JOY Faulkner had never grown anything before she came along to the Pacitti Garden.

“I didn’t have a clue about gardening,” she admits, cheerfully. “I had never had a garden, although I’d always fancied one. I thought about an allotment, but I’m not fit enough at the moment, so a raised bed does me just fine.”

Joy has lupus, a painful condition which often leaves her feeling exhausted. She is a regular at the Pacitti Garden in Kinning Park with her 90-year-old mother Jenny, popping in to check on her spinach, onions and potatoes.

Today, she is having a go at planting mange-tout.

“It’s a little strip, see, which you put just under the soil, with some water,” she explains. “Listen to me, sounding like I know what I’m talking about. I’ve learned a lot, coming here.”

She adds, with feeling: “But more than that, it’s helped me to feel better. It’s my therapy.”

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The Pacitti Garden is the Best Community Garden and Overall Winner at this year’s Streets Ahead Awards.

It started in 2012, when a group of local residents and business owners decided to turn a derelict dumping ground at the back of the Yellow Bird chip shop into a community growing space.

With the help of a £750 grant from our campaign to get it off the ground, and the hard work of a bunch of dedicated volunteers, it has blossomed into a much-loved, often-used community hub with raised beds, a biodiversity garden and seating areas.

Phase one now complete, the team extended the space around the corner for phase two, which includes more raised beds, a soon-to-be-added polytunnel and a community pizza oven, being built by fellow Streets Ahead award nominee Impact Arts Creative Pathways. The garden also runs workshops and community events and recently gained national press coverage when local graffiti artist Rogue One painted a stunning mural on the back wall.

It was named in honour of Mario Pacitti, the original owner of the Yellow Bird, who was a real community stalwart and local hero. When he died, the team behind the garden, including hairdresser Elaine Derrick who is now chairperson, decided to call the garden after him.

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“Mario’s wife and family have moved away now, but Orlando, who runs the Yellow Bird now, is a great supporter of the garden,” smiles Elaine. “And I think Mario would have loved what we have done with the place….”

The Pacitti Garden sums up what Streets Ahead is all about. This hardworking team of neighbours and friends have taken a disused, unloved rectangle of ground in the heart of a busy, urban neighbourhood and transformed it into a beautiful place that means the world to all who use it.

“There is always something happening here,” says Elaine, who runs the Perfect Endz salon nearby. “We have around 70 members now and 26 raised beds. You don’t have to have a bed to come in – we have lots of visitors who just like to sit and relax. It’s very peaceful.”

She laughs: “One woman comes in to do her knitting. Another tells her husband she’s off to Tesco and sits and reads her book for half an hour.”

Elaine pauses. “For many, though, it’s a place of solace,” she says. “I know people who are going through really difficult, sad times, who say coming here gives them a break, a chance to talk about what’s happening in their lives. That means a lot to us all.”

June is a busy month in the garden. Recently washed, multi-coloured watering cans line up on a table, and there are trays of ready-to-plant bulbs in the little potting shed.

Volunteers Iain, Tom and Derek are extending some of the raised beds to create ‘buddy planters’ where gardeners can team up with someone younger or older. Pippa the dog is pottering about, sniffing around new visitors. The blackboard proclaims: “This week – weeding, water beds, composting, litter pick, brush pathways.”

Community gardener James McMahon explains: “We don’t just want people to come in and tend their own beds – it’s a community space, we hope everyone will help each other.”

Co-treasurer Margaret Lochhead, who shares the role with Duncan Smith, says the garden has come a long way since its early days.

“It’s been amazing,” she says. “The Streets Ahead grant really helped us on our way.

“It’s lovely to be part of the awards event – winning means so much to everyone who has worked so hard over the last seven years.”

Elaine agrees. “None of us could have imagined what a success it would be,” she says.

“When the gates are open, everyone wants to come in and see what we are doing.

“To see all ages, kids from local schools and nurseries, people with disabilities, university students, residents from the flats across the road, all using this place, is just amazing.

“Many people round here don’t have any outdoor spaces at all - this is their garden. Kids come here to play, others to grow their own food because food poverty is a real issue.”

James adds: “Local people designed it, funded it and built the Pacitti Garden,” he says. “It provides respite for people living tough lives.

“You can come here to learn a skill, beat social isolation, combat food poverty.

“The community created this, which means they value it all the more. Everyone should be really proud of what they have achieved here.”