From little seeds of creative thinking do big books grow

Poets over the years have produced odes on all manner of subjects. But odes to allotments are in rather short supply

Author Elaine Cusack, who has written a book about allotments
Author Elaine Cusack, who has written a book about allotments

Poets over the years have produced odes on all manner of subjects. But odes to allotments are in rather short supply.

Now Whitley Bay poet Elaine Cusack and printmaker Anne Proctor have combined to put that right.

Their joint book, Allotments No 1, is dedicated to the virtues and attractions of having your own plot, growing your own food, chatting over the fence, being closer to the natural world and enjoying your own personal sanctuary.

Each book is hand-made and different to the next.

All feature images by Anne, from Chester-le-Street in County Durham, who runs her Moonkwayk Studio and has a stall at Tynemouth Station market on Saturdays and Sundays.

She says: “The book is about the hard graft and laughter of working an allotment, and appreciating being outdoors.”

Anne is currently working on the production of ceramic allotment plaques which will be used to number plots.

Each book is hand-stitched by bookbinder Jennifer Copping, who shares a bookstall with Elaine at the station market on Saturdays.

Elaine’s contribution is her allotment poem, Rectangle of Hope, which is what allotments are.

One year some crops will do well, but some won’t. Then there is the constant battle of wits with the weather, the slugs, the rabbits, the woodpigeons and the help-yourself merchants.

So far 50 books have been produced at �10 each. “The book is a celebration of nature, people, graft, and flasks of tea,” says Elaine.

She grew up in Felling in Gateshead and began writing poetry at the age of 15.

After graduating from Hull University in 1992, she moved to London and then Cambridge, working as a rock music journalist, bookseller and in community radio.

Elaine returned to the North East three years ago.

“I had a share in an allotment and found a great deal of comfort in it,” she says.

“I didn’t expect the amount of wildlife I saw and I also got a lot of advice from other plot holders, not only on gardening but on life.

“There was the spiritual relaxation, the wisdom of people, and enjoying your seasonal food.

“It was also a community, knowing your allotment neighbours, and planning what to plant and having the satisfaction of seeing it grow.

“Every book is different, rather like allotment crops and unlike the same shape, same size supermarket vegetables. We wanted the books to develop in an organic way, like allotment vegetables.”

There was the spiritual relaxation, the wisdom of people, and enjoying your seasonal food

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