Q and A with Indira Naidoo – The Edible City

Indira Naidoo is a renowned journalist, best known as SBS News host. In 2006 she became media manager and spokeswoman for Choice magazine and then in 2009 was one of 261 candidates selected to be trained in Melbourne by former US Vice President Al Gore to conduct regular presentations about the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Her first book, The Edible Balcony, was an instant best seller. Yesterday, Indira launched her second book, The Edible City at the Sydney School of Mechanics. I had the pleasure of interviewing her today for my blog.

Indira 2 sml

The transition from media into environmental activism was an easy one for Indira, because she often reported on issues such as the environment, sustainability and climate change-issues she was passionate about. When working at Choice, rain water tanks were illegal at the time, but today, they’re all part of ‘every day living’ and ‘sustainability.’ It all started when a market farmer gave Indira a tomato to taste, and when she bit into it, she was in heaven. “It was the best tomato I’ve ever tasted,” Indira said. This inspired her to transform her 20 metres balcony to an edible garden consisting of fruit, vegetables and herbs. David Wenham approached her after buying her first book The Edible Balcony to become the Wayside Chapel Ambassador, because her book inspired him to transform his small balcony to an edible garden.

Indira 1 sml

Indira helped transform The Wayside Chapel‘s rooftop to an edible garden. And in July 2015 they installed a bee hive in the corner of the garden, so they now have delicious honey. There are horticulture / garden volunteers who help daily and homeless people too. Jon, a gardener there says, “Our garden is a constant reminder that we live in a community, not an economy.” The Wayside chapel’s garden help feed the homeless and gives a constant supply of nutritious and tasty food to their wonderful cafe too. Even Kylie Kwong’s restaurant Billy Kwong even uses the Wayside Chapel’s honey in their pork buns.  The Wayside Chapel cafe is open to the public weekdays. At Christmas (2015), 600 homeless people came to the Wayside Chapel’s Christmas lunch and most of the food was produced by their own edible garden!

The Edible city

Today, Indira spreads her message of sustainability to schools, corporate businesses, councils and governments, not only in Australia but overseas too, (e.g. New York) “making urban spaces liveable” is a passionate mission of hers. I had the pleasure of interviewing Indira for my blog.

What gives you joy now in your life these days?

“Probably things to do with growing, gardens and food I guess and friends and family to share it with. Food is about as intimate as our connection with nature gets, putting it our mouths. The intimacy that comes from gardens and food.”

Who were your role models growing up?

“I’ve got lots of areas of interest – political leaders, presidents and prime ministers and political activists. From Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, Indira Gandhi, JFK, David Attenborough, Gough Whitlam.”

What are your views on diversity now in Australian film, television and in the media? Do you think it’s getting better?

“I think in the last fifteen years we gained a lot of ground in the 70’s and early eighties and late nineties and in the new century it’s been wound back. A lot about how we value diversity and multiculturalism, generally in our community and in the arts I’d say it’s not looking as rosy as the path we were on about 15 years ago and a lot of that has to do with the political leadership of the country which hasn’t sold the value of diversity. And so a lot of it comes connected to that, whether it’s arts bodies, theatre groups and television shows, it all flows on from the prime ministers of our time and how much they value diversity, so I think we’ve gone back a little bit in the last fifteen years.”

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In your latest book, Jon said, “Our garden is a constant reminder that we live in a community, not an economy,” do you think our society is slowly becoming to value the importance of community or our economy these days?

“We just have to look at the news each night, how it covers stories like finances, houses and properties and how it talks about the economy and not much about this poor old lady across the road. There isn’t a lot of regard paid to the value of community, there’s a lot of emphasis on the economy and growing wealth, money and finances, so I think we’ve lost the balance, we’re out of balance at the moment and we need to go back to value the community.”

What would you like people to take away after reading The Edible City? And what would your legacy be?

“If I can just open people up to look at their living spaces in a different way and then they can bring more nature into the city and their lives and engage them to grow their own food, like lettuces, as there’s a real joy attached to that. It’s a lot of fun. Once you grow that seed and watch that seed germinate and then see the fruit and being able to eat what you grow, is just such a wonderful, joyous connection to nature and our environment. It’s just so tasty and delicious. Once you start that journey, you’ll never look back, bringing more nature and green into our cities it can only be better for our quality of life and overall happiness.”

What an inspiring woman Indira Naidoo is! The Edible City is now available at all good bookstores and The Wayside Chapel (The Wayside Chapel 29 Hughes Street, Potts Point, 2011. Phone: 02 9581 9100) has a tour coming up at the end of February 2016. The Wayside Café is open Mon – Fri 9am-7.30pm Sat 9am – 4:30pm Sun 12pm – 4:30pm. I’ll see you there!












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