As City Farm nears 40th birthday, photographs from 1979 show the early days of popular animal centre

Thursday, 5th April 2012

Published: 04 April 2012
by PAVAN AMARA

PHOTOGRAPHS dating from 1979 have been discovered at Kentish Town City Farm, showing how it started life decades ago.  

To coincide with the farm’s 40th birthday, founder David Powell, 64, presented a slide­show of the images and recalled how the farm was launched in 1972 with animals on loan and £5,690 in capital.

Nearly half a century on, it has founded the National Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, which now has 600 members.

Mr Powell, who lives in Elm Village, Camden Town, said: “Community and Big Society weren’t talked about in those days.

"It was something we just did by putting shoulder to spade. I had  no idea about the long term then.

"I was 24 and not even thinking about anything still being around in 40 years’ time, but it is.”

In 1972, the space had been three acres of wasteland in a derelict timber yard.

Stockman John Langan, who has worked on the farm for 28 years, said: “We were using sustainable methods before they were trendy. Now visitors come for work experience from the Middle East, Africa, all over Europe.”

During the hour-long presentation the audience of about 60 tried to identify faces in the photographs.

They were amused by photographs of signs saying “Please touch and feed the animals” – a far cry from today’s health and safety regulations.

The farm is looking for memorabilia and photographs of Gospel Oak, and hopes to hear from people wishing to tell their stories of the area.

“When we first started this, the neighbours must have thought we were just some long-haired hippies from the 70s,” said Mr Powell. “I hope now they know we’ve done the area proud.”

Edith Young, 13, who rides at the farm’s Pony Club, said: “Everybody gets to come here because it’s free, so it doesn’t matter how much money a person’s family has.”

Bottom picture: From left, trustee governor Jim Widdowson, farm director Mick Magennis, founder David Powell and stockman John Langan

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