Cody Wilds: Turning London river banks into a wild flower haven

Our fashion contributor Mia Kingsley – that’s her above with her dog Bear (for those who don’t recognise her from our What We Wears)  – has just been made youth ambassador of Cody Wilds, a project aiming to turn the inner city London banks of the river Lea into a wild flower haven. We thought we’d catch up with her to find out about planting trees, fashion vs nature and her love of flowers that began with a lavender bud up her nose.

interview by Britta Burger, flower photography by Mia Kingsley

What’s Grow Wild all about, what’s Cody Docks, and how are they connected?
Grow Wild is a national competition supported by the Big Lottery Fund and led by the Royal botanical Gardens, Kew. Within the project I am supporting Cody Dock as a youth ambassador. Cody Dock is a truly inspiring community run organisation that will benefit tremendously from the Grow Wild project. Having started from nothing but a neglected and derelict space, the dock has proved that with time and care a group of people can create a space worth fighting for. The Grow Wild winnings will enable the dock to not only create and nurture a wild flower haven along the river Lea but also support at least 2000 volunteers over the next two years!

How come you’ve decided to work on an eco project rather than, say, do some fashion shoots or start your own zine?
As much as I love art and fashion I think there are more important things to dedicate time to. When given the chance to support a project that will create a wilderness haven within a community run space that will potentially improve a way of living instead of getting a few hits on instagram, the choice is easy. However that doesn’t mean I’m not multitasking on various projects 😉

Will you be actively involved in turning the space into an urban wilderness, i.e. are you planning to plant trees yourself?
Yes I will be, if we are able to gain the votes we need and all goes to plan I shall be planting a tree for sure! The whole point of the project is enabling people the chance to give back to the wilderness, to experience the impact of seasonal changes, to grow your own and most importantly become aware and appreciative of your natural surroundings.

You told me you love flowers, what is it about them that fascinates you?
I adore flowers, I always have and always will. My mum often tells me a story of how I came back from an adventure in our garden, unable to speak yet, I could only indicate that my eyes were itching and my nose was irritated. Eventually my mum discovered a whole lavender bud stuck up my nose! I must have loved the smell so much that I thought it would be even better if it were stored safely in my nostril! They are truly fascinating specimens, from colour and pattern to texture and scent, the way they biologically work, everything about them is made to impress and seduce.

Yeah, just read a Michel Houellebecq quote saying “flowers are only sexual organs, brightly coloured vaginas decorating the surface of the world, open to the lubricity of insects.” 
I agree! They do decorate the surface of the world with their mystique, it would be quiet dull without them wouldn’t it? As for their sexual organ qualities, they do very much resemble the female flower visually and symbolically. In some countries it is common to compare one’s vagina to a flower, I personally think that is the most appealing term for me too, especially considering all the other crude and disrespectful names/ labels we have created.

Do you think growing up in a huge city like London has made you appreciate nature even more?
Well the first few years of my life I spent on the edge of London. Before my parents split we lived in a very small flat that had an enormous garden. I was very in touch with nature as a child and that garden I would say was more of my home than the flat itself. I remember spending hours on end exploring the land that I would call my own. My dog Pie was my best friend and together we ruled that world. There were also stray kittens that I would coax into friendship and I would constantly have fruit stains all over me from all the cherry trees and berries bushes. My dad would teach me to plant seeds and nurture the sprouts, my mum and I would watch butterflies and at one point we even had horses at the end of lawn that I would feed digestive biscuits! I was lucky, and that is one of the main reasons I got involved with Cody Dock and the Grow Wild project because I think it is vital for children and adults alike to experience nature, to appreciate it for what it can give us and also more importantly what we can give it in return.

Air travel, disposable fashion, fast food… loved by many but bad for the planet, do you ever feel guilty about the things you enjoy?
This is hard. I grew up a vegetarian and didn’t fly until I was 13. I wasn’t allowed Mac Donald’s or fast food, I vividly remember wanting cheese strings, that synthetic cheese stuff, and I wasn’t allowed it. But now at the age of 21 I try to travel as much as possible, I eat crap if I fancy it and I love clothes. However I am very conscious of these actions and try to limit myself. Just because something is accessible doesn’t mean you have to buy into it. I would advise to not eat meat every day, buy from your local green grocer and jump on your bike. I’m guilty of using buses a lot so I really need to embrace the latter myself… But you know what, I think it’s ok to indulge every now and again.

You’ve recently decided to concentrate on art rather than fashion photography, why?
For a couple of years I was really trying to force my photography toward a direction I believed would be most successful or most popular. Recently I realised I wasn’t enjoying it, every time I tried to apply a theme or attempt a submission I was never happy with the outcome, I was always frustrated that it wasn’t how I envisioned it and it just wasn’t working. I started to think photography wasn’t doing it for me anymore but then I thought no, I love taking photos I just hate taking fashion photos where I am forced to change my style to fit a certain brief. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have my own style and I like to take photos because I like that object or that scene rather than that magazine I want to be in. The difference is that I now take photos similar to when I started out, just for myself, and if they happen to be noticed then I’m thrilled.

What’s next for you? And how do we get involved with the ‘Grow Wild’ project?
I have some extremely cool projects coming up, I’m collaborating with female art collective ‘Peachy N Keen’, which I’m so excited about! ! And I also have some photos up in Bristol this weekend if you happen to be there for an ‘Unveiled’ event. And keep your eyes peeled for Doomed Gallery’s new project, it’s gunna be great.

As for ‘Grow Wild’ lines for voting have opened this week!! Please visit our facebook page and read all about the competition, we have an event on the 12th (this Sunday) please come!! It is going to be amazing, we have everything from a yoga session at 12am to a selection of wonderful bands, a bread making class and so much more. I can’t stress how much we need your help, so please support ‘Cody Dock’ you will be forever welcome to our haven xxx

For more of Mia’s work go to her website, blog, or follow mia_magnolia_ on Instagram!

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