Dandelion Launch Reveals a Summer Filled with Free Events Across Scotland

Just last week the Dandelion Programme was launched across Scotland, marking the beginning of a summer that will be filled with projects and events that are driven by the concept: 'sow, grow, share'. Commissioned by Creative Scotland, this major creative programme is designed to create a positive impact on the planet through an ambitious 'grow your own' initiative that will demonstrate the power of collective action. Daring to converge various disciplines, the Dandelion Programme will create opportunities for people all over the country to interact with new growing technology, music, and art. The goal is to bring communities together, whilst also facilitating and encouraging people to grow their own food in a sustainable and interdependent manner. The program will put on a diverse set of events from April - September (aka, growing season) of 2022. These will include 13 'unexpected gardens', 188 high-tech 'growing cubes', and two free festivals (one in Inverness and one in Glasgow). This exciting programme should certainly be on everyone's radar this summer.

The Dandelion Programme is named after a flower that is often seen as a weed. However, the Dandelion is a beautiful and resilient plant that also has great nutritional properties. Dandelions give hope by growing in unexpected places, which is why the unexpected garden locations are so central to the Programme. The 13 edible gardens will located all over Scotland, from the Western Isles to the Borders, "transforming unused land and unexpected places into flourishing pockets of plantlife." There will even be a floating garden that will travel through the Scottish Canal Network. To find out more about the different locations, click here. The unexpected gardens will be the site of various 'free for all' events, where people can participate in growing, and take home seeds and vegetables grown at the garden. The gardens will be delivered in partnership with local arts and community venues, and they will all host either Scottish or international musicians that have been commissioned by the programme. The Dandelion Programme hopes that "they’ll be places to gather, hosting events, activities, workshops and performances from our Musicians in Residence." Currently, admission into these gardens are completely free, so watch out for when a garden near you is hosting events.

Another core feature of the Dandelion Programme is the high-tech growing cubes. The cubes, also known as 'cubes of perpetual light', create a controlled environment and ideal growing conditions, will be scattered throughout Scotland: "The Cubes are equal parts artwork, laboratory and vertical farm – beautiful and practical, ingenious and inspiring." The very first cube was taken to the remote Hebridean island of Heisgeir. The story behind this is told in the short film released for the Dandelion launch last week:

In total, the Dandelion Program has commissioned 188 cubes. Some of these cubes will remain in one spot throughout the summer— either in isolated areas or in unexpected gardens. Some will be transported on specially adapted bikes, bringing the cubes into the heart of even a larger range of Scottish communities. And, some of the cubes will be a part of special music installations, which will tour around featuring 12 different commissioned musicians that have composed pieces inspired by the cubes and their natural surroundings. The "special Show Cube installations feature multiple Cubes integrated with stunning speaker systems and immersive lighting designed to bring the best out of the music." Integrating music in the delivery of the Programme is paramount for the Dandelion team. Donald Shaw, Music Director for Dandelion expressed that:

Just as plants can grow from tiny seeds, great music can grow from small ideas that we nourish till they bloom into full art forms. The cubes can demonstrate accelerated growing in a wide range of settings, both the expected and unexpected. Placed in a particular environment they create a micro-world within a world, allowing musicians and listeners to imagine a sonic landscape that surrounds us, providing a space for contemplation and for us to imagine a future where we sow, grow and share differently.”

While many of the growing cubes will be on tour or in special installations, the majority of the cubes will be installed in 464 schools across the country under the Schools Growing Initiative. This is quite incredible, as it will give Scottish schoolchildren the opportunity to learn how to grow food together with their peers whilst interact with the cube's untraditional growing technology.

On the topic of the Schools Growing Initiative, Dandelion's Futures Director, Fiona Dalgetty, said:

“Dandelion provides an extraordinary opportunity for people of all ages to come together to grow food and to celebrate all the ways in which our food is also connected to culture, music and song. The schools programme places the arts alongside science, technology, engineering, and maths to create an exciting cross-curricular STEAM project for pupils, teachers and the wider community to enjoy.”

The children involved in the project will be in charge of conducting the 'Big Tattie Experiment', which may very well be the biggest growing experiment in Scottish history. The Dandelion Programme will be posting live updates on their website so that you can keep track of what is growing and where.

The biggest events that will be hosted by the Dandelion Program this summer are the two free outdoor festivals. The first will take place from the 17-19 of June in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow, and the second will take place from the 2-4 of September in Northern Meeting Park, Inverness. The festivals will host a range of activities and will feature the 'Pavilion of Perpetual Light" with growing cube installations, and will present an opportunity for people to participate in the space and immerse themselves in the ideas of Dandelion— like how music relates to the environment. The festivals will include talks, live music, locally sourced food and drink, sheds with potting and other activities. There will be something delivered for every age group (including an activity designed for those 5 or under!). Overall, the Dandelion team hope that the festivals will bring people together and inspire them to gain an interest in the ideas being put forward by the Programme.

The Dandelion Program is certainly a unique and ambitious venture with great transformative potential. The organisers are employing culture in the form of music and art to bring communities together to immerse themselves in nature and explore the possibilities provided by new growing technology. As noted by the Programme organisers “Dandelion is scattering seeds of joy across Scotland at a time in need”. During the pandemic, it became clear to many of us how important green spaces are for connecting with others and with nature. Now that the scariest part of the pandemic is over, the Dandelion Programme hopes to work with support systems that have grown through the pandemic as well as existing organisational networks in order to reach as many people as possible. Overall, the programme will create new spaces for growing food and flora that is shaped by the communities and driven by the narrative ethos of Dandelion. By the end of the summer, ‘Free for All’ events encouraging everyone to ‘Sow, Grow and Share’ will see 75,000 free vegetable plugs given away to members of the public. It will be exciting to see how the Programme unfolds as the growing season continues, and what its wider impact will be. Culture Minister Neil Gray commented:

“The principles at the heart of the Dandelion projects and celebrations – of sharing ideas, knowledge and bringing together expertise for the common good - are more important than ever...The events of Dandelion will seek to show the power of collective action, and its themes align with many of the ambitions of the Scottish Government. I would encourage everyone to check out the programme for activity near them, from enjoying one of the Unexpected Gardens, attending a festival, or having the chance to grow some of the hundreds of thousands of seeds and plant plugs being distributed at Free for All events in towns and cities across Scotland.”

Visit their website to see what the Dandelion Programme will be putting on near your area.

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