Friday 30 September 2022

Long Gone Guernsey’s Toms

One of the most striking sights on the island is the sheer volume of empty and often collapsing and overgrown glasshouses . Next door to our billet is a huge one.

Just next door

There are nine within a half-mile radius of our place. Often they are flanked by a chimney stack and a packing shed.

The Packing Shed 

These glass mausoleums are what is left of an industry that started in1860. At that time the English discovered that tomatoes (a native of South America) were edible. 

This island’s mild maritime climate (southernmost part of the British Isles) was just the place to grow them. And a declining ship building industry meant a ready supply of carpenters to knock out greenhouses.

 By 1950 seven percent of Guernsey was under glass tended by two thousand commercial growers (total island pop. 45,347). Ten years later half a billion tomatoes were being picked and packed and sent to England. However years later still Dutch growers were contending for England’s tom-love.  Then in 1979 the oil crisis, sparked by the Iranian revolution, was the final factor in the industry’s collapse. 



Now all that is left are acres of glasshouses empty or often full of weeds and brambles trying to elbow their way to freedom. The States of Guernsey Island Development Plan is providing some help to owners to enable these sites to enjoy a new lease of life. 

Out of control 

Bidding for freedom 

Tuesday 20 September 2022


‘Every day’s a school day’ is a favourite axiom of Siรขn’s. 

A Friday or so back I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run a painting and drawing workshop in central London for nine talented young people. 

Class at work 

I was working alongside Lorena Zurbano, she is a driving force behind Metaforlearning.  This is community that organises and encourages learning outside the school room for young people of all ages, they meet regularly as a community and consider young people equal to adults. 

Equal to adults 

I arrived at my workshop with materials, a desire to inspire and bits and pieces for a still life set up we could all draw and/or paint. It had been a while. I ran a series of online art workshops during lockdown. Prior to that  workshops in Beaconsfield Library. All activities were hugely rewarding.


Working alongside Lorena we had a great session lot of exciting work created by everyone! There is a of pictures here


The magic part came when everyone in the class started really engaging in what they were doing, which was not necessarily painting the still life that I had set up. Some were looking outside the windows or working on their own personal ideas with pen paper inks and watercolours. Marvellous. 



When delegates 'take over' the session/workshop, the trainer/ facilitator/teacher can step back confident that learning/discovering among those that matter is really taking place.