals, and bats are definitely one of mine. Not only are they remarkably cute little creatures (they are, honestly!), but they also play a crucial part in the maintainance of a green and healthy environment, which makes them doubly cool in my eyes. They really are extraordinary – and extraordinarily important – animals.
So here are a few fascinating Bat Facts to explain precisely why that is…