I have been mulling for long enough! It is time to make my declaration: I am planning to base my BoW around the Nomadic Community Gardens, Fleet St Hill, London E1 5ES.
This is an extraordinary and unique place – an experiment in social regeneration where a pocket of land has been taken over and fashioned into a magical makeshift village. The area is owned by developers but has been derelict for years. During this “meanwhile” waiting period for the planning permission process, it is being curated by a not-for-profit group dedicated to ‘breathing life into dead spaces’.
The NCG’s mission is to transform “disused spaces into urban gardens where people can grow their own produce, create art, share skills, and discover what it means to build their own community from the bottom up. Our goal is to build ‘third places’ (home and work being the first and second) that serve as vital points of social interaction and community building. These spaces are important not only for biodiversity but social and cultural diversity as well. By creating mobile vegetable beds, modular furniture, and transportable art pieces, we are able to transfer both the structures and the ethos of the garden to vacant sites around the city.” 
As well as a vibrant centre for the street art community, the Nomadic Community Gardens is a place of hope and inclusion, against the looming spectre of a post-Brexit London. It is a tiny, messy Utopia, built from wooden pallets and recycled truck tyres; a place of contemplation and escape from the daily grind. A colourful oasis where you can sit around a fire and talk with strangers, read a book or listen to music, dance, smoke, drink tea or wine or coffee. Everyone is welcome.
The inevitable development of luxury apartments on the land casts a shadow. The clock is ticking loudly and the NCG team will only have two months to vacate once notice is served. But the regulars take it in their stride and enjoy each visit as much as possible, living in the moment. The gardens are ‘nomadic’ because everything is portable and can be moved to another location. 
It is still very early days as to where this project will take me. My images so far have been pure documentary but I would like to take that much further. I don’t want to just photograph what is there but would like to find a way to communicate the essence of what I want to say. And I don’t have a clear idea of what that is, yet.
What interests me so far:
- Being able to chronicle a unique place in the last few months of its existence – the sense of temporality is tragic but energising
- The junkyard aesthetic – the place is fizzing with art
- Random connections – where visitors come from, their history and habits
- Human interaction with the urban landscape – the psychogeographical dimension
- The commitment to inclusivity and community support for people feeling isolated or alienated
- It is hyperlocal – a five-minute walk from my doorstep and has a wonderful London focus
- The impending heartbreak when the Nomadics have to clear out and the land is developed – the displacement, the erasure
- Politics of representation – avoiding ‘othering’ by looking at individuals not the tropes of the sub-culture
- Drug culture – some visitors are very guarded around a camera
- The possibility of being able to exhibit in the NCG or in Allen Gardens or Rich Mix (local community arts hub) – should this idea shape the approach from the outset?
- Am I romanticising? A community around the campfire or just somewhere to buy and smoke drugs?
- Can I (and should I?) try to make the readers of my work feel differently about this community and the space than they may do at first? Does it matter if they are not enchanted?
- What kind of story do I want to tell? Theme-based, character-driven (‘Grand Hotel formula’), an essay
- Links to my concerns with mortality and the shortness of time
- Portrait orientation – depiction of instability
- Blurred/high-contrast to reflect the sub-culture
- Typological approach – cast of characters
- Use of plans and maps – showing origins of visitors and connections to each other
- Use of the Ruckenfigur
- Interviews – what draws people to the gardens in the first place
- Reversed out images – anonymity of negatives/infrared processing
- Overpainting prints
- Use of fiction/fabrication
- Surveillance style images
- Use of found images/snapshots taken by visitors
- Tableaux approach (ties in with the theatre/carnival interests of some of the regulars)
- Further research on genres and how they relate to my practice
- Choose approx 30 images shot so far in the NCG and submit to Wendy with reflection and a plan
- Keep shooting and exploring
- http://nomadicgardens.weebly.com/ (Accessed on 10.03.19)
- http://tenthousanddaysofgratitude.com/index.php/2016/05/02/james-wheale-and-nomadic-community-gardens-creating-community-through-meanwhile-use/ (Accessed 31.03.19)