We peer into the rubber tuppermaid at the white, foamy, beard-like mold that’s started forming on top of the compost project at the Purple Thistle Centre. There’s weird black goo under the foam. Neither the foam nor the black goo is supposed to be there.
Trial and error is encouraged at the Thistle, and when we meet up with LeyAnn and Kelsey, two VCN interns working there, they’re experiencing compost error.
The Purple Thistle is a collectively-run arts and activist’s centre for youth in East Vancouver.
For Kelsey, it was a love for gardening which drew them to the Thistle, “I’m not really into the arts, but I heard they had a gardening project going on here. I’ve been interested in reclaiming space and guerilla gardening, and I found out they were working on that here, so I just jumped in.”
LeyAnn got involved after hearing Kelsey talk about some of the projects, “I went to a show at the Rhizome and I saw some really awesome bands play, and during one of the interludes, Kelsey went up and talked about the garden and that they needed help. I thought it sounded interesting. So that’s how I got involved.”
LeyAnn and Kelsey have been really busy at the Thistle. Here are some of the projects they’ve been working on:
The Food Forest
Based on the principles of permaculture, the Thistle is creating Food Forests, gardening projects that seek to reclaim under-used urban space for growing vegetables. One of the main spaces is on Charles St., near Venebles.
“It’s a long-term plan,” says LeyAnn. “We’re planting plants that help each other grow, that can sustain itself by itself.”
Last year, their experiment with the Three Sisters (corn, squash and peas) was a success.
“We had huge sweet corn,” says Kelsey.
Social Spaces Summit
Another huge project Kelsey and LeyAnn are working on is the 2nd annual Social Spaces Summit. From November 8th-11th, several spaces around the city, including the Thistle, the Dogwood Centre, and Spartacus bookstore will host workshops by summit participants. The topics of the workshops range from deschooling to internet use, with all workshops contributing to radical social change.
“We have 85 registered participants, and 20 of those have submitted workshop proposals,” says Kelsey. “It’s kind of neat because most of these people have never had a chance to host a workshop before.”
One of the major themes of this year’s summit is ‘Decolonization and Space’, and the structure of the summit is inspired by this. “The structure will be horizontal, and the entire summit will be really diverse.”
For more information, or to register and host a workshop, on the Social Spaces Summit, click here.
Closing the Digital Divide
Another big project for the Thistlers these days is a major computer upgrade.
“We got a bunch of computers,” says LeyAnn. “Some got donated, some got built here, and they just have tons of stuff on them, and there is a lot of cleaning to be done. It’s a huge project. Just the other day, someone was trying to upload stuff on a computer and it started to smoke.”
Once the computers are up and running (and no fires have destroyed them), LeyAnn has plans to host a series of workshops.
“I’d like to have a workshop on how to use word processing, or how to use the internet, just basic stuff that if you didn’t have access to a computer growing up, or didn’t have access to computers for any reason, they can come and learn the basics.”
The Thistle tries to maintain a strong online presence, and LeyAnn and Kelsey have been pumping away at social media, a tool they describe as vital to the Thistle’s existence.
“There’s so many different avenues that are pulling kids in certain directions,” says LeyAnn, “like marketing and advertising, so if we can reach them in any way possible, to let them see that there are alternatives to the media that the propaganda uses. With social media, we can say, we’re awesome and so are you, so come and join us.”
If you don’t know about the Purple Thistle, you should. Here’s a link to their website.