Q&A with Tayshan Hayden-Smith

Community, Activism, and Learning from Mistakes

Earthed is blessed to platform the knowledge, skills, and experiences of inspiring nature teachers from around the world. Tayshan Hayden-Smith is no exception.

Born and raised in Ladbroke Grove, West London, Tayshan turned to guerilla gardening and the creation of community green spaces as a form of therapy and healing following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower Fire. Through innovative design and collaboration, Tayshan’s projects reimagine green spaces in order to reconnect community with nature so that both can thrive.

In his Earthed Course, Activating your Activism: Planting Seeds for Change, Tayshan guides you through his own personal experiences. He aims to inspire anyone anywhere to reconnect with their community and the natural world.

But what do we really mean when we talk about activism? And how do we overcome the barriers – real or imagined – that prevent so many of us from connecting with our community?

We caught up with Tayshan with our top five questions…

Tayshan’s Earthed Course, Activating your Activism: Planting Seeds for Change, is now available for all members of Earthed. Sign up today here!

Q&A with Tayshan Hayden-Smith

Q: We love your course, Activating your Activism, and have already reflected and learnt so much from listening to you and your experiences. What do you hope members will gain from participating in your Earthed Course?

Tayshan: Activating your Activism is a course which I hope cuts through boundaries, barriers and very real challenges into just doing and being. There’s an activist in everyone – and there’s no magical formula to it, but often the pressures of life and society will mean that the most amazing and beautiful of ideas and solutions won’t come to life. This course is hopefully a gentle nudge of encouragement to take positive action – however that manifests for you.

Q: The word “activism” can sometimes make people feel uncomfortable, and many may feel wary of labelling themselves “activists”. How would you respond to this? What does activism mean to you?

Tayshan: I feel really passionately about language as a form of  communicating. Language can be so poetic, so emotive but also harmful, at times. Admittedly, I didn’t understand what an activist was before 2017, and so to call myself an activist I had to really understand and embody what it meant. It’s within our nature to empathise, to seek understanding and connection and so, naturally, we all have an inner activist to activate. We all have different ideas and causes – a good place might be to ask yourself: What do you stand up for?

Our Earthed Course with Tayshan Hayden-Smith was filmed at Meanwhile Gardens, a community garden in West London.

Q: In the course you mention the importance of learning from mistakes along the way. What’s one of the main learnings you’ve made in your journey to where you are today?

Tayshan: I make mistakes everyday – we have to start normalising reality, where there are imperfections and challenges every single day. The aspiration to live a faultless and perfect life is unrealistic and dangerous.

I’d say my main learning would be to be more gentle with myself and to learn to be proud of myself. I’d also say that I question anything I feel overly comfortable with – even expectations / preconceptions around what it is to be a man in 2024. 

Channelling words of encouragement and love my late-mum used to say / send always helps. 

Activating your Activism: Planting Seeds of Change with Tayshan Hayden-Smith covers six modules. It includes insights on connecting with nature, discovering purpose in times of turmoil, and finding your place within your community.

Q: What would be your number one tip to someone who was anxious about engaging with their local community or trying to start a new project?

Tayshan: You are community – you aren’t somehow separate or external to this. By default, you are community and community is you. 

Your voice, your mind and your involvement is so crucial. You should feel empowered to know that you could play a part in something positive and purposeful.

Q: How can members continue learning and supporting your work?

Tayshan: I feel duty bound to inspiring, creating, at the very least trying, to make positive change.

Grow to Know was set up following the Grenfell Tower tragedy as it was nature that came to our rescue. Nearly 7 years on, our work is only possible with the support from a community of people and partners. As a small not for profit, we would welcome and appreciate your support in helping us plant those much needed seeds of change. Feel free to follow and, if at all possible, support by donating to our cause.

Check out Grow to Know on Instagram, and follow Tayshan Hayden-Smith to keep up with his work and upcoming projects. Start your journey into community action today. Join our Earthed Course ‘Activating your Activism: Planting Seeds of Change’ with Tayshan Hayden-Smith.

This Earthed Course is the first in a series made possible by Earthed partner Neal’s Yard Remedies. As a Founding Partner of the charity, Neal’s Yard Remedies is supporting Earthed’s mission of increasing access to nature skills, enabling a wide audience to engage with ecosystem restoration, and raising the profile of nature leaders and regenerative farmers from across the planet. Neal’s Yard Remedies has been a longtime advocate for biodiversity and supporting the beauty and wellbeing of both people and planet. From creating the first certified organic skincare line in 1991 to helping to ban plastic microbeads, their commitment to the health of pollinators and people makes them a perfect partner of Earthed.