Earthday pilots 22nd April 2023
For the Bristol activation, The Great Imagining teamed up with the Avon Eco Schools Network, a community of young people from the wider Avon area who are focused on building a sustainable and liveable future city. The Great Imagining week in Bristol was explored with activations focused on ecology and sustainability in 10 schools around the city. Earth Day itself was held at the Future Leap Cafe co-working space in the heart of the city in collaboration with the Ministry of Eco Education, Natural Sparks (The Environmental Education Project) and Avon Schools Nature Reserve.
A group of teenagers developed a futures-thinking shadow play and a film programme including national and regional initiatives that the group have connections with for example exploring the possibilities for a public swimming area in Bristol harbour, investigated and directed by one of the students. Tom Walmsley, who facilitates and supports the Network, brought his collection of found fossils, stones and skeletons along with magnifying glasses, creating an ecology study area.
The special guest of the day was Sandy the Kestrel, a bird of prey living in the local Bristol forests whose presence brought conversations about deforestation and urban development into the space.
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On Sunday of the Earth Day weekend as part of the Eid al-Fitr celebrations at the end of Ramadan, The Great Imagining seeded in Rochdale, Greater Manchester in the form of an inter-faith panel discussion at the Bangladesh Association Community Project facilitated by Mohammed Rahman and the Rochdale Science Initiative.
The day began with intergenerational Carbon Literacy workshops exploring greener food choices and what they look like among different diets; later, faith leaders from the Muslim and Christian religions discussed the role of faith communities in addressing climate change and our ecological crises, a discussion facilitated by long term collaborator Robin Clyfan.
From the generation of young people and teenagers in the room to adults, reverends and Imams, there was a strong consensus across the intergenerational audience that any transformation towards a greener fairer wiser future starts at the heart of the community. When people especially young people feel supported to make a difference in their own lives, this in turn empowers them to inspire change at a higher level and to lead their wider networks towards a future-orientated regeneration. This is at the heart of our developing Purposeful Lives programme for schools and communities.
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Exeter celebrated Earth Day with a Systems Thinking weekend centred around the endangered Blue Ground Beetle whose Dartmoor habitats were debated in parliament the very same week. Saturday kicked off with a multi-sensory exploration of the Blue Ground Beetle’s ecosystem building a mycelium bridge between science and art with Exeter science Centre bringing microscopes and VR headsets and Melissa Fayad from Schumacher College developing terrarium-building and sculpting with locally grown moss as they went on a dive into the world of this exquisite beetle across Dartmoor and beyond. Links were made with the Kampala activation as the Ugandan workshops were displayed as well as The Great Imagining Newspaper, an ideas wall and a group mural.
Sunday drew upon the activities of the previous day and explored the wider science around ecology, habitats and the environment with the weekend drawing to a close with a deep ecology walk led by ecologist Stephen Harding from Schumacher College, exploring Exeter’s urban and green environment through a holistic Systems Thinking approach. This was a weekend of investigation, provocation, imagination where new spaces of experience as well as partnerships emerged for an audience of all ages.
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In Kampala there is a burgeoning climate movement developing in the context of communities who are feeling the first-hand effects of climate change and biodiversity depletion. The African Visual Artists Association hosted The Great Imagining’s first activation outside the UK and the event saw an arts exhibition by local artists from Kampala and the wider East African region; there were discussions around sustainability in urban planning; as well as a tying up of a series of workshops which have taken place over the course of the last two months including a course in repurposing textiles to weave into bags, tapestries and artworks.
Father Berry, a representative of the Vatican on Ugandan climate conversations, attended and is in conversation with the Vatican about the success of the day. The network’s community leaders, Ssembatya and Brian, used the event to emphasise their message that we need to artists - and the imaginative capacity that they have - to lead a transformation towards a more sustainable future, with local television networks broadcasting their interviews and ideas over the weekend.
The Earth Day event was run in tandem with agroforestry projects in Tororo, Eastern Uganda where organisation Ayowecca Uganda are on a mission to plant trees which bolster the local environment whilst providing a space for education for women and children in the communities.
This activation inspired young people in the UK and is now creating active partnerships with UK based education charities and initiatives.
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The Great Imagining Bath activation took place in the historic Assembly Rooms which has just recently opened as a public space once again. This event was in partnership with Dr Penny Hay and Bath based education charity House of Imagination. Royal Society of Arts Fellows ran workshops around future imagining, while Step Into The Amazon, our creative education partners were bridging conversations between young people in the Amazon rainforest, here in Bath, UK and now Kampala and East Uganda. The team activated empathy for the community in the rainforest through artefacts brought back from recent trips to Brazil, sparking conversations about the meaning of wealth, sustainability and our relationship to future generations. The event culminated with artist Fran Gynn running a live arts ‘Public Erasure’ event where members of the public were engaged in the erasure of her drawings of the Long Eared Bat whose habitats are under threat, inspiring complex conversations.
To bring the topics together Bath based charity Rainforest Concern ran Letters to the Earth workshops to invite participants young and old to make their pledges to the future of our precious planet.
As with all the activations there were several TGI interactives and workshop provocations as a well as a display of the contents of our newspapers. We tested our Orientation Interactive as well as our Intergenerational Location Finder.