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.Mhairi Weir, thanks a lot for your time and inspiring thoughts on community and the potential of open spaces!
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. Mhairi Weir manages the Spitalfields City Farm in the heart of East London.
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.
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-ha
Mhairi Weir is managing the Spitalfields City Farm.
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.Mhairi 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.
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. Sometimes 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.
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.
Mhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields Cityfarm. The Cityfarm is the green connecting patch between Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Stepney Green and Aldgate East.
How is it to work with a lot of volunteers?
Challenging. Very challenging. Working with people in general is challenging. But 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. 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.Mhairi Weir is the manager of Spitalfields Cityfarm. We met her here in her tree house ;).
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.
Finances 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.
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. So 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.
We met Mhairi Weir amidst animals on the Spitalfields City Farm for an interview.
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’.
What is your full name?
Who are you?
Ha-ha who am I? I’m a mother, a wife, the manager of Spitalfields City farm.