Skip to content

Chris Kelly’s Cable St Gardeners In Colour

July 8, 2012
by the gentle author

This summer, Photographer Chris Kelly returned to Cable St Community Gardens to take these vibrant portraits of the gardeners. Previously, Chris made a set of portraits in black and white, which became an exhibition and a book in 2005, and were featured on Spitalfields Life earlier this year.

Jane Sill – I hope to grow more vegetables in future. Other plants have taken over the space, especially poppies. They remind me of my grandfather who was wounded and left for dead of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July, 1916. He survived, was nursed in France and eventually brought back to this country. The Tibetan prayer flags were brought back from Lhasa by a friend.

Ray Newton – There are more younger people in the gardens now and more flowers. I’m still growing mainly vegetables. We’ve had a plague of snails this year because of the wet weather. I’m kept busy with my work as secretary of the History of Wapping Trust, I give talks and guided walks, and we published another book about Wapping – Piety & Piracy – last year.

Anwara Begum – I’m growing more varieties of vegetables now. I have Bangladeshi pumpkins and different types of Bangladeshi cucumbers. I grow aubergines and chillies in my greenhouse – one of them is too hot even for me.

Manda Helal – Manda’s vines, pretty and delicious.

Marian Monas – I’ve been coming to the gardens for a few months. I live just around the corner. Eventually I hope to have a plot or to share one, but in the meantime I’m growing things in a raised planter. I’m happy with anything that grows really. I’ve got herbs, chard, rhubarb, lavender – and there are visits from a friendly rat.

Ron Osborne – I was one of the original gardeners here back in the seventies and I had a plot for about ten years. Then I started the Shadwell Basin Project for local youth and became involved with other things. I came back when Gina got this plot and we both spend time on it, but it’s basically hers.

Anne Herbert –  Anne moved out of the area in 2005 but always comes back to the gardens on Open Day and keeps in touch with some of the other gardeners. Part of Anne’s former plot is now a well stocked pond.

Ann Ahern – I moved to Tower Hamlets from Notting Hill in 1999 and I’ve had my plot here since 2005. I live just eight minutes away. I’m growing mixed flowers, a few vegetables and I have a pond. My nephew has a seed bed on part of the plot. I’m not so good with seeds.

Monir Uddin – My latest project is to specialise in roses. I’m transplanting them, but they are quite tricky to grow and it takes at least a year for the roots to become established. I’m a photographer and I hope to photograph the roses for cards and calendars.

Helen Keep

Emir Hasham – Emir’s plot houses one of two beehives introduced to the gardens recently.

Hasan Chowdhury – I’m twelve and I’m the youngest gardener here. I first came with our neighbour Angel, who has a cat, and then Jane let me take over these raised planters. I’m growing spinach and potatoes, three different types of pumpkins, peas and coriander. I first learned about gardening from my mum and I like it because gardening is fun.

Suzanne & Mark Lancaster – We started gardening here fairly recently. It’s lovely to come to this beautiful oasis of flowers, birds and greenness in the heart of the East End. We live on busy Brick Lane, so it’s a joy to have somewhere so pretty and tranquil for a break. We hope to grow french beans, rhubarb and herbs in our raised planters.

Devika Jeetun – I’ve been coming to the gardens for a long time. I had to give up my plot when I was caring for my brother and I’m on the waiting list now. I’m growing herbs and vegetables in raised planters – potatoes, tomatoes, runner beans, spring onions and coriander. And I’m looking forward to having a plot again.

Balkis Karim

Annemarie Cooper – I’ve been gardening here for sixteen years and I don’t bother so much with vegetables now, my garden is basically a wildlife area. Those of us who encourage frogs have been using lion poo to keep the cats away from the ponds and it seems to work.

Sheila McQuaid – My gardening is more organised now. I come here at least twice a week. I’m growing different types of vegetables such as squashes and courgettes and I use the greenhouse for tomatoes. But the fruit has not been so good this year, so I’m growing more herbs, especially varieties of mint – I’m into mint tea in quite a big way.

Photographs copyright © Chris Kelly

To learn more about Cable Street Community Gardens or buy copies of the Cable St Gardeners book, contact Jane Sill or visit

You may like to see Chris Kelly’s Cable St Gardeners, 2005

or take a look at these other pictures by Chris Kelly

Chris Kelly’s Columbia School Portraits 1996

Chris Kelly & Dan Jones in the Playground

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Ros permalink
    July 8, 2012

    What a nice read, and great photos. Such varied stories and backgrounds. Thank you, g.a. and Chris.

  2. July 8, 2012

    I love cats but they daily visit my garden and wind my dog up into a froth. Finally I may have the answer, lion poo! Of course it begs the questions where and how?

  3. mike permalink
    July 8, 2012

    A pleasure, to see & read about them.

  4. July 9, 2012

    Special mentions for Ray Newton and Ron Osborne who do so much for local history – and gardening. ‘Piety and Piracy’ – Ray Newton, History of Wapping Trust – is a great book and the Trust do some wonderful things in Tower Hamlets…alongside Ron Osborne with the Shadwell Local History Club. Cable Street Community Gardens and local history are indebted to you.

  5. November 18, 2012

    homegrown things are always better – its pleasure to see this

  6. Sheila Ayres permalink
    February 26, 2018

    What healthy strong plants you all grow how do you manage to do this in London?

  7. Grace Caruso permalink
    March 15, 2024

    Wonderful cats and beautiful gardens….

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS