Ian Soloman-Kawall aka KMT is a Freedom Teacher Guide who uses art [hip-hop] for social awareness and social cohesion. He is Co-Founder of the May Project Gardens which brings communities together to act collectively. Previously he was Project Manager for Pan Intercultural Arts a company using intercultural performance work to help facilitate self-expression and promote a deeper understanding of our changing cultural identities. They work with a diverse range of communities across London and internationally, empowering people to use the arts as a tool for change in their lives.
May Project Gardens was founded in 2007 by Ian Solomon-Kawall and Randy Mayers. Ian spent his youth as a carer for his mum who suffered from mental illness. When she died he wanted to do something positive in her memory and set an example for others facing similar social and economic hardships.
He met Randy, who’d moved from Gambia, with permaculture expertise and missing a connection to nature in the city. Together they transformed the garden at his mum’s council house into the community garden, which is still the heart of MPG today.
MPG now works with urban communities, to address poverty, disempowerment and access to resources and influence. They provide practical, affordable and collective solutions for people to live sustainably and disengage with power structures that don’t serve their interests. Until recently they functioned on a fully voluntary basis, with no formal funding, but grew due to their values.
In 2014, Ian met Zara Rasool. Feeling disillusioned with the mainstream charity sector, she was looking to use her management skills to help a project she believed in. Her input lead to increased recognition for our innovative and alternative education models including winning the 2015 Mayor of London’s ‘Greening and Cleaning award’ for work with young people. By 2015 Ian and Zara registered MPG as a Community Interest Company.
In 2016 Mona Bani joined as their third director. Having both experienced frontline activism as the child of political refugees, but later worked in social policy, she wanted to combine these experiences to help grassroots projects become more influential and recognised.
MPG thrives for an alternative system and lifestyle based on nature, community, biodiversity and creativity. Despite recent formalisation, they’ve remained independent, informal and egalitarian in their values; how they work with people and interact as a team.