In this podcast, Rosie Tait talks to Duika about her conscious community building with the Station Masters Garden. Duika Burges Watson is a Lecturer at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne. She may well blow apart all your preconceptions about academics. This is a very practical woman who loves getting her hands dirty. By day she works on research focused on the altered eating habits of individuals who have survived head and neck cancer. In her downtime, amongst many other things, she helped give birth to a community garden and yoga studio on her doorstep.
Duika explains how she allowed it to come to life and why it has now taken on a life of its own. The garden emerged as an offshoot to a spot of “guerrilla gardening” Duika undertook at a derelict spot of land next to a railway line. She subsequently managed to secure funding to create both a community garden and a yoga studio in the station, charmingly called the Yoga Station.
As an Aussie based in the North East of England Duika talks about the benefit of being an outsider when facilitating the emergence of a conscious community.She also talks about what she has learned from the experience and why none of us mere mortals should be afraid of grasping the nettle (Yes, that was deliberate).
What you’ll get out of tuning in:
- How to effectively manage an evolving community
- What happens when a community you have created takes on a life of its own
- Why it’s never scary to be a changemaker
Links Mentioned in Episode:
- 3:00 – Duika lived opposite a train line where there was a patch of land that was unused. She started rescuing plants that were already growing there and then began cultivating other plants. She and other interested people formed the community garden organization, which was in need of funding. She set up a yoga studio alongside the garden and used the profits to keep the garden going. While the yoga studio was a success, it wasn’t making enough profit to fund the garden, so they set up a market to fund the garden. Now the garden simply exists for enjoyment without the need commerce or money-raising.
- 7:15 – Rosie draws a parallel between the season rhythms of gardening and the seasonal rhythms yoga health coaches teach their clients to follow. Duika recalls her realization that some of the people who came to the garden, like many people in the world today, understood very little about where their food came from. That disconnection between us and our food has impacted our health.
- 10:20 – Duika’s community was very diverse, and there were differing ideas about what should happen with the gardening space. So they undertook a community survey, compiled the results, and used them to design the garden around what the community wanted. Rather than a negotiation process, the development of the community garden became a community-building process.
- 13:30 – For Duika, the highlights of her endeavors come in small moments like a young person tasting a blueberry for the first time or smelling sage.
- 15:00 – Rosie was particularly impressed that Duika went in with the idea that she was going to create change. Duika says she just followed the process and trusted that everyone involved in the process had something unique to contribute, even if she wasn’t sure what it was. Part of the work became discovering people’s hidden talents and skills and encouraging them to use them.
- 17:10 – In Yoga Health Coaching, we build communities around shared values, but we often look at people like Duika, who appear to be almost superhuman in their ability to do so, and we doubt our own ability. But all we really need to do is gather our fears and find some courage and just do it. You don’t need to be superhuman. You need to leverage your strengths and find others to help you with skills you lack.
- “We’ve kind of lost the ability to know what’s good for our bodies because we go to the supermarket, and you smell the tomatoes and you don’t know where they come from. So, it’s been interesting watching the evolution of the local community as they start to understand some of these things in a very different way and become more interested in where their food comes from.” — Duika Burges Watson
- “Having a sense of humor helps a lot. So, I think laughing as much as possible is really helpful in developing community,” — Duika Burges Watson
- “It’s not about being superhuman at all. It’s about recognizing that there are lots of bits of superhumanness in everybody that you can draw on.” — Duika Burges Watson
Dr Duika Burges Watson is Lecturer in the Evaluation of Policy Interventions within FUSE, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health – a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. She is most interested in food – from source to senses – and how critical geographic and qualitative methodologies can help reveal different ways of thinking about how we eat. Current research focuses on multi-modal flavor perception, altered eating and the implications of new understandings in relation to health and well-being. Previous research has included work with survivors of head and neck cancer explored the potential of progressive cuisine to enhance the quality of life; food growing and foraging for ‘free’; visceral geographies, urban agriculture and ultra-processed foods, and developments in UK food policy. She leads masters modules on policy analysis (in particular discourse analytic approaches) and the dynamics of evidence in Global Public Policy and Health focusing on contemporary food policy. She is also the patient and public engagement lead for Fuse – the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health. Connect with Duika on her FB page and get more info on Duika’s website.