Category Archives: Edible Cities Edinburgh

Edible Cities Edinburgh

Collecting thoughts from the Edible Cities Edinburgh Workshop and Seminar Series

As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week in February 2015, The Dinner Lab hosted the Edible Cities Edinburgh workshop series. Across two days, participants collaborated and challenged the notions of food within the past, present and future of Edinburgh. The following are notes, reflections, resources and ideas discussed during the workshop events. Feel free to get in touch (thedinnerlab (at) with any further questions, or if you would like to be involved with some of the follow up projects (listed below)!

Day One: 17th February 2015

On Day One of Edible Cities Edinburgh, we discussed some of the history of food in the city, comparing this to the present-day context. Marianne Paget from the City of Edinburgh Council started the day by introducing the Edible Edinburgh Sustainable Food City Plan (available to view or download from the Edible Edinburgh website).

The Sustainable Food City Plan works towards the following vision: “Edinburgh is a city where good food is available for all, making for healthy people, thriving communities and a sustainable environment.” The plan outlines aims and objectives under the following themes: Health and wellbeing, Land use, Environment, Buying food, Economy and Cultural change.

The Edible Edinburgh Sustainable Food City Plan manifested itself in the “Feeding the 5,000” event that took place in Edinburgh on 5th October 2013. Utilising the expertise of some of Edinburgh’s finest chefs, as well as the dedication of a team of volunteers, food that would have otherwise gone to waste was gathered and transformed into 4950 lunches.

After hearing from Marianne, we delved into discussion by looking at some historic maps and used these as the basis for mapping the present (and possibilities for the future) food system of Edinburgh. Many of the historic maps used for inspiration for this activity were from the thesis of Oliver Cooper, titled Built on Food: An Archaeology of Edinburgh’s ‘Intestines’.

We also looked at some examples of maps that show information beyond street names and locations. These maps and mapping techniques are located in our Research/Resources section.

Some ideas produced during the workshops for maps showing elements and components of Edinburgh’s food system include:

  • Mapping all available space for growing- greenspace, brownfields, verges, roundabouts, etc.
  • Intergenerational food storage map
  • Food-sharing (waste/excess food) opportunities
  • Mapping local food outlets (retail and markets)
  • Mapping local community gardens/groups (Grow Stronger/Transition Edinburgh South is hosting an upcoming event to implement this idea! Mapping Community Food and Growing will take place 16th March 2015. Event details/registration available via Eventbrite)
  • Map of foraging sites
  • Mapping ‘local’ food restaurants, cafes
  • Outlets classified by food sources (eg green = local, orange=part local, red=no consideration given)
  • Independent suppliers (and markets) vs. large chains
  • Existing growing spaces (allotments, community gardens, private) and potential growing spaces
  • Home deliveries- supermarkets, independent, organic producers
  • Outlets (markets, independents, supermarkets, cafes/restaurants)
  • Digital map with classifications (expandable for detail)

Our workshop groups also got a head-start on creating the following maps:

  • Sustainability concept map
  • Plan for 2050
  • Transport map v. outlets
  • Supermarkets, Agricultural opportunities and farmers markets locations in Edinburgh

In the afternoon of Day One, Kirsty Sutherland from the Friends of the Granton Castle Walled Garden joined us to present some of the complexities and the historic significance of this site. A medieval-style walled garden with origins dating back over 450 years, the Granton Castle Walled Garden is threatened by development pressures in the local area. Remains of a heritage orchard and the rich documentation of the site’s history are just a couple of the traits that make this site a high-priority for cultural preservation.

While this site is sure to elicit much curiously, Kirsty requested that those who are interested please refrain from visiting the site as access impedes the privacy of the owners of the adjacent property.

To join in the campaign to save Granton Castle Walled Garden and to learn more, please visit the Friends of the Granton Castle Walled Garden WordPress and Facebook pages.

Our final session on Day One was the Fiscal Flora audio tour. This tour is self-directed and still available for download via Bandcamp, if you missed out! Fiscal Flora presents a botanical walking tour of Edinburgh’s financial district: a journey that will open your eyes, heart and mind to the rich plant-life of our corporate spirit…

Day Two: 18th February 2015

On Day Two of Edible Cities Edinburgh, we shifted our focus to a present and future focus. The day commenced with Jane Brennan from Edinburgh Garden Partners introducing the EGP initiative. Edinburgh Garden Partners is a charity that facilitates garden sharing in Edinburgh by matching volunteers who would like to garden with those who can provide the space to garden. Jane also discussed some of the challenges that the organisation faces, in particular how to facilitate positive relationships between gardeners and garden owners.

One particular challenge that EGP faces is the unequal distribution of volunteer gardeners and volunteer garden owners in the city. During this workshop, we mapped these distributions to better visualise possible contributions to EGP.

This mapping technique could be applied to many issues that our contemporary food system faces, such as abundance of food (that often goes to waste!) in some areas of the city.

For our next workshop session, we were joined by Tim Foster, a volunteer who has used OpenStreetMap (OSM) for many food-related projects. OpenStreetMap is a user-built map that emphasises local knowledge as a basis for building. Tim introduced the basics of editing OpenStreetMap to us, before opening up to some work time to look for growing projects in Edinburgh or add those that weren’t already included on the map.

Some of the resources and projects Tim introduced that used OSM or similar technologies were-

Farming Concrete: an open, community-based research project started by gardeners to measure how much food is grown in New York City’s community gardens and school gardens

Locate+Cultivate, Duddingston Greenspace Survey: A survey of local spaces identified using OSM for potential growing uses

Eating In Eating Out, Streetland Festival: a project by artists Clem Sandison and Alex Wilde (with assistance from Tim Foster) mapping food outlets in Govanhill as part of the Streetland Festival

If you are interested in learning more about OpenStreetMap, a group of interested mappers meets the third Tuesday of each month. More information about these meet-ups and the OSM Scotland community is available on the OSM Scotland Wiki page.

A question board is also available to post any OpenStreetMap questions-

In the afternoon of Day Two, we were joined by Tom Kirby of Granton Community Gardeners. Tom delivered an inspiring talk about the humble beginnings of the Granton Community Gardeners, which has grown to be a project that has invigorated an entire local community. Tom discussed the importance of collaboration and culture to this project- the garden has become a much larger metaphor for myriad social events held within the community. The memories created within the garden have truly redefined what used to be vacant corner lots in the Granton area. The abundant harvests are proof that a simple idea can become a beautiful and successful community effort!

To put Tom’s inspiring provocations into action, Marion Preez (UrbanPioneers) led the closing workshop for Day Two. Marion split the group into smaller teams, and each team was given a portion of the Edinburgh city centre in which they were to “frame” places where food growing could occur. These frames were then installed in the public spaces as a public art intervention. The location of the frames and the ideas for this locations were gathered in a larger map, which was displayed in Tent Gallery through the week following the workshops. The documentation of this project (Frame #2) can be found on the UrbanPioneers website.

Food Sharers Unite! also made an appearance at the Edible Cities Edinburgh workshops. This initiative aims to connect people digitally by reducing the amount of food waste in Edinburgh. Functioning mainly from the Facebook group, the procedure is simple- members of the group can post if they have too much food (much of the food collected from local shops at the end of the day), and other members of the group will get in touch if they would like to collect the advertised food. The group is open to all who are looking to support the Food Sharing cause.

Calls to Action

Edible Cities Edinburgh proved to be valuable in connecting people from many of the significant projects happening across the city. Maps could provide another platform for the exchange of knowledge and enhancing the interconnectivity of these projects.

The Dinner Lab will be developing a project here at ECA that will be creating maps as a community resource. This will complement much of the work of existing initiatives, in particular looking at the role of the university within the local growing community. A new growing site has been identified and will become a permaculture hub within ECA. We need gardeners, activists and mapmakers to join the project! To become part of the team or for more information, please contact Allison at thedinnerlab (at) This plan is in preliminary stages (some further details to be disclosed to those who show interest) so now is a good time to get in touch if you’d like to share your vision!

All ideas for maps produced during Edible Cities Edinburgh are open-source- if you’d like to use one of the ideas, please get in touch and we will facilitate further progress!

Upcoming events

10989198_738908812896166_4827763549348537786_oGermination, Edinburgh’s Community Garden Skillshare Saturday 21st March 2015, 1pm-5pm at the Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre

Mapping Community Food and Growing, hosted by Grow Stronger/Transition Edinburgh South Monday 16 March 2015 from 10:00 to 15:00 at the Gracemount Mansion House Grow Stronger is inviting Community Garden and Food workers from across Edinburgh for a day of networking and workshops, helping us all to forge sustainable and lasting links with each other and map our wider communities.

Power of Food Festival

20-21 June 2015

We’re creating Edinburgh’s first festival of community food growing. Acting for social change and environmental sustainability.

Images from Edible Cities Edinburgh