Tag Archives: Mhairi Weir

12 Qs for Mhairi Weir

1. What is your favourite word? Sheer.
2. What’s your least favourite word? Greed.
3. What’s your favourite colour? Brown.
4. What colour or material would be suitable to describe you as a person? Red velvet.
5. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Wide open spaces and big skies.
6. What turns you off? Greed, ignorance, rudeness, Injustice, people being bullied, as for places: litter, people just leaving a mess not picking things up not having respect.
7. What is your favourite curse word? Shit.
8. What sound or noise do you love? Oh this is so cheesy. This is gonna sound really cheesy, but I love the bagpipes.
9. What sound or noise do you hate? Running your fingers down a black board.
10. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? All I ever wanted to be was a journalist or a writer I think that’s still within me.
11. What profession would you not like to do? A banker.
12. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Nice to see you.The Minks Spitalfields Mhairi WeirMhairi Weir, thanks a lot for your time and inspiring thoughts on community and the potential of open spaces!


All planned

Where and how will you be living in twenty years from now?
I will be living in the Isle of Skye in a house that my husband and I have built not built ourselves but we have designed and we will have a little bed and breakfast and a small holding where we can just be kicking back and relax.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City FarmThe Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City FarmMhairi Weir manages the Spitalfields City Farm in the heart of East London.


My Children

What was a miracle you’ve encountered in your life?
Giving birth to my two children. Nothing will ever, ever beat that. They were the best two moments in my life and that was just a complete miracle.
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Mhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields City Farm and has a big passion for community work.



Do you feel more Scottish, British, European or citizen of the world?
I feel Scottish and then I would say European. I think I struggle a bit with British. Oh yes and citizen of the world that makes me sound quite grand. Ha-haThe Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-145

Mhairi Weir is managing the Spitalfields City Farm.


Not the splendid isolation

Britain and the EU, to stay or to go?
To Stay. We are stronger in the EU and diversity works. There is always someone who’s gonna fall out. But we are always stronger than when we are apart and I think to be European and to come all together again it comes back to my thing about community and about sharing and about recognising its differences and learning from that. I don’t want us to go back to a splendid isolation.The Minks_Photography_Spitalields City Farm_Animals-10Mhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields City Farm. When trying to look for a gift for your lovely partner or a good friend the farm can be a good find also to meet interesting people.



The litter

What do you dislike about London?
The litter! The litter on Bricklane. The fried chicken shops. You can always tell when you’re back in London, when you see the fried chicken shops. OH I just hate them they are horrible.The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_London The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_LondonSometimes litter can seemingly turn into sculptures. But we agree with manager of Spitalfields City Farm, that people should just pick up after themselves and not deliberately destroy Santander bikes or free table tennis tables.



You can lose yourself in London

What do you love about London?
Oh I think London is the best city in the world. I really do and I never thought I’d say that. London is so cosmopolitan with a huge diversity; it’s just so unique. You can really be yourself in London. Equally you can lose yourself in London too. I can understand it can be a lonely place as well. I love the fact that you have so many different choices and so many things you can go to and there is a lot of stuff that is free. Great transport links. Fantastic transport links.The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_London-74 The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_London-42 The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_London-37 The Minks_Photography_Bethnal Green_London-50


Mhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields Cityfarm. The Cityfarm is the green connecting patch between Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Stepney Green and Aldgate East.


The Talking Quilt

Is there a particular story that you would tell about social cohesion?
We have done a project with the university of Brighton and Manchester who have set up an allotment scheme, and set up a bio farm. It started off as people coming together and growing together so we came on board with that and we reached out to do the project and we’ve created the talking quilt.
The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-43We got a whole lot of different groups in together of all the people who come into the farm and we got them to all make up tiny little squares to put a quilt together. And then we recorded conversations and it was all about food.The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-45It’s interactive you can press the buttons and it will play the stories and conversations we had. I think it’s at the Tate on loan. It’s been exhibited.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-107One story was a Bengali lady who came to England when she was very young and she drew a picture of a tin that said Heinz baked beans on it because she was told that was all that the English people were eating, so she was told that she had to get used to eating baked beans and she said at first they got nothing but tons of beans when she got here and she completely hated it.The Minks_Photography_Spitalields City Farm_Animals-11I can remember lots of groups of kids and school children and older people and Bengali people and Somali people all sitting there in the sun stitching and chatting away and it was one of those wonderful moments where everybody came together and worked for that.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-103Mhairi Weir is a passionate community builder and manager of Spitalfields City Farm.



How is it to work with a lot of volunteers?
Challenging. Very challenging. Working with people in general is challenging. The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-32But a lot of volunteers have very special issues, poor mental health, poor physical health, drug and alcohol misuse, and equally you have somebody coming in who’s retired or looking for a change in career or taking a break. So you’ve got all these people mixing together, so that’s not without it’s issues. The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-There’s difficulties with working with vulnerable adults and children and so you’ve got all the usual health and safety assessments policies and such to have in place. As long as you are valuing what your volunteers do and you don’t end up exploiting. But what will happen is that volunteers say “I want to come here every single day and I want to farm every day.” And I say “just come for an afternoon, come for a morning and build up slowly. You’ve got to enjoy it, this is not your work you don’t get paid and it starts to become a chore if you give too much time to it. So that works better. It’s easier to add on to something than to take away. Because then what happens if they feel the impact of working five days they would probably never come back.
Challenges come even down to language.

There is no two days the same and that’s exciting. Yes I love it.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City FarmMhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields Cityfarm. We met her here in her tree house ;).


The concept of sharing

What is it that fascinates you about your job besides bringing people together?
I am really fascinated by community. I’m really fascinated by the concept of sharing because I think we talk a lot about sharing, but the reality is we oftentimes don’t share, or we lost the ability to share and sometimes are so intent on taking everything for ourselves and forgetting about everybody else. The Minks SpitalfieldsI found that a lot in community centres and I found that on the farm as well, that people are all vying in for their own little space and I think the perfect examples are community gardens. The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm When we had to decide whether we turn the space into community gardens or allotments I did not want allotments I did not want that ownership. I wanted everybody to grow together and share the produce from it and I thought this was a bit of a utopian dream. It actually has started to work out really well, not saying that there are no difficulties. The Minks_Photography_SpitalfieldsCity Farm-20But people are really enjoying growing things together and then when they see the fruits of their labour and when they see the harvest and the volunteers feast days they will share recipes and cook something up and share a recipe from their childhood or from a different culture that brings people together. They start to share a lot more. It’s all about sharing, about sharing space, sharing time, sharing everything. That’s what drives me really.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm-138The Minks Spitalfields CityfarmWe met Mhairi Weir at the Spitalfields City Farm for an interview. She manages the community work and the entire farm with a lot of help from volunteers.


More open space please!

If you would have to point out a specific need in your community or in this community what would it be and how would you go about changing it?
A specific need. It’s quite difficult to narrow it down to specifics. I’m gonna use a lot of buzz words now, but I think it’s about community cohesion, it’s about bringing people together and it’s important to have places to have space, where that can happen. And I would like to think that people are enablers to bring people together, who work with the community, who work with the people from a bottom up approach, rather than telling people what to do.
The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-115Finances are always a big thing, but it doesn’t always need a lot. It’s about bringing like-minded people together. So having a place like the farm and having more places like that and where people can come around and all come on an equal footing.
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On one side of it we got people from Shoreditch who have quite large disposable incomes and then on the other side you have Whitechapel and Stepney where there is a great deal of poverty. The farm is kind of in that middle point where people can come together and it doesn’t matter how much or how little money you got. It’s about people enjoying farming and sharing events. The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-96So it’s about bringing people together for that and you need spaces, more spaces like that. And I think outdoor spaces are hugely important. It’s a bit scary going in a building or a community centre which brings people together as well, but a farm is much more open, it’s easier to walk into a farm or a park and feeling a bit invisible to a certain extent without being pressurised so to build up your confidence first. So I think a lot more open spaces is what is needed.The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-50 The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-49 The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-48 The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-47

We met Mhairi Weir amidst animals on the Spitalfields City Farm for an interview.


The City Farm Manager

How did you become a manager at Spitalfields City Farm?The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City FarmOh gosh that’s a long story. My background is in community education and community capacity building. And I always worked in the voluntary sector. Probably thirty odd years and my husband works in the financial sector and was offered a leading position in the London office here. He came down in secondment for two years and then they offered him a promotion. The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-7 The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-4So I thought at the time, because the children were all grown up and I was managing a befriending project for people with mental health problems. “Well, I see what’s available in London, quite like to give it a chance.” And I just saw this job advertised and got an interview for it and one at a community centre in Camden. The Minks_Photography_Spital Fields City Farm-59So I came along here for my interview, completely fell in love with the place, got offered the job and never even went for the interview in Camden and phoned them up to tell them sorry I will take the one at the city farm. The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm_Animals-3And I never thought I would get a job on a farm in the middle of London. I have no farming background and have no gardening background, though my background is definitely seated in community and capacity building and education and I see the farm as one big giant community centre.The Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm Urban FarmingThe Minks_Photography_Spitalfields City Farm_Animals-4



What do you call your neighbourhood?
Do you mean my work neighbourhood or my home?

Well the neighbourhood you feel most at home in.
Well definitely East London and definitely the Spitalfields. I live on the Isle of Dogs but I probably spend more time in Spitalfields area than I spend elsewhere.The Minks_London Spitalfields Shoreditch SunsetThe Minks_London Spitalfields ShoreditchThe Minks_London Spitalfields ShoreditchThe Minks_London Spitalfields Shoreditch City FarmThe Minks_London Spitalfield Shoreditch Musicians GraffitiThe Minks_London Spitalfields Shoreditch PlaygroundThe Minks_London Spitalfields Shoreditch Games The Minks_London Spitalfields Shoreditch GraffitiAlready in winter we walked past this super urban farm hoping we once get to see the inside and talk to the owner. Now half a year later this has come true. We love this neighbourhood as well. It’s very diverse, full of contrasts and magnificent street art.


The Urban Farmer

It was a rainy friday this summer. Present hunting, I was trapped somewhere between Whitechapel and Bethnal Green due to the many construction sites. Many roads were blocked and I somehow did not manage to make my usual way trough to Shoreditch area. At some point I bumped into the gates of Spitalfields city farm and just made it in time before the café closed at 4pm. I strolled around the lovely gardens, checked on the donkey business and even found a present. This place would make a fun contribution to our project I thought and Mhairi the project’s manager was keen right away to go ahead with the interview. Enjoy this month’s feature. Spitalfields city farm is a community project that relies heavily on volunteer work. It is more than a green space in the middle of London, rather it is a place as Mhairi puts it where ‘people can meet at arms lengths without any prejudice’.

The Minks_Photography_Spitalields City Farm_Portrait

What is your full name?
Mhairi Weir

Who are you?
Ha-ha who am I? I’m a mother, a wife, the manager of Spitalfields City farm.