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Notes from the Front Line

Open Jar Collective are taking part in the Hidden Civil War programme in Newcastle this October with a project called Notes from the Front Line.

Hidden Civil War is a month long programme of activity in Newcastle upon Tyne, commissioned by The NewBridge Project. Throughout October 2016 we are inviting activists and artists to contribute to a series of events that expose, collate and present evidence of a Hidden Civil War in Britain today.’

Open jar Collective have been gathering evidence and inviting people in the Newcastle and the surrounding areas to consider points of fragility in the food system.  We are hosting conversations and will create a space for dialogue that will help to build points of connection in the face of austerity.

We are posing the question – who’s on the front line in the challenge to feed Newcastle sustainably?  The front line of food production and distribution is all around us in our everyday lives  – from farms to food banks, supermarkets to corner shops, cafes to canteens.

We’ll be popping up in Grainger Market on Saturday 15th October, 11am-3pm, to share the stories we have gathered from the front line and to welcome your own ideas

Open Jar Collective: Notes from the front line

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Our Land Festival: Soil City Bike Tour

As part of Our Land Festival 2016, we invite you to join us for a free bike tour of the East End of Glasgow, where we’ll be asking the questions: Who owns the land? Who uses the land? Who benefits from the land? Explore the city’s industrial past, the connections between dereliction and people’s health, and the potential of plants to remediate contaminated soils. Join us for drawing, writing, visioning and conversation about the kind of Glasgow we’d like to see. Soil City is a long term project initiated by Open Jar Collective, to reimagine the city as if soil matters. For more info go to www.soilcity.org.uk

Meeting outside the People’s Palace at 11am, the tour will involve a gentle cycle on roads and riverside paths, with a number of stops along the way, covering a total distance of approximately 8 miles, returning to Glasgow Green by 3pm. All participants must be proficient at cycling, bring their own bike and helmet. Children 12 years and over who are confident cyclists are welcome to join too. You’ll also need to bring a packed lunch, suitable clothing and waterproofs. Hot refreshments provided. Further details of the cycle route coming soon.

Book your free place on eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/soil-city-bike-tour-tickets-26680002606

Soil City Field Notes

April was an intense, inspiring and rewarding month. The launch of Soil City was really successful and we couldn’t have anticipated how much people wanted to talk about soil.

We’ve documented the journey so far in the field notes section of the Soil City website. Please have a read of the wealth of activity, responses and reflection that came out of the Soil City programme during Glasgow International.

Thank you to all the people who contributed and made it possible.

We will we sending out an update soon about future plans for Soil City.

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What would you do with 40,000 samples of Scottish Soil?

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What would you do with 40,000 samples of Scottish Soil? And why on Earth might you have such a thing? We were lucky enough to find out, spending an incredible day at the James Hutton Institute http://www.hutton.ac.uk/ in Aberdeen. The James Hutton Institute is an international research centre that works with some of the world’s most significant agendas around climate change, food and water security. Previously called the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, since 1930 they have been collating the data and physical samples from it’s soil research into an archive. Shelves of labeled paper bags, plastic pots, jars, files, boxes. The day was spent exploring, examining, documenting and in conversation.

As strangers to the processes of soil science, the scale of the collection, was overwhelming, almost like discovering a particular hoarding habit. Hanging on to tiny amounts of something seemingly so simple, so common. As common as muck. Where does the collection stop we wondered? What is the collection worth? As we were generously given the trust to open draws, handle pots, flick through old field notes, the significance of the collection, the attention to detail became more and more apparent. Its worth is in the information and data that this collection can provide, to help us better understand how to use and the protect this valuable resource in our land. To inform policy around agriculture and to better understand the relationship between carbon and soil.

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A discussion about the relationship between soil and war resurfaced at several points. The collection was started during the second world war. The same time that aerial photographs appeared as a form of wartime surveillance and so it became possible to begin to make assessments on soil from the sky. Food security for the country was utmost and ultimately this rested on the productivity of our fields and our soils, the extent to which was an unknown at this point.

The ‘Soil Sampler,’ was the character who walked and climbed every 15metre square of Scotland, with a spade. Dug an at least one metre deep pit, noted it and took back bags of 15g samples that resulted in this collection. A manual and labour intensive process. We wondered to what extend does the personal, or subjective play some small role in such scientific processes? Intrigued by the fact that one sampler might see the colour of the soil with slightly different eyes.

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The soil samples have been processed, tested and analysed to record their composition. This is complemented by the soil survey, which notes the character of the area, what was growing, the weather, human activity etc.. These feed into the beautiful soil maps of Scotland, which can be accessed online here http://www.soils-scotland.gov.uk/data/soil-survey

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Call for volunteers at Glasgow International

Would you be interested in being part of the Open Jar Collective team and working on the Soil City project at Glasgow International 8th – 25th April 2016?

During the festival itself we are looking for people to volunteers to get involved in touring with the mobile unit, enabling public access to the laboratory and supporting our programme of events. We can pay travel and food expenses.

No experience is required but an interest in creative social engagement, soil and food is preferable. Particular roles we will require are; front of house for the lab, setting up for events, making food for events, documenting events and cycling the mobile lab.

Download the Call for Volunteers to find out more