Seedy Sunday is a week away! 

On the 6th February we will be at Brighton Open Market

From 9 am to 3 pm, free entry – donations welcome. It’s Seedy Sunday’s 20th anniversary this year. We’re the oldest community seed swap in Britain! We think we’re also the biggest, although we’re very happy to see so many events growing all over the country. We love the Gaia Foundation Seed Sovereignty programme for promoting seed saving and promoting seed swaps across the country. 

As we look back, we asked a couple of people who’ve been involved in Seedy Sunday from the early days for their memories and views of the event. Alan Phillips was one of the founders of both Seedy Sunday and the Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group (BHOGG), and Ros Loftin remains involved as the queen of the Seed Swap table and vital member of the committee. We’ve combined and summarised their answers below:

Alan Phillips with his Sussex heritage apple collection

Why do you think Seedy Sunday is important?

At the beginning of February there is a feeling of hope, of expectation as Spring is coming soon. The gardening community can play its practical part in promoting self sufficiency in growing plants but also in encouraging small commercial growers with heritage seeds and plants. It is about promoting a community of interest and diversity rather than promoting “celebrities” and maximising profits.

It’s important for grassroots education and as a way of safeguarding a diversity of old, unlisted plant varieties. And it’s a form of resistance to the power of multinationals and commercial horticulture.

What do you enjoy about the Seedy Sunday event?
There are so many enjoyable things as this is one of the most delightful days of the year for me. They include greeting and hugging (when we could) those evergreen gardening friends that I have known for many years; volunteering at an alternative event buzzing with energy but with a very practical purpose; discovering locally home grown seeds from plants that have been lovingly nurtured all summer; enjoying the wonderment of small children discovering how seeds transform into seedlings, plants, flowers and then into seeds again; the buzz of like-minded activists and the start of the growing calendar!

Having been involved from the start of Seedy Sunday – what has changed since that first event 20 years ago? 
Many risks were taken in pioneering Seedy Sunday twenty years ago. Then we could only estimate how much interest there might be, while needing to invest so much time, thinking and the funding, which was generously given by Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group. Seedy Sunday went off to a flying start with over 300 people joining in 2002. A decade later over 3,000 were taking part each year at the Corn Exchange. It was a focal point for encouraging and supporting seed saving in many parts of Southern England. Communication has become wider and more sophisticated over the years. The venues and the numbers have changed and I know this year you’ll be at a new venue, the Brighton Open Market, but the essence remains the same. 

Seed swapping over the years

What would you hope Seedy Sunday – or similar events – would be like 20 years from now?
I hope that Seedy Sunday will always remain an alternative project, critical of unsustainable commercial ventures while promoting biodiversity, and our local heritage, in such a practical way. Seedy Sunday has been and I hope will always be based on the local community. It would be challenging but exciting if Seedy Sunday could grow with more activities throughout the year, once Covid is a lesser threat. Seedy Sunday has a richness of experience and commitment to influence seed saving and biodiversity locally and nationally. In twenty years it would be a delight to see that it had been influential in changing government policies, campaigning on the basis of Brighton’s practical experience. We would like to see seed swap events firmly established everywhere in society and communities, with community needs put before the profit of multinationals, and a self-sustaining approach to growing. 

Ros Loftin at her allotment

What advice would you give to people who are starting out as gardeners – perhaps coming to Seedy Sunday for the first time?
As gardeners, our advice is to have patience! A garden does not appear instantly! It takes 10 years to establish properly. Learn to garden with nature, there is no need to be a control freak. Look after the soil, it is your most basic resource. Learn through your mistakes and never give up!

On Seedy Sunday, enjoy yourself and have fun. We all began gardening once upon a time and discovered so many things from others, from our own gardening and then about ourselves. There are many interesting people and such a diversity of seeds at Seedy Sunday, make sure you also give yourself enough time to catch your breath and relax with friends over a slice of cake and a cup of tea. Gardening, too, is much more than growing plants.