Naomi Schillinger was Fringe-y long before there even was a Chelsea Fringe. Back in 2009, she and her neighbours started a front garden community veg-growing project in Finsbury Park. Now over 100 households take part. Two or three times a year, they hold a ‘Cake Sunday’ in a front garden; neighbours meet up over tea and home-made cakes and give away free seeds and bulbs. Naomi and her neighbours are also festival ‘veterans’.
Introduce yourself, Naomi… I’m a gardener and garden writer, living and working in North London. I love growing edibles as well as decorative plants. With my neighbours, we’ve held a few Chelsea Fringe ‘Mega Cake Sundays’; with a play in a front garden, vegetable Olympics back in 2012 and ‘Can You Dig It’ performing songs about gardening in a corner plot. We may well organise a ‘Cake Sunday’ Dog Show this year…
What has been your favourite Chelsea Fringe moment? That’s a tricky one! There’ve been so many good things I’ve enjoyed. There was the hugely inspiring WC @ Vanguard Court; a garden and fernery in a converted toilet in Peckham in 2013. And Deb Nagan’s Garden of Disorientation in Clerkenwell in 2012; a thoughtful, quirky, mint-filled, tranquil space, right in the heart of London. And I loved it when a trio of Chelsea Pensioners joined us up in Finsbury Park for our Mega Cake Sunday tea party. Tord Boontje’s ‘Dawn to Dusk’ turning chairs (see video here) on the Thames next to Vauxhall Bridge in 2017 were a real hoot too.
Why did you want to get involved in the Fringe? It’s great to share horticultural knowledge and ideas, and at my first Chelsea Fringe meeting I felt like I’d met my tribe! I love all the creativity that goes into the events each year and try to see as many as possible. I’m never normally disappointed.
Tell us three words that sum up the Chelsea Fringe for you? Imaginative, inspiring, fun.
What’s your top tip for someone taking part in the Fringe for the first time? Keep it simple. Ask friends and neighbours to help; it’s good to share the load and it’s fun to get a project off the ground with others.
Who is your gardening hero? Joy Larkcom, writer of vegetable-growing books. Such great knowledge, so generously shared.
What is your guilty pleasure, gardening or otherwise? Vegging out (ha, ha!!) watching back-to-back episodes of Elementary, listening to The Archers, tuning in to Magic FM in my van. And chocolate, of course.
What do you listen to in your shed? I love catching up on Desert Island Discs, Open Book, A Good Read, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review and the Barbican Cinema podcast.
Image: Naomi Schillinger