Helen’s background is in environmental and grassroots community activism, from which she co-stablished Bridge 5 Mill – the Ancoats eco centre that Kindling now calls home. As part of a small group driven by a passion for social change, she helped raise over £4 million, project managed the eco-refurbishment of the mill and employed and trained a group of young unemployed lads in the process. She also set up a couple of community growing projects with local young people.
Helen’s role at Kindling incorporates “a bit of everything really”! From helping organise Land Army trips to advising other organisations how to replicate Kindling’s projects; and overseeing Kindling’s finances to planning FeedingManchester events; “..and most importantly, working on setting up the future Kindling farm”.
In preparation for the latter, Helen’s building on her MSc in Organic Farming by developing her practical growing experience. During the season she spends at least a day each week on her FarmStart plot. As a grower, her biggest frustration is “competing with cheap food where people are not paid properly and the long term soil and eco-system is endangered.” Having had a big hand in developing Manchester Veg People and Veg Box People, Helen also continues to serve as a member of both co-ops.
Helen gained practical experience in international solidarity work via year in Guatemala with the “amazing” Peace Brigades International; accompanying human rights and environmental activists whose lives were under threat. On her return, she was jointly awarded the International Service Human Rights Award for Women along with Guatemalan activist Dominga Vasquez, and spent the subsequent four years selecting and training new PBI candidates for the Guatemala project.
Helen’s passion for Kindling stems from frustration at the unjust and damaging nature of our current society, and the knowledge that it is our responsibility to make it more equitable and ecologically sustainable. She loves talking with people about Kindling’s vision and hearing their enthusiasm, ideas, hope and belief that it is possible. Her biggest challenge is “not having enough hours in the day or days in the week to do everything we want to do”.
When not working for Kindling (which is not very often) Helen enjoys walks in the Peaks or Scottish wilds and spends time with her amazing family and friends in Bristol, London, Scotland and Spain. She also really loves food and eating (!) and her speciality is a big roast dinner featuring vegetable pie, roast potatoes and beetroot, steamed kale and onion gravy.