21 April 2014

the big baggini challenge

"I think your blog is absolutely brilliant! I’m contacting you from Silver River Productions, a TV company based in London. We are currently in production for a BBC2 primetime gardening show The Big Allotment Challenge’.

The series follows a handful of talented amateur kitchen gardeners as they transform a plot of earth into a patch of beauty....bla bla 

We are looking for contestants to feature in the series, those who have the skill and dedication and who could dig their way to victory and be crowned the winner of The Big Allotment Challenge.......bla bla bla....
 email grow@silverriver.tv for an application form"

My response was a tad blunt perhaps: "Cheers for the compliment. Not that interested in the TV show however: it's a bit like tacking a bit of gardening onto a reality TV show.... plus I've always found any competitive element to gardening a great big joke: a bit like comparing willys."

Julian Baggini has commented in the Guardian....

"It turns the allotment into a site of competition, when in essence they are all about solidarity and co-operation: sharing surplus crops, water troughs, tools and piles of manure. It also turns food cultivation into a kind of social display, reflecting allotments' transformation from symbols of low status to status symbols. They have become an important element in creating a certain identity as a grounded, Earth-loving soul. And in the modern world, whatever identity we seek, people find ways of selling it to us."

I don't think Julian watched Allotment Wars somehow.  While I agree with some of what he's saying, in my time on allotments I have seen petty disagreements turn into long standing feuds; power trips you would not believe; favoritism in allotment allocation; vindictive ganging up on plotholders; police being called to arrest a plotholder; theft; vandalism; racism: the list could go on and on. Yes, I have also seen, and increasingly do, thank goodness, co-operation, sharing, more transparency in governance and a better atmosphere all round.  But when he presumes to tell us what allotments are 'in essence', methinks he doth project overmuch, (which he is wont to do in his philosophical writings too I think.) Also, there is a certain irony in that Julian is part of the media 'click bait' culture that acts as a conduit for vast advertising revenues by deliberately farming out 'opinion' on an industrial scale for people to identify with, to be outraged by, to nod in agreement with, to be 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' about. 

He ends with, "The story of allotments could be seen as the story of western society in microcosm. First, we did what we needed to survive. Second, we acquired for the sake of acquisition, mindlessly consuming. Third, we turned to non-material goods but still bought them like good customers. Finally, perhaps we will come to enjoy what is good for its own sake. That would be a victory worth digging for."

I think it's a tad more complicated than that.

What does it mean..."we turned to non-material goods but still bought them like good customers?" 

Never mind eh, Julian.....a cheque will be arriving in the post shortly.

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