Bricks and nectar: Urban beekeeping with specific reference to urban agriculture in London.

Published in ANDRE, V. & Bohn, K. (eds.) CPUL City: Making urban agriculture happen. (Forthcoming August 2014)


“Insofar as bee-dependent plants touch human life,” write Delaplane and Mayer, “whether providing us with a bountiful food supply or a pleasant walk through city park, humans are dependent on bees” (Delaplane and Mayer, 2000). However, how dependent UA is on urban beekeeping is little understood or discussed. Urban beekeeping is largely a cultural practice with its own short history, little engaged with the broader discussion on UA despite its importance. Researching this subject is challenging because we currently have limited knowledge about it; on its direct harvests such as honey, its potential contribution to urban pollination, and the overall density of urban Bees. Therefore, this chapter should be read as a scoping report that reviews and discusses the disparate data and research on the phenomena with specific reference to London. Such a discussion will help extend an understanding of the cultural practice and how this might contribute to our concepts of UA, and we can begin to map out the benefits, constraints, and gaps in knowledge for future development.
In writing this chapter I also reflect on my experience as a beekeeper in London since 2000, together with some insights from working as a community beekeeping officer for the charity Sustain (Capital Bee, 2012). While this chapter discusses honeybees it recognizes that there are multiple species of bees, as well as other insects, in the UK that play a vital role in floral pollination services.

You Are Hungry: Flâneuring, Edible Mapping and Feeding Imaginations

Title of Paper: You Are Hungry: Flâneuring, Edible Mapping and Feeding Imaginations

Published in Footprint Journal. Issue # 10/11 | Spring 2012 | Architecture Culture and the Question of Knowledge: Doctoral Research Today

This paper argues that in order to understand the position of the resident food-gardener in relationship to architectural space, researchers need to embed themselves in landscape at the same scale as the phenomena being researched. Therefore, this research uses walking and talking with local residents in east London, across a 25-hectare site, to examine how a UA landscape, imaginary and existing, might challenge our ideas of design and authorship.
This paper presents ongoing research drawn from 32 participatory walks with 150 residents and visitors to a 25-hectare (ha) site in east London that formed part of PhD research. The two-hour walks took place in September 2010 and August 2011. The paper will present the methods, examine the thematic responses of walkers, and conclude with a discussion.

The paper can be read here

Architecture et al: food gardening as spatial co-authorship on London Housing

Title of chapter: Architecture et al: food gardening as spatial co-authorship on London Housing estates

Published in: Sustainable food Planning: evolving theory and practice. Ed Andre Viljoen and Johannes S.C. Wiskerke
Wageningen Academic 2012

Abstract: This paper explores community food gardening as it is presently emerging within six inner London housing estates.
The estate residents explicitly expressed frustration at the ‘blank’, ‘bleak’, ‘disused’, ‘neglected’, ‘barren’, ‘grey’ and ‘derelict’ ‘blankscapes’ surrounding their homes, voicing a desire to re-use them ‘productively’ through food gardening. However, this paper argues that while food is enunciated as the principle agenda, it is a set of related practices, such as the construction of the self-built landscape, the creation of shared social narratives, and the interaction with natural resources that dominate.
The research highlights the significance of food gardening within the built environment as a primeval and emotional scream muffled by our current relentless food supply systems. Similarly, yet not fully understood is how post war Town and Country Planning Acts have muted the multiple narratives of play, knowledge, and self-building that are finally escaping, fuelled via this tiny, self-made harvest.
Key words: urban agriculture, participant observation, ethnography, the everyday,

A preview of the book can be viewed here

The Elephant and the Castle; towards a London Edible Landscape

Title of paper: The Elephant and the Castle; towards a London Edible Landscape

In: Urban Agriculture Magazine no 22. Building Resilient Cities pp. 37-38 June 2009

Abstract: The concept of resilient cities is increasingly heard today. Whereas in southern countries access to food is a major motivation for people to engage in urban agriculture, in northern cities, such as London, people are driven more by environmental reasons such as the damaging effects of excessive food miles. Regardless of the motivation, urban agriculture is a positive step toward greater resilience.

The paper can be read here

The ‘Ugly Sister’ of Garden History

The ‘Ugly Sister’ of Garden History: The Capital’s Nineteenth-century Market Gardens as Depicted by Thomas Milne’s Land Utilization Map. A Possible Visualisation for a Contemporary Urban Agriculture?

In “London Gardener”. Journal of the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust.

Volume fourteen. 2008-2009

A PDF of the article can be downloaded here: Mikey Tomkins London Gardener