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Much Hemlock on the Olympic Park

Adding insult to injury following the destruction of the Manor Gardens allotments Tessa Jowell and Boris Johnson have announced there will be a competition to create a ‘quintessentially British garden’ in the Olympic Park. The fact the Park already contained just such a quintessentially British and East End feature seems to have escaped the notice of commentators and journalists, who failed to even mention the destruction of the allotments as part of the Olympic programme when describing the proposal. The Manor Gardens Allotments Society has just revealed the present parlous state of both the Manor Gardens community and their allotments caused by the incompetence and negligence of the LDA and its contractors.

In the battle to resist the destruction of their hundred years old allotments, created by a gift ‘in perpetuity’ from Major Arthur Villiers, the allotment holders had argued that their presence on the Olympic Park would provide precisely such an example of Britain’s gardening heritage. Their proposal was dismissed as irrelevant and unfeasible. For their pains they had to put up with the former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, arguing that the allotments could become a hiding place for Al Qaeda terrorists!

Failing to acknowledge that they had appropriated the allotment holders’ proposal Tessa and Boris rambled on chauvinistically about ‘great’ British gardens and Brits winning gardening golds. Tessa said pottering around a garden was reassuringly British and she wanted “to build it (presumably the garden) by digging (?) into the well (!) of gardening talent and enthusiasm.” It’s unclear whether she composted these metaphors herself or whether she should sack her scriptwriter. What is clear is that the only ‘great’ British talent on show here is the capacity of British politicians to marginalise and abuse.

Typical of the Olympic project the garden will not be required to contain any historical reference to the East End or its gardening or allotment heritage. Instead Jowell wants entrants to the competition to include an oak tree being grown at Kew from a seedling taken from an oak planted by Pierre de Coubertin at Much Wenlock, the site of the first modern Olympic Games in 1850.

Much Hemlock would be an appropriate name for this Olympic briar patch.


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