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February 25, 2009

A grassroots approach to Commonwealth Games legacy

There has already been a lot of talk about how to create a lasting legacy for Scotland from the 2014 Commonwealth Games. One idea that seems to be gathering support is the Commonwealth Orchard – planting new community orchards across Scotland and seeking out and restoring old and neglected ones

It’s an interesting time to be staging the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. The recession means it may be difficult to raise sponsorship. The London Olympics have already gathered a lot of available sponsorship money, as well as much of the limelight. But a lack of funds may create a great opportunity. The challenge is now to run a great games and leave a useful legacy within existing resources. An “austerity” games, perhaps, but one that draws on the resourcefulness, good humour and spirit of the people of Scotland. A grassroots, home-grown games rather than a big corporate one.
The concept of “commonwealth” is interesting. While it has become associated with empire and colonialism, it has old and democratic roots. The “commonweal” as an idea goes back more than 400 years in the city. Since 1605, Glasgow Trades House has had a Commonweal Fund for “good and pious use” within the burgh. The “common good” is another old moral and philosophical concept based on altruistic principles, which underpinned the civic pride and philanthropy of the Victorians – when great parks, water supplies and schools were built for the common good.
The original idea behind “common wealth” is not that individuals do well from it personally, but that it helps create a more resilient society that supports its poor and vulnerable members.
Margaret Layden, manager of Playbusters, a community development charity working in the east end of Glasgow, again stressed the involvement of young people.
“Building up the skills and self confidence of young people and getting them to design their contribution is really important,” says Margaret. “We need to start now and make sure it keeps going after the games. We want east end kids to be part of the opening ceremony, and let people see the east end as the great place it is, with a rich local history.”
Consultation isn’t enough: the implementation also has to be done by ordinary people. The Commonwealth Orchard, a project developed by the Children’s Orchard (shortlisted for the environment prize in The Herald Society Awards 2008), is designed to allow people to be hands on, and to plant their own orchards close to where they live. It’s not just people in Glasgow who can contribute – it’s all across Scotland and the Commonwealth countries.
The Commonwealth Orchard wants children to learn new skills, grow their own fruit, learn how to use it for healthy food, get their communities involved and become capable and self-reliant. That involves getting hands dirty.
The idea is to plant new trees, celebrate and map existing orchards, and to pick and eat the produce – as well as to use orchards for a wide range of arts, events and community uses. It’s a great way to create a positive grassroots legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The Commonwealth Orchard was launched at the New Year in the East End of Glasgow on 30th Dec 08 – and then in Edinburgh at Ferryhill Primary on 6th Jan 2009. We have also planted in Stirling, in Oakwood Primary in Glasgow. Other planting and community orchard events are planned over the next months.

We have received a lot of support from a range of groups, schools, individuals – the level of enthusiasm has been great.

The Commonwealth Orchard is currently being considered by the Scottish Government for inclusion in the legacy plan and a decision is due on 23rd Feb. We need your support and backing to make this happen – please email your support and ideas to

The Commonwealth Orchard was developed over the past year by the award winning Children’s Orchard, and launched at the Scottish Parliament Apple Day hosted by Robin Harper MSP in Oct 2008.

For more information on the Children’s Orchard and on the Commonwealth Orchard