Celebrating nature-based solutions for cities at the Green Minds Conference
Students, graduates and staff from Arts University Plymouth came together in the Green Minds Conference at Market Hall to celebrate the successes, knowledge learned and legacy of a four-year project that brought together partners from across the South West to put nature at the heart of our decision making, recognising its role in shaping a healthy future for all.
Professor Stephen Felmingham (left) addresses the Green Minds conference
Led by Plymouth City Council, for four years Green Minds partners have been piloting innovative nature-based solutions across the city, developing urban rewilding practice and principles and working cross-sector to ensure nature becomes a key stakeholder in decision-making and problem-solving. Arts University Plymouth acted as the creative partner in Green Minds, collaborating alongside partners including National Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust, Real Ideas, The Data Place and University of Plymouth.
Over 400 students from Arts University Plymouth participated in and contributed to the success of the Green Minds project, working for a combined total of nearly 10,000 curriculum hours on 23 projects, producing seventeen creative works and two public exhibitions, including murals, interpretation boards, sculpture, photography and textiles. Alongside these works, Arts University Plymouth staff and students also created digital assets, designed the Green Minds brand identity, hosted workshops, photographed community projects, and participated in a range of Green Minds public events.
The Green Minds Conference explored the themes of: Principles and approaches to urban rewilding; nature connectedness as a tool for placemaking; co-stewardship and the role of social enterprise; and arts, culture and digital infrastructure to support nature-based solutions.
The Green Minds Conference featured keynote speeches from: Professor Stephen Felmingham, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Arts University Plymouth, discussing creative thinking and nature-based solutions; Pete Burgess, Head of Nature Recovery at Devon Wildlife Trust, talking about the role of urban landscapes in nature recovery; Dr Carly Butler, Researcher in Nature Connectedness at University of Derby and Osbert Lancaster, Director of Realise Earth, explaining what nature connectedness is and why it matters; and Ed Whitelaw, Director of Nature and Neighbourhoods at Real Ideas, on the role of social enterprise in co-stewardship for nature.
Throughout the conference Arts University Plymouth BA (Hons) Illustration students Blue Skye, Archie McKenzie and Zara McDermott live scribed the keynote speeches and panel events, visually transcribing key points and contributions from participants to create a lasting record of some of the main outcomes.
Zara McDermott, Archie McKenzie and Blue Skye
Ian Hutchinson, Head of Development at Arts University Plymouth said: “The Green Minds Conference was an incredible way to celebrate the tireless dedication and hard work of all the partners involved and a great way to showcase the numerous contributions by Arts University Plymouth students of all levels. Many students who took part experienced their first external live brief by working with Green Minds, increasing their employability prospects when they graduate by collaborating with some of the most forward-facing and innovative organisations across the South West. This all contributed towards the partnership’s model of cross sector working that puts nature at the heart of our decision-making processes and promotes nature recovery and biodiversity. I’m immensely proud, not only of the success of the Green Minds projects but also of all the doors it has opened for future collaborations.”
During the conference several projects were showcased, including: BA (Hons) Illustration students creating displays to educate visitors at National Trust Saltram House, an updated demonstration of Senior Lecturer & Course Leader of Postgraduate Studies Dr Tom Milnes’ Green Minds commissioned augmented reality project ‘Ashnihilation’ (supported by MA Illustration student Sam Grotzke); and a collaboration between BA (Hons) Textile Design students and National Trust Saltram, the first iteration of which took place in 2022 and which has now become an annual project embedded in the curriculum for first-year BA (Hons) Textile Design students. The collaboration between academics specialising in textiles at Arts University Plymouth and members of the National Trust was so successful that it led to the creation of a sustainable dye garden at Poole Farm, a permanent resource for students to better understand local heritage-informed planting and natural dyes; this extended activity was supported by Arts University Plymouth’s Knowledge Exchange Funding from Research England.
MA Illustration student Sam Grotzke (left) giving an Ashnihilation demo
MA Textile Design student Zowie Wyatt used dyes from the garden to hold a natural dye workshop as part of the Green Minds Conference. Additionally, Zowie worked as a Research Assistant on BA (Hons) Textile Design Lecturer Charlotte Warren’s project with pioneering clothing manufacturer Finisterre to support dye mapping within their supply chain, a project funded by Research England’s Knowledge Exchange funding that was also showcased at the Green Minds Conference.
Throughout the Green Minds Project the Arts University Plymouth activity also included: The visual identity for the Green Minds project was created by BA (Hons) Illustration student Elena Ruiz Ballestero, with designer and educator Amanda Duffin, BA (Hons) Craft & Material Practices students creating sculptural installations for Poole Farm, undergraduate and Masters-level students delivered a variety of mico-commissions supporting community co-creation with members of Stoke Village community in Blockhouse Park, and more.
Zowie Wyatt's (right) natural dye workshop
Arts University Plymouth’s Pre-Degree & Sixth Form students also participated in the Green Minds projects developing guides for biodiversity surveys at Poole Farm, creating homes for pollinators at their city-centre Palace Court campus, capturing photos of local wildlife heroes, and collaborating with craft group Keyham Krafties. In a further project Arts University Plymouth undergraduate students were commissioned to design interpretation boards for Central Park to highlight the development activity happening around the ponds area and the Sustainable Urban Drainage work, which will be installed in the park in the near future.
Professor Stephen Felmingham, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Arts University Plymouth, said: “The act of creation connects us to the world, giving us new insight into familiar sights and experiences. This opportunity for new ways of thinking is essential as society comes up against the challenges brought about by the complexity and inherent instability of modern life. We need creativity and creative thinking to solve these complex problems, which is why we're embedding these ideas of environmental sustainability, demonstrated throughout the Green Minds project, at the heart of our curriculum for students at all levels of study.
“Universities can play a leading role in mitigating and adapting to climate change, reducing biodiversity loss and working with communities to build a sustainable future. The Green Minds project has given us fertile ground to plant those seeds within our students and academics, and now it’s our responsibility to ensure that these projects have a lasting legacy across the South West.”
Councillor Tom Briars-Delve, Cabinet Member for the Environment and Climate Change at Plymouth City Council, said: "The Green Minds project has been an unbridled success, bringing with it innovation that will set the standard for how we manage and look after green and blue space in Plymouth for many years to come. It was an absolute pleasure to speak at the conference and celebrate all we have achieved together.”
"I'd like to thank all of the students from Arts University Plymouth who got involved over the course of the programme. I hope the experiences you had will stay with you over the course of your careers."