Community Haystack on the Walthamstow Marshes Aug 2015

A two-day community hay harvest on the Walthamstow Marshes, with scything workshops followed by a public talk on the Saturday and haystack building, scything competition and a ‘bring your own picnic’ on Sunday afternoon.



Come and celebrate Lammas Day on Walthamstow Marshes
with the third annual Community Haystacks Event August 1 & 2nd 2015

Community Haystacks is a celebration of an ancient piece of common land – Walthamstow Marshes in east London one of the last expanses of semi- natural marshland left in London. This community haymaking event brings together local residents, conservationists, historians, activists and artists who join together to recreate the pre-mechanical hay harvest and revive traditions of scything and commoning. Now in it’s third year the community hay harvest takes place over two days on the date of the ancient feast of Lammas.

The idea to hold the event came from two local artists, Kathrin Böhm and Louis Buckley who work in close collaboration with the Lea Valley Park rangers. In 2015 the Community Haystacks Group was set up as a small and informal group dedicated to running and developing this annual event. By reinstating the traditional hay harvest to Walthamstow Marshes they aim to create a social and cultural event that helps explore the huge diversity of communities and individuals that use and interpret the land, and to discuss the broader connections between urban and rural experiences and practices.

Austrian scythe expert Clive Leeke will teach scything workshops on the first day and on the following day there will be a competition culminating in a communal haystack making and bring your own food picnic. Throughout the two days there will be areas of grassland set aside for those who already know how to scythe. On Saturday evening a group of invited researchers and activists will present current concepts and issues of commoning and land use, to be followed by an informal discussion and drinks.

What’s on?

Scything Workshops
Sat 1st Aug , 10.30-12.30, 1.30-3.30pm & 4.00-6.00pm
Learn how to scythe with Austrian scything expert Clive Leeke.
Refreshments and equipment are provided. £5 per session.








Commons and Commoning
Sat 1st Aug, 7-8pm
Bring your own picnic and join us for an informal public talk with invited guests about the history of the land and related cultures of commoning:
Avery Gordon, writer and sociologist
Joe Ward, New Lammas Land Defence Committee
Gill Baron and Simon Fairlie, The Land Magazine
Jacob Stringer, New Cross Commoners






Scything Competition
Sun 3rd Aug, 1.30-3.00pm
Scything Competition
For the first time we are running a scything competition on the marshes,
with local food prizes for
Best windrow
Best quality sward
Best overall performance and style






Haystack Building
Sun 3rd Aug, 12-4pm
Come along to help us build a large community haystack on the marshes.
Bring your own picnic and join a guided tour around the marshes with the park rangers at 1pm.





A large area of the marshes will be dedicated to scything, and open to those who already know how to scythe.
Vestry House Museum have a selection of archive photos and documents about the Walthamstow Marshes on display.





The History
For centuries the hay on the marshes was cut on Lammas day but this major social event was reduced by mechanisation to a single farmer on a tractor. By inviting local people to join in the hay harvest Community Haystacks hopes to reintroduce the social element. While the volunteers cannot physically cut all the grass (it is far tougher and ranker than crops grown annually for harvest) the hay making event gives people a chance to gather on this common land, stimulate debate around access and learn new skills The event comprises talks, workshops and competitions, picnics and haystack making.

The haymaking takes place on Lammas Meadow in an area that was formerly used widely for grazing and haymaking. Since 1985 the land has been designated a Site of Special Specific Interest (SSSI) and is now managed by the Lee Valley Regional Park. Originally drained for farming by the Anglo-Saxons, the marshes between Hackney, Leyton and Walthamstow in east London have been used for everything from football pitches and aeronautical test flights to a dumping ground for rubble from the blitz.

About Community Haystacks
The Community Haystacks started in 2013 on the initiative by local artists Kathrin Böhm and Louis Buckley in close partnership with the Lee Valley Park Rangers. In 2015 the Community Haystacks Group was set up as a small and informal group dedicated to running and developing this annual event.

Press Community Haystacks 2015

Haystacks FT_JoJo_Aug2015

The Gentle Author

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The “Community Haystacks” group first formed in August 2013 to organise and run a public event on the Walthamstow Marshes (East London). This event aimed to encourage the general public to access and make use of common land, and also to share information about the public, agricultural, political and cultural history of common land.
The objective of “Community Haystacks” is to provide public events, including talks, exhibitions, seminars and workshops, which relate to the history and current use of former and current common land, and to all land that is open to public use.

About Haystacks
‘Haystacks’ are monthly events held in various locations across London to present and talk about rural issues and practices within an urban context. The series started in May 2013 and organised by the artist Kathrin Böhm.
See for further details.

How to get there
The marshes are behind the Lee Valley Ice RInk on Lea Bridge Road in Hackney.
The bus no 48 stops right next to the Ice Rink.
The way to the site will be sign-posted from there.

Practical things
This is an outdoor event with no cover or toilet facilities. The nearest toilets are at the Lee Valley Ice Rink.

Kathrin Böhm
Mobile: 07941 696 515

An Edge Effect_ Book Launch with Bonnie Fortune

On Wednesday 10th June
7pm at 7a Vyner Street,
London E2


Bonnie Fortune is a Copenhagen based artist and writer whose work focuses on ecological themes. She recently compiled and edited ‘An Edge Effect: Art and Ecology in the Nordic Landscaped, published by Half Letter Press, 2014. The book is a collection of interviews, essays and case studies about cultural work dealing with the environment. Other recent projects include ‘The Alphabet of the Anthropocene‘ with Brett Bloom, a large-scale public display system of key words defining life in our current anthropogenic era. She has collaborated since 2006 with Bloom as Let’s Remake on artistic research projects around ecology and habitat, including commissions for the city of Urbana, IL and public works in Copenhagen, Denmark. They co-run where they write regularly on art, ecology, and public space use.

For more information contact kathrin(at)


Settlers in England

Tuesday 12th May 2015
7pm at 7a Vyner Street, London E2


‘Settlers in England’ is a new film by artist-filmmaker Ian Nesbitt about the Oxcroft Land Settlement near Bolsover, high on a hill in the North-East corner of Derbyshire. Between 1934 and 1939, the Land Settlement Association (LSA) established 1,100 smallholdings within 26 settlements across the country, the objective of which was to re-settle unemployed workers and their families (mainly miners at Oxcroft) on the land. The Oxcroft settlement was comprised of 40 plots, each of which was made up of a semi-detached cottage and 5 acres of land, including a piggery and greenhouses.

The film examines ideas of food production, environment and community through the eyes of current residents, some of whom moved onto the estate at its inception in 1936 as the children of original settlers and have never left.
It takes its title from a book written by Fred Kitchen and published in 1947 about his time living as a tenant farmer and market gardener on the Oxcroft Estate.

Ian Nesbitt’s practice spans video art, documentary film, ethnography, grassroots cinema activism and very occasionally live art. His work focuses on working innovatively with marginal communities and exploring peripheral territories and is often lens-based. His films have been screened and exhibited internationally since 2004, including at Nottingham Contemporary, Ober-
hausen Film Festival, CCA Glasgow, CCA Moscow, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Liverpool Biennial. Ian is currently working on a new commission for Sound And Music collaborating with the Dead Rat Orchestra, and is also working on a third feature length documentary.


Settlers In England

A 100-Mile Conversation (12A)

Tuesday 28th April 2015
7pm at 7a Vyner Street, London E2


In spring 2013 Nathan Burr and Louis Buckley walked the length of the South Downs Way, starting in Winchester and ending at Beachy Head. Along the way they walked and talked with everyone from farmers and psychologists to therapists and writers to explore the connections between suicide, mental health, myth and landscape. This film documents the chain of conversations that took place over their nine-day journey.

Louis Buckley creates live events, talks and participatory activities. He grew up in the shadow of the South Downs and has a longstanding interest in the intersection between biology and art, and changing ideas about nature and the countryside.

Nathan Burr is a Brighton-based artist and designer. Nathan aimlessly wanders into spaces of conjuncture to design new rituals that re-imagine human narratives contained within past, present and future landscapes.

Film Screening and Conversation:

Tuesday 28th April 2015 at 7pm
7a Vyner Street, London E2

Food and drinks as usual.

For more information e-mal kathrin(at)



From a Village to the World

Saturday 21st March at 3pm
7a Vyner Street, London E2

With Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen, STEALTH.unlimited


In 1950s socialist Yugoslavia, Rajka and Vukašin Borojević (Ana’s grandparents) created a number of initiatives involving workers and villagers. From there endeavours, and in particular a large scale rural women textile cooperative, we look at how their work resonates today with principles of self-organisation, collectivity, radical education, emancipation or the empowerment of women, while setting out to be both entrepreneurial and economically viable.

Images: Dragačevo Women Cooperative, 1956 / 1960


Haystacks 2015

Talking rural in public in London starts in late February this year and Haystacks will be back in full swing from March 2015 onwards.

A few dates so far:

Saturday 28th February 2015 at 12.15pm
Re-Imagining Rurality Conference
Keynote paper by Kathrin Böhm and Miranda Pope,
presenting Company: Movements, Deals and Drinks
University of Westminster, London

Sunday 15th March at 11pm
Community Haystack Meeting
A first meeting to set up a support group for
the annual Community Haystacks on the Walthamstow Marshes
Waterworks, Lammas Road, London E10 7QB

Saturday 21st March at 3pm
With Ana Džokić, Stealth Unltd
On a large scale women’s textile coop set up by
her grandmother in rural Serbia after WW2.
7a Vyner Street, London E2

Saturday 23rd May at 2pm
With author Melanie McGrath
On her research into East End life and going hop-picking,
followed by a reading from her book ‘Hopping’.
At Dagenham Library, Dagenham Heathway

Wednesday 10th June at 7pm
An Edge Effect
Art and Ecology in the Nordic Landscape

Book launch with Bonnie Fortune (ed)
7a Vyner Street, London E2 9DG

Saturday 01 and Sunday 02 August
Lammas Land Community Haystack
Scything, talks and haystack making
Walthamstow Marshes, East London


Kraut instead of Hay


There is no big December Haystack as such, but if you fancy taking part in the long standing Anglo-German tradition of making sauerkraut together (we’re in our fourth year now!) please come along to my studio this Sunday 30th November to slice, stamp and seal. You can pick up your portion two weeks later during our X-mas social.

Sunday 30th Nov, 3-5 pm, 7a Vyner Street, London E2.


Haystack 15: Kosovo Haystack Collection with Lala Meredith Vula

O Friday 14 November at 7pm
7a Vyner Street, London E2

Lala Haystacks contact LR

Since 1989 Lala Meredith Vula has been taking photographs of Albanian farmers’ haystacks. Her collection comprises photos from over 1000 haystacks, taken during the various seasons and documenting their various forms of completion. During this time she would also follow the haystack makers, spend time with farmers and find out as much as she could about haystacks.
The Haystack Series was originally shown during Next Phase in Wapping Pumping Station (1990) and at the Photographer’s Gallery (1991), coinciding with Claude Monet’s show at the Royal Academy. Tim Hamilton from the Guardian called her show ‘the alternative haystack show’!

Lala Meredith Vula (1990):
‘My starting point for the haystacks series was the question: “What is art?”
Having studied art for many years and visited many galleries throughout the world I soon found that the context of a work of art played a major part on where it is placed. For all my research, it took my returning home to discover the real significance of my search, it was in the fields of my former home town that I witnessed a way of life as old as the land itself where farmers went about their business, everything had its place. Within all this, I saw that somehow the farmers were unconsciously creating strange, sculptures that had the presence of modern sculptural pieces. Here part of my search was over. I had found the meeting place between my new world of art, being an artist, and my past, in the landscape of Kosova.’


Christine Frisinghelli about Lala, Camera Austria 2010

‘Lala Meredith Vula explores the question of the significance of tradition, origin and female identity in deferent ways in her photographic works: frequently we encounter a women dressed in traditional Albanian costume, posing at historic locations or in rural settings. Her experience as an international artist is only in apparent contradiction here to the photos of her home country side in Kosova, In which for many years she has photographed haystacks. In this way, she also raised the question as to the essence of art, the creation of form, and the experience of beauty: we may read these very individual figures as sculptures, but according to Lala Meredith Vula they are above all else a testimony to work in a farming community in which everything has its proper place, use and time.’

David Chandler about Lala’s work for the The Photographers’ Gallery

Lala Meredith-Vula’s compelling black and white photographs focus on the extraordinary architectural and sculptural forms of haystacks in Former Yugoslavia. The haystacks are built around precarious wooden frames, and as the hay is gradually removed for use, they take another life, reshaped into haunting and strangely anthropomorphic structures. In order to highlight these qualities Meredith-Vula’s approach is straightforward yet dramatic. Using a uniformly frontal viewpoint with a low camera angle, she has emphasised outline while disguising the haystacks’ true scale. In reality they vary in size, but in these photographs they invariably loom large and tower-like, dominating idyllic rural settings glimpsed only in the background. Meredith-Vula’s fascination with the seemingly endless variety of haystack forms, with their combinations of disfigured clumps of hay and fragile wooden poles, has led her to compile what amounts to a bizarre typology – one that brings to mind the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Like their gas tanks and blast furnaces Meredith-Vula’s haystacks are ‘anonymous sculptures’ and she documents them like works of art. But, they are also functional elements of a seasonal landscape, destined to disintegrate and disappear, and these photographs record a temporary beauty that seems to encapsulate the severe but rich character of a traditional way of life.

About Lala Meredith-Vula
Lala Meredith-Vula was born in Sarajevo in 1966, moving to England in 1970. She studied art at Trent Nottingham University and at Goldsmiths’ College in London where she graduated with a degree in 1988. This work was completed between 1988 and ’90 with the aid of a Yugoslavian Government Scholarship. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in London.

Haystack 14: Heathrow Orchard Walk (autumn version)

Heathrow Orchard Walk (autumn version)
with Kate Corder
Sunday 14 September 2014, 1.30-5pm

In spring 2014 towards the end of apple blossom, a first Heathrow Orchard Walk took the form of a guided tour between Sipson and Harmondsworth village, searching for evidence of orchards and apple trees. Haystack number 14 will revisit this tour of contradictions, extremes and unexpected London landscapes during apple harvest time.


Prior to the building and expansion of Heathrow Airport the area surrounding both villages flourished with market gardens and orchards growing food for local communities and London. Kate Corder will take a guided walk across the land which is a potential site for the heavily contested third runway.

The walk starts at the gates of Transition Heathrow, a multi acre squat in an old market garden at the village of Sipson. We then walk from Sipson, passing the former Greenpeace Airplot orchard (no longer there) to Harmondsworth (1.1miles) to visit the grave of Richard and Ann Cox in St Mary’s churchyard (the Coxs grew the first Orange Pippen apple). Next to the churchyard lies the Grade 1 listed 600 year old Harmondsworth Barn, which is going to be open to the public the same day.

On route Kate is going to discuss the history of cultivation in the area and screen artist Tom Ingate’s Apple Tree Orchestra performance on a mobile phone.

The last part of the walk takes us to the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, either directly along the main road or the Duke of Northumberland River Path. After visiting the apple orchard in the hotel garden, the Haystack ends with drinks in the Sheraton Discovery Bar.

Schedule: times and locations

Our first meeting point is at West Drayton train station (TFL zone 6) at 1.30pm (trains from Paddington take 20 minutes). From there we take the 222 bus (towards Hounslow) to Sipson. If you are travelling on the Underground meet us at Grow Heathrow in Sipson Village at 2pm. (Take the Piccadilly Line to Hounslow West and then take Bus 222 toward Uxbridge and get off at Sipson Close). Transition Heathrow is a minute walk away from the bus stop, turn right onto Sipson Lane and left onto Vineries Close and find their gate.

Addresses along the way and approximate times:

2pm – Transition Heathrow, Grow Heathrow, Vineries Close, Sipson, West Drayton, UB7 0JH.

3.30pm – Richard Cox’s grave, St Marys, High Street, Harmondsworth, UB7 OAQ.

4pm- Harmondsworth Barn, The Great Barn, Manor Court, High Street, Harmondsworth, UB7 0AQ.

5pm- Sheraton Heathrow Hotel, Colnbrook By-Pass, Harmondsworth, UB7 0HJ.

From the Sheraton we can take buses (U3 or 350) back to West Drayton or Heathrow Underground station.

If you attend this walk please respect the local community and do not scrump their apple trees unless the trees seem neglected.

Dr Kate Corder is an artist, researcher and curator. Her PhD explores allotments, plant material, land cultivation and products of the garden.

To get in contact on the day call Kathrin on 07941 696515.

Community Haystack on the Walthamstow Marshes, 1-3 August 2014


Community Haystacks
invites everyone with an interest in the history and current use of the marshes to take part, with the aim to reintroduce annual communal harvest events to the former Lammas Land.

The Walthamstow Marshes are one of the last expanses of semi-natural marshland left in London, and were formerly used widely for grazing and haymaking. Since 1985 the land has been designated a Site of Special Specific Interest (SSSI) and is now managed by the Lee Valley Regional Park. Traditionally the Marshes were considered “common land” and Lee Valley Regional Park now conserves the Marshes using an ancient system of management, where hay is cut on Lammas Day (1 August).

The event takes place on the Lammas Meadows behind the Lee Valley Ice Rink on Lea Bridge Road. For event bookings and further information visit:


Scything Lessons
Friday and Saturday, 1-2 August, 1.30pm & 4.30pm
Scything expert Clive Leeke will run two-hour workshops (priced at £5, includes tools and refreshments), which will include practical experience of different scything methods as well as information about the numerous advantages of traditional scything.
Book your tickets now.

Alternatively, if you’re a dab-hand at sycthing, why not just come along!

Friday and Saturday, 1-2 August, 7pm
Free talks on the Marshes and the chance to discuss broader issues related to the history, management and current use of the site. Invited speakers include artist and architect Céline Condorelli, food grower and conservationist Fiona Fiona McAllister (Growing Communities), artist Alana Jelinek and a representative from the New Lammas Land Defence Committee.

Haystack Making
Sunday, 3 August, 12-4pm
Day three will be dedicated to gathering hay and building haystacks. This is a family friendly event and guests are invited to bring their own picnic and join in the making of the largest haystack the Marshes have seen for while! The park rangers will also offer guided walks around the meadows with first-hand information about the wildlife, plants and land management.

The event co-organised by the Lee Valley Regional Park Rangers together with artists Kathrin Böhm and Louis Buckley.

This year’s ‘Haystack’ follows on from a first public haystack making on the marshes in 2013. Click here.