Black Country Allotment Society

Black Country Allotment Society is a specially commissioned publication by Susie Parr, author of the critically acclaimed ‘Story of Swimming’.  Susie writes about the lives and experiences of plot holders from eight allotments set in the heart of Sandwell, using the wider Black Country as context.  Her closely observed stories are a celebration of community, resourcefulness and ingenuity, beautifully produced in a box of delights.

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In nine essays, Susie explores the allotment sites, introducing us to their history, cast of characters and quirky differences.  Focused on the everyday and the ordinary, she reveals the extraordinary endeavour and achievements of the plot holders, tracing the seasonal changes, the relationship between allotment people, plants and animals and the cycle of allotment activities, from sowing to reaping.  Multistory also commissioned local film-maker, Chris Keenan, to make Bee Movies, a film that tells the story of Black Country beekeepers, a community that is growing rapidly as more people become fascinated by bees and try out beekeeping for themselves.

The sensitively written essays – accompanied by vivid photographs – are the result of two years’ engagement with local plot holders and their allotments. They describe diverse, vibrant communities of people, working side by side to grow an abundant variety of fruits and vegetables destined to become dinner, a gift, or – occasionally – a competition entry. The essays cover a range of topics including: allotment food; weeds that might provide a link back to the area’s pre-industrial past; and the routes travelled by allotment honey bees as they forage for nectar and pollen.

Susie’s project introduces us to the hidden, but thriving, allotment society at the heart of the striking post-industrial landscape of the Black Country where people unite across cultural and generational barriers, pitting themselves against difficulties – harsh weather; poor soil; pests; vandalism; and ill health – in an endeavour to make their plots beautiful, orderly and productive, as the seasons pass and the years roll by.

The nine essays are presented in a specially designed box together with a series of postcards, two maps, a commemorative allotment society pencil, plant markers, wildflower seeds and the DVD of the specially commissioned ‘Bee Movies’ about Black Country beekeepers. This extraordinary, celebratory publication has been gifted to all of the allotment holders and beekeepers who have taken part in the project.

You can buy it from Multistory’s online shop (limited number available). Read Colin Pantall’s review on his blog here.

Susie Parr is a writer and researcher, and an amateur beekeeper.  Her previous books include:  The Story of Swimming, The Non-Conformists and Talking about Aphasia.

Black Country Allotment Society was commissioned and produced by Multistory.

The images shown above in the slider were taken at a celebratory event that Multistory hosted at the Town Hall in West Bromwich on 9 October 2014, to launch the publication and gift a copy to all of the allotment holders and beekeepers who attended.

News
We are delighted that Susie Parr’s specially commissioned publication was Highly Commended at the British Book Design & Production Awards 2015 (Self Published category). Find out more here.

“Walking through the allotment gate, you step away from the clamour and tensions of the street and enter a quiet place, where people connect with plants, the seasons and each other. In this work, I celebrate those connections.”

Susie Parr