Many allotment sites now hold annual events to help raise awareness of allotments and the role they play in helping people to live healthier lifestyles, grow their own food, develop friendships and bolster communities.
Opening your allotment site and inviting the local community to see what happens behind the gates, will enable more people to begin exploring the benefits allotments bring and support us in our efforts to protect existing sites. Allotments not only benefit those who garden the plots, from families and school children through to working couples and retired individuals, but also the wildlife who in inhabit them and the cities that breathe a little easier because of them.
Allotments need protecting from development plans and budget cuts, so now is the time to act. If you think your site is under threat then there are a number of things you can do.
• Find out if your land is statutory allotment land or temporary land. If it is statutory land, then the Council must apply to the Secretary of State in order to dispose of your allotments. This process means you have a chance of saving the land by putting together a strong case for its protection. New guidelines ( available from the NAS website) advise that consultation with the National Allotment Society is likely to be more constructive when it is done at the point disposal is being considered as an option, as the National Allotment Society can advise on a number of matters including possible alternatives.
• Get your site registered as a Community Asset under the Government’s ‘Right to Bid’ scheme, meaning if the land comes up for sale, you (or your association) have six months in which to buy it. http://mycommunityrights.org.uk
• Hold an Open Day to galvanise community support for the site. Show people why the allotment should be kept and ask them to support you.
OPEN DAY IDEAS
By throwing an Open Day you can show even more people how valuable allotments are, and why they must be protected from developers – while at the same time having a great time.
If managed and worked effectively an allotment can produce hundreds of pounds worth of produce a year – just think, fewer supermarket trips, less air miles and a happier tummy! Alongside this, allotments provide habitats for wildlife and help to keep cities breathing. If added together, all the UKs allotments would equal 58 Hyde Parks! This is a vast amount of land that is cared for, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands, and a real benefit to the communities which surround them.
• Old Fashioned Tea Party
• Fundraising Quiz with allotment theme
• Ask the Expert table
• Sunflower/scarecrow competition
• Bug Hunt
• Vegetable Auction
• BBQ – for example; hog roast with apple sauce, burgers with homemade tomato relish
• Talks and demonstrations – for example: how to make jam, jellies and preserves
Contacting the local press
Publicity is a vital tool in attracting people to your OPEN DAY. Publicity can take many guises, including putting up posters, word of mouth, social media and engaging the local press.
A press release is, in essence, a one stop information sheet for journalists. It should include the who, what, where, when and why of the event, a printable quote, contact details and if possible should be sent with a high resolution photo, attached as a JPEG (300dpi/1MB in size).
Once you have your press release written and ready it should be sent via email to the news desk of your local paper/magazine or the forward-planning desk of any radio or TV programme you wish to be featured on.
You can find the contact details for the relevant reporter by looking in the contents pages of the newspaper/magazine, in the ‘contact us’ section of the publication’s website (search via google), or by calling the switchboard of your local radio or TV station.
It is best to send the release a week before the event and then follow up with a phone call a day or two later. You can always invite a journalist or photographer down to cover the event, but please don’t be despondent if they don’t turn up as staffing to cover events is less than it used to be.
Other publicity ideas
• Flyers – through people’s doors inviting them to a Party on the Plot. Remember to include the who, what, where, when and why of the event – plus a contact number for more information
• Social media – Twitter and Facebook. If any of your members use these social media networks then please ask them to tweet regularly or post comments every couple of days about the forthcoming Party.
• Schools and community groups – write a letter or send a party invitation to your local groups, but please make sure your party is suitable for whoever you invite.
• Local dignitaries/celebrities – write and invite them to open your Party or be guest of honour. Their name could help to attract further publicity or guests.
• Freebies and competitions – everybody loves a freebie, so why not incentivise your event by offering the first 50 people through the gates a free afternoon tea or run a competition where the 100th person through the gates wins a weekly vegetable box for summer. Remember to tell any publication/journalist about your competitions for extra publicity.
Health and Safety
Please ensure you inform your landlord about your intention to hold an OPEN Day. Most will be in favour of the idea, but they will ask if you have completed a health and safety questionnaire or risk assessment. Much of health and safety is common sense, but you need to prove you have done the thinking to appease most landlords.
As an allotment society you should already have insurance which covers public liability, but please do check your policy. If you need insurance contact The National Allotment Society’s recommended insurer.
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