Over the decades there have been various people who have had office space at Hollybush. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve and the Otters & Rivers Project) Tong Calverly Countryside Project, the Parks and Countryside Graphics Team, and by far the longest; Permaculture Association of Britain, their CEO is Andy Goldring.
Permaculture is a small network organisation for Permaculture organisations and individuals in the UK, linked to the international network of Permaculture see www.permaculture.org.uk Notes from a short interview with Andy in summer 2019
I became the “co-ordinator” of Permaculture in 1998. There had been 4 or 5 previous admin/office teams and none had managed more than about three years. I decided to challenge the burn out cycle and last longer than 3 years. At the time Jamie Saunders, one of the Trustees was living just around the corner which was useful. The current chair is in Saltaire and Philip Blandford who was Treasurer for many years lives in Otley and could come in regularly. It has been good to have a local support team. Done twenty years and going into twenty-first year, so feel I have successfully challenged the burn-out cycle.
Now a much, much more stable organisation than we were, obviously there are always difficult times ahead for any organisation, but I think we are better placed than we ever have been to face the challenges of Brexit, Climate Change and the general craziness of the world might throw at us.
The office was originally in an old mill in Meanwood, now student flats, Permaculture moved to Hollybush moved in 17 years ago from the mill following fire, flood and theft all in one week. Initially it was just the one big room, a lot of slightly damp resources smelling of smoke Andy and a part time administrator.
What I love about Hollybush – the gardens of course, the location: you can have a walk along the canal, go to the Abbey: we sometimes do that for our staff meetings, great pub just down the road, handy to go to the Bridge for one night of the quarterly staff meeting (when all the outposted staff travel in from across the UK) it is a nice location. For me personally it is about four miles cycle from home, and up and own route that contributes to my fitness and health that’s good, I can cycle every day and I do. Spaces are lovely: it is easy to buy a fairly soulless office space with no character, and here there is oodles of character. It has its ups and downs, but on the whole it is a very nice pleasing space to be in. We have had some great co-tenants over the years, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, Alan and the Orchard Project, different people have come and gone around us and then the Hollybush staff and voluntary officers, different staff have come and gone. A really nice community of people that working here and support each other. Even if you just say “hello” to people it is a nice space to be entering in to.
And we do some other stuff, I teach permaculture courses here once a year with Leeds Permaculture Network . It is really convenient for us to use the space and there are great gardens outside, good meeting rooms that helps. Very grounded place. The volunteers coming in and the learning (disability) project, make it just feels very real, feet on the ground sort of place, not head in the clouds place. I like that it is very connected to the community. Lots of flowers, I love the sweet peas that come out every early summer, when all the flowers come out the smell is amazing. We always pick a few to put in a jar in the office.
A nice place, what is really great about it is people would expect the Permaculture Assoc to be in a very “Permaculture space” so gardens, herb beds, solar tech all that kind of stuff. We can’t as a national organisation we don’t want to get diverted doing the practical local stuff but by being located in Hollybush have all that anyway. Over the years we have fed in ideas about what could happen e.g. a little forest garden, espaliered fruit, forest garden, courtyard by the barn was cleared for a conference by Permaculture. Not given lots of physical help but have put in ideas. One of the key things I’m aware of is maintenance, unless someone really committed to not only implementing a project maintaining as well as, I’ve got plenty to do. Unless Hollybush want to take it on, I’m reluctant to suggest people do something here. People go off and do their thing elsewhere. It make more sense for us to do occasional strategic tweak or suggestion at Hollybush, you take it on if it fits your maintenance plan, that works for both of us. It works for us being in a very Permaculture sympathetic place without us having to do it, we are basically on computers all day. I can’t think of anywhere in Leeds that would give us the office space and all the gardens.
Done a lot on the education side though – 12-13 courses over the years, 200 people trained here in permaculture. People remember Hollybush as an important part of their learning. That has had a good impact as they have gone off to do amazing things. For me it is the combinations of a really nice social side – I have friends here and feel supported by the Hollybush team. It is a lovely physical environment and great location for visitors. Feels very calm despite all the things around eg the roads, trains, the flight path and electricity pylons.