The Gift of a Garden in Lockdown with Yaina Samuels

In this exclusive interview, Yaina Samuels (Founder & Director of NuHi Training Ltd a social enterprise which offers bespoke education and training workshops for people with substance misuse problems) speaks to the Director of Get the Chance about her background, the challenges presented in Lockdown. Her love of gardening and lack of black presenters in the media. Yaina also discuss where she thinks arts funding should be focused.

Hi Yaina great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

A few years ago, a friend once described me as a disruptive influencer. I thought at the time it was a bad thing. Reminded me of school, my end of term reports (for lessons that I didn’t like/couldn’t get my head around) always read “Yaina is a disruptive influence in the classroom”. That was then and this is now! For me being described as a disruptive influencer is very much a good thing. I’ve decided to also add the word innovator as it aligns well with the person that I am today. I consider myself to be a ‘disruptive innovative influencer’ seen through my life experiences, the work that I do and the things that I am passionate about

During Lockdown you have been sharing updates on work in your garden. Have you always been interested in gardening?

If it wasn’t for gardening, my emotional health and wellbeing would have taken a steep nosedive during lockdown. I am the type of person that likes to be actively involved in doing something. Living alone, being in lockdown, working from home on my laptop, was driving me nuts. I had to sort my head out and fast.

My passion stemmed from my early childhood experiences of visiting extended family who were keen gardeners. As a young child I loved visiting my grandmother’s house in West Close, in the Docks. She had a long path to the front door and there were always pretty coloured flowers and plants filling the borders, they smelt wonderful to my little nostrils.

Another experience: visiting my cousins in Ely meant that I would get to see what uncle Les was growing on his garden veg plot. He spent hours in the back garden, tending his plants, tying up canes for his runner beans, and weeding the ground. When we had a Sunday roast dinner at my uncle’s house, the vegetables were always freshly pick from his garden that same morning.

From the age of nine we moved to a housing estate in Newport we were fortunate enough to be housed directly opposite miles and miles of green fields. For years I would watch the farmer from my bedroom window ploughing, planting and harvesting his crops. In my teens, to earn pocket money, I worked at a local farm at the weekend picking blackcurrants.

You use lots of recycled materials in your garden projects, where do you get them from and which are you most pleased with?

I get my recycled materials such as wood and pallets from skips by the side of the road. I can’t drive past a pallet without stopping and putting it in the car. I’m obsessed with pallets; I go to bed at night watching YouTube tutorials of creative things to make with pallets. Ideas come to me when I’m sleeping, next morning I can’t wait to get out of bed to get started.

I got into the habit of carrying my jigsaw tool with me as I quickly came to realise that pallets come in different shapes and sizes and some need cutting to fit into my small car. Friends who follow me on social media have also messaged me to offer me pallets.

You have also been growing your vegetables, which you have had to defend from garden predators! Have you managed to save any veg and made any nice meals?

Growing veggies brings forth both pain and joy. For the first few weeks I had a nice harvest of rocket lettuce, chives, mint, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and strawberries. So far, I’ve made several dishes of tabbouleh salad – main ingredients parsley and mint. I shared much of my rocket and mint with my lovely neighbours. My cucumbers, cabbage and courgettes are growing slowly but surely, as I put them in a raised bed. However, my lettuce has been totally annihilated by the invisible slugs that come and go in the night, the only evidence being their slimy silvery trail.

There are very few black gardeners in the media, what can be done to increase representation and support people into considering this as a career path or as a pastime?

My biggest passion has always been plants, gardening and nature. Up until last year I had never seen a black woman garden presenter on TV, I was a follower of Charlie Dimmock, that’s all we had. Imagine my joy when I first saw Flo Headlam on Gardeners World in 2017, about time too! Then I remember Juliet Sargeant a black garden designer winning gold at the Chelsea Flower show in 2016 for her creative expression of modern-day slavery.

The black gardeners that I have mentioned above are from over the bridge in England. I would love to see Wales cultivate and nurture our very own homegrown black gardeners – Wales is missing out on so much by not embracing this unique and diverse talent.

Get the Chance supports the public to access and respond to arts activity, if you were able to fund an area of the arts what would this be and why?

If I were able to fund an area of arts I would most definitely choose presenting or hosting. We need more black people presenting topical issues that relate to all. The media is a very powerful tool which is, all too often, used to spread hate and promote divisiveness in relation to black people. As a black woman born in Cardiff, with strong Sierra Leone roots, I feel hopeful that change is finally coming on a global scale. Such a shame that it took the death of George Floyd to get us to where we are now.

During Lockdown a range of arts and third sector organisations and individuals are now working online or finding new ways to reach out to audiences. Have you seen any particularly good examples of this way of working that you would like to highlight?

For me Zoom conferencing has all the components needed for running a successful activity online, engaging with people who may not normally attend such events. Also allowing people to join and just listen without having to walk into a room full of people, which to many community members, is a pretty daunting experience.

The added bonus of Zoom is the break out room facility where a large group can be broken into smaller groups for discussion. I feel that online engagement is the future. Being able to access a service or event without leaving the home will enable far more people to participate and get their voices heard in relation to issues that affect them and their communities.

Thanks for your time Yaina

3 thoughts on “The Gift of a Garden in Lockdown with Yaina Samuels”

  1. My inspirational neighbour Yaina. Well done on all your hard work and gardening prowess. You’re a star.

  2. Fantastic Yianna you are an inspiration to everyone . Nothing can hold you back once you get the ‘bug’ so to speak. You an conquer anything once you put your mind to it ….well done ☘️☀️❤️🙏🌈

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