Including the Excluded

“…the number of fixed-term exclusions have definitely increased. It has gone up in the last five months…zero-tolerance policies have become the bane of our lives.” (teacher)

Including the Excluded is a rapid project which aimed to co-produce knowledge on educational and emotional experiences of excluded pupils in Bristol during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a Bristol-based schoolteacher I have seen first-hand how exclusions impact students who live and study in this city.

School exclusion rates reflect wider structural inequalities in the education system that can inadvertently impact students’ lives (Demie, 2021)[1]. ‘Zero tolerance behaviour management’ and ‘Ready to Learn’ are strict approaches to school-based misconduct adopted in most schools across Bristol. The approaches are grounded in a ‘No excuses policy’ around behaviours deemed as in violation of school culture, ethos, and wider behavioural policies. These approaches can initiate high numbers of fixed term exclusions (FTEs)[2]; especially amongst those who find it hard to obey rules.

This project incorporates young people’s voices through a collaborative approach that enables pupils and professionals to scrutinise school exclusion and experience. This co-produced project works with researchers, community research fellows, professionals, and pupils. It aims to create a space where excluded pupils and professionals’ voices are heard. The reasoning for the involvement of young people is to try to understand why the behaviours which can lead to school exclusion are occurring. We aim to share knowledge and ideas with grassroot organisations like No More Exclusions and want the data gathered to generate a resource to support excluded young people.

Who are the team:

School Exclusion Rates

School exclusion rates have been relatively high over the last few years and are steadily lowering, but not for all ethnic groups. Students from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups have been reported to be overrepresented in Bristol’s school exclusions[3]. Although Bristol’s permanent exclusion rates remain relatively low, they have one of the highest rates of FTEs of any local authority in England[4]. Gypsy/Roma, Traveller or Irish heritage, Black Caribbean and White and Black Caribbean pupils have the highest rates of dual registration (which is when pupils are registered into admission of two schools simultaneously) in England, which results in more pupils likely to experience unexplained school exits[5]. This is relevant because the rate of dual registration is higher than the rate of permanent exclusion by 1.2 per 1,000 pupils[6]. There is also a noticeable increase in the number of FTEs for Black African and Gypsy Roma pupils in 2018/19 and a 3-year increasing trend for Mixed White/Caribbean and Mixed Other in FTEs in Bristol[7].

Ready to Learn approach or zero-tolerance approach which are adopted in many schools in Bristol have been reported to protect the learning experience of the majority over the minority who may be deemed to be misbehaving. It is clear that disruption to education needs to be addressed to allow all pupils to fulfil their educational potential, however, for some pupils (often those from the aforementioned ethnic backgrounds) they are labelled as ‘troublemakers or ringleaders’[8] because of institutionally defined norms, values and beliefs rather than objectively unmanageable disruptive behaviour. These pupils may be subjected to removal from the classroom setting (sent to isolation, which is a room where they must sit for half a day or a whole day) or even school (often referred to as FTEs or permanent exclusion). Exclusions are being used as a form of behaviour management and thus not meeting the needs of every student who has the right to learn. An example of this is specified by a pupil in our research: “They tried to take my phone and I said no and they just started screaming. I just thought that’s a nerve. You’re not going to get near my phone. That’s why I kept getting excluded for not giving in my phone.” To add, a teacher interviewed mentioned: “COVID has brought around panic in a lot of people, and I don’t know what it’s like in other schools, but we’ve got masking tape on the floor and that’s my box, you don’t come into my box. So, you might get a student who will veer near the box because they want to ask you a question or something and you’ll get, no, no, no, no, you’re too close, like stay away. I think in terms of discipline there’s very much been a zero-tolerance policy. So, if a child steps into that box, they’re gone straight away, there’s just no bones about that.”

Pupils Accounts of Exclusion

Students’ experience of school exclusion undoubtedly varies. Some pupils may have appeared to be glad to be excluded from mainstream schools and prefer the Alternative Provision (AP) school over their previous schools as classrooms are much smaller with fewer pupils resulting in less ‘bullying’ and more support in terms of learning. This may illustrate a positive in exclusion as pupils can be given the ability to receive more support at AP schools. However, not all pupils are as ‘glad’ to be at APs but prefer their mainstream schooling over APs as they identify more learning takes place at mainstream schools which can be a downside to school exclusions and APs. These contrasting views could demonstrate the different perspectives on school exclusion.

Pupils in the study highlighted the importance of communication and support. Students would have preferred to be communicated with, a student mentions: “they never gave time to talk to me about what was going on. They never gave me support on what was going on… if they had given me more support then they could have helped me and stopped me.” Another pupil mentioned: “I have a friend who just left year 11 and she went to the same school as I did and they did nothing to support her and she was always getting high, drinking alcohol. She used to take alcohol to school just to get away from the pain of school and she used to hide away in the bathrooms and have breakdowns because the school never gave her support.”

‘Fairness’ was a concept which came up many times throughout our work with young people, with many of them feeling that they were treated ‘unfairly’ through this process. Pupils often described the reasoning behind their school exclusion as “petty”. The term ‘petty’ can be explained: as minor or insignificant. Some of the petty reasons pupils cited included wearing incorrect school uniform or using mobile phones in social times. Pupils also told us that exclusions were a product of poor relationships with teachers, some felt picked on or labelled, arguing that some pupils were able to exhibit the same behaviour and not be excluded. For example, one pupil told us:

“If I was in a lesson and I turn round and talk to someone they would send me straight out the lesson but if that was someone else they would say to concentrate on your lesson. For me they would send me straight into isolation and that was the problem.”

Personal Reflection

Although I may not have experience working directly with excluded pupils throughout my teaching career, I can acknowledge there needs to be stronger pastoral support teams in schools, identifying the reasoning for pupils’ ‘misbehaviour’, which can be a starting point in unravelling multiple issues. I would suggest pastoral support teams need to have better communications with teachers concerning the reasoning behind students’ behaviour as they can be complex to understand. They need to provide extra counselling, guidance, and even reconciliation of problematic issues between pupils and teachers. From my experience of teaching, I have seen that there is not a strong working relationship between pastoral teams and teaching staff where problems or issues pupils are facing are not communicated; this can lead to pupils falling through the net which is of concern to me. Schools need to work on building relationships, not walls. Not being process driven but needs driven.

Additionally, there is an unquestionable need of training for teaching staff to occur in how to deal with multiplex behavioural needs as Covid-19 has heightened pupils needs and a lot of teachers are not trained in how to deal with pupils who have multiple needs. Often, I have noticed an easier option for teachers is to send pupils out of the classroom rather than dealing with the problem. I propose the need for an understanding of the underlying factors affecting pupils’ behaviour as it can be a cry-out for help in some cases.

You can find out more about this Collaborative Fellowship on the Including the Excluded project webpage.

[1] Demie, F. (2021). The Experience of Black Caribbean Pupils in School Exclusion in England. Educational Review, 73(1), 55 – 70.

[2] Bristol City Council. (2020). Review Report – Bristol Alternative Provision.  

[3] Bristol City Council. (2020). Review Report – Bristol Alternative Provision.  

[4] No More Exclusions. (2019). This feels like prison: we need to talk about school exclusions.

[5] IntegratED. (2020). Fewer exclusions. Better alternative provision.

[6] Department for Education. (2019). Children not in school: proposed legislation.

[7] Bristol City Council. (2020). Review Report – Bristol Alternative Provision.

[8] Fenning, P., & Rose, J. (2007). Overrepresentation of African American students in exclusionary discipline: the role of school policy. Urban Education, 42(6), 536–559.

Resilience: Doing her business with her full chest

Image: Environmental entrepreneur, Ogechi Nwonye, with other environmentalists at the unveiling of waste recycling fabricated bins at Unity Park, Enugu, Nigeria. The bins help to curtail the incessant littering of waste around the park and to encourage a clean and green environment.

With about 83 million Nigerians living below the poverty line and the youths contributing to a large percentage of the nation’s workforce, it is no surprise that many young Nigerians are embracing income diversification as a means of keeping body and soul together. In 2019, Statista ranked Nigeria 131st out of 190 countries for ease of doing business and this assessment was based on countries with business-friendly regulations.

For most Nigerians, entrepreneurship was either born out of the need to fill a void in the opportunity market or to circumvent unemployment. So, you can imagine our enthusiasm when we received the email that we have been selected to participate in the Resilience Project for young business owners in Enugu state. It soon dawned on us that this was a golden opportunity as business owners to network and discuss our ventures which range from health and fitness, food businesses, photography, fashion designing, waste recycling to blogging.

Entrepreneurship is not all about the glitz and glamour of being your own boss, booking the next available flight to your dream vacation spot or showing up at work whenever you wanted. It is about running to family and friends for money to pay off debts, selling your valuables to raise capital, and sometimes, losing the woman of your dreams because she doesn’t understand why you would resign from your salaried job to ‘mess around’. Of course, the story may not be the same for every entrepreneur but one trait common to all entrepreneurs is a burning desire to grow our business into profitable ventures.

For most of us, it was our first time of being exposed to such a vital and promising platform and we wanted to bare it all. We shared innovative ideas and learned newer and better ways of pushing our brands further. The researchers were very professional in their modus operandi and they encouraged us to talk about all the amazing work that we do in Enugu state. We had various breakout sessions, where we were divided into subgroups to enable more intimate discussions and learning. It was eye-opening for us as we gleaned from the experiences of the experts who were eager to understand our pain points as young entrepreneurs in Enugu state, Nigeria.

The Resilience project has shown that words like laziness, unambitious and fear only exist in the imagination of those who are yet to meet us. During the workshop, we understood that creating value for positive change requires that we as individuals had values comprising of courage, passion, adventure, integrity, support, patience, wealth creation, consistency, etc. What began as a call for research participants has resulted in an avenue for exchange of ideas, workshops, zoom interactions and networking among young entrepreneurs in Enugu who are solving real problems in different capacities.

Ideas can only come to life in an enabling environment. This was emphasized in one of the breakout sessions where we talked about areas where we were performing well and areas that needed some adjustments. Years ago, people laughed at the idea of the internet: an invisible web of information but presently, the internet industry is worth over 2.1 trillion US dollars. That is the power of an idea. However, one unfavourable policy, bad decision or costly mistake is enough to crumble all one has built like a pack of cards. Therefore, we will be pleased to have more workshops and trainings on building effective teams, fundraising, accurate documentation and account keeping, proper ways of approaching grey areas as business owners, etc.

Some of us are boldly carrying on with business, despite the peculiarity of our circumstances as young people living in a resource-poor country, which earned one of the participants the statement of “doing her business with her full chest,” in that she holds nothing back or hesitates to pursue the growth of her business.

We are excited about the next phase of the Resilience Project, our respective businesses and hope that we remain ardent about the sustainability of our projects. We are investing time and resources in exchange for knowledge expansion, capacity building and skills acquisition because we have seen that the entrepreneur must be prepared for anything. On the bright side, beyond the zoom meetings, some of us have made friends with fellow participants and are greatly encouraged by our collective zeal to build sustainable brands. The goal is to win together, right? We believe that someday, we will look back at our days of little beginnings with a great sense of accomplishment.


Written by:

Angelica Uwaezuoke and Ogechi Nwonye (on behalf of the Resilient Young Entrepreneurs Network, Enugu, Nigeria) as part of Brigstow funded Ideas Exchange “Resilience through international networks”.

Who’s at the table? Priorities after a year of food justice dialogue

An artistic collaboration is stimulating discussion about who is at the table in (un)just food systems.

Defining ‘Food Justice’ is not easy. When it comes to ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ in relation to our food system, should we be concerned with questions of individual citizens’ access to sustainable sources of subsistence, or issues of production, labour and the practices of agri-business? Do people have clear rights to food? And should such rights focus on quantity alone, or take account of the quality and nature of food? Furthermore, when defining ‘food justice’ should we be primarily concerned with human rights, or are we dealing with complex systems that oblige us to think about non-human persons and actors, including animals and the environment? Whatever our responses to these questions might be, it seems clear that thinking about climate change cannot ignore either food or justice.

Over the last year, we have established the Bristol Researchers Food Justice Network. Primarily, this has been through setting up a regular fortnightly seminar series, a workshop exploring the core purpose, values and potential for the Network, and an artistic collaboration to experiment with interactive ways of thinking about the food system and food justice. As it moves into its second year, we reflect on some of the key themes discussed so far. Recent models suggest that policy decisions that focus on climate alone will likely result in rapid growth in social inequalities, including and especially in the global food system. As we focus on questions of environmental sustainability and climate change in the light of the Cop-26 conference, some key food justice issues come to mind:

1. The way that we see food justice is systemic, equally as environmental as it is social. Every part of the food system is connected. Problems with diet are not disconnected to labour force, or price of food, or access to land, or environmentally sustainable farming. It is possible to have a food justice perspective towards understanding food systems. This involves seeing and considering people and other beings everywhere in the system and their being recognised as having an inherent value, with such value not being cheapened in the name of economic cost.

What clearly emerged from the network workshop, which involved researchers from vets to social scientists, historians and lawyers, was that we valued word and concept of ‘justice’ because it captures the common understanding that we are committed to change where we see injustice. While many network members understand food interactions as part of a ‘food system’, the concept of justice helps us maintain a critical and action-led approach where we see problems in those food systems.

2. Justice in food systems is bound up with structures of trade and foreign policy agendas.

Since the mid-nineteenth century, Britain has largely relied on food imports, a model which has today become normalised. For many, changing this model is fundamental to building a more sustainable food system. But this cannot be a choice between either climate or society Recent government initiatives promise radical new directions in agriculture policy but keep this trade-centred model intact. Thus, the UK is determined to get farmers away from food subsidies, having committed to end direct payments by 2027. This would turn farmers into environmental stewards whilst offshoring the production of food elsewhere. Moreover, trade deals can increasingly be seen to trade away local and national food production in favour of other priorities, something that the network held a ‘policy hack’ discussion about following the approval of the UK-Australian Free Trade deal in June.

Lauren explores how the table at the heart of the artistic collaboration is supported and wired together.

3. The Dutch model alone cannot save the world. Many models for the future of farming, food supply and food consumption, focus on technical solutions. Accounts of the ‘miracle’ of Dutch agriculture, for example, cite the emphasis on the investment in research and innovation that have underpinned the country’s apparent success in agricultural research and development. But what are the social implications of technological solutions – and what if we end up sacrificing quality for efficiency?

Will research led by agri-food corporations underpin a genuine revolution in global food production, or create intellectual property that marginalises small-scale and community-centred farming enterprises in ecologically-vulnerable territories in the Global South? Some agri-tech policies pioneered by countries such as the Netherlands – such as responsible antibiotic use – are to be lauded, but if these are pursued in the service of intensive agriculture, real problems remain.

4. Consumers are key to change – but we need to do more than blame and shame. As individual consumers, we all have a role to play in transforming the food system; but individualising systemic problems simply places the onus on the consumer in ways that often inhibit radical action. Moreover, as recent polling suggests, individuals are reluctant to embrace environmental actions – such as reducing meat consumption – that have the greatest impact on their own lives.

The choices we make certainly matter, but the notion of ‘choice’ is in many cases an illusory, erroneous and pernicious concept. In effect, consumers  are presented as ‘both the cause and the solution to potential health problems and thus are made to be accountable for their own health.’ This is especially true when we consider questions of poverty and its relation with obesity and other diet-based non-communicable disease. The idea that consumers, by choosing to consume ‘ethically’, ‘sustainably’ or ‘healthily’ can on their own resolve social and environmental deep-seated problems. Policies that place the responsibility for making healthy, ethical and sustainable food choices on individuals fail to address the contexts in which individuals and families live and work.

5. Agriculture and the people within it are being consistently undervalued, around the world. The current food system involves at least 1.1 billion people working in agriculture, who are often among the world’s poorest people. Peasant and self-sufficient farming practices, which often involve very low carbon emitting practices are routinely undermined by large infrastructure and deforestation practices, perpetuating a cycle of the mobility of people away from the agricultural sector that does not compensate them well (including through low international prices for primary agricultural products) towards more intensive practices in the same sector, or into other types of work.

Intensive agriculture relies on a waged labour force of 300-500 million, including many who depend on jobs in plantation work, which is degrading and, in some cases, involves forced labour and modern slavery, having emerged from systems of production developed under conditions of colonial slavery, such as in sugar plantations. Meanwhile, migrant workers make up a large proportion of seasonal and harvest workers in many rich countries because they are in a weak position in the labour force and are therefore, overall, are paid lower wages and offered poorer conditions than their national counterparts. Small producers across the world attempting to live in low-impact lifestyles are usually excluded from subsidies, but often even wealthy farmers, find their land crops and livestock are undervalued. To stay in the sector people working within it are frequently pushed into other activities to diversify and supplement their livelihoods through ecotourism or other specialised initiatives drawing income from the service sector. Why isn’t there inherent value to producing food?

6. The combined challenges of climate and biodiversity crisis for agriculture must be addressed as issues of food justice. A (contested) narrative is emerging that suggests it is possible to divide the world into areas which protect nature and areas which intensively produce food but have negative environmental consequences. We are thus presented with ‘difficult choices’ premised on the belief that farming is inherently incompatible with conservation and climate change mitigation.

This is an off-setting approach which uses a logic of ecological destruction in one place to be compensated for by nature promotion/restoration in another place. However, such ‘land sparing’ approaches simply maintain the status quo and distract our attention from the root causes of a problematic food system. We should be wary of policies that further outsource food production (and environmental damage) to prioritise environmental conservation/restoration in the UK and elsewhere.

Lead artist and ceramicist, Amy Rose, considers the dynamics present at the table. The collaboration is supported by the Brigstow Institute of the University of Bristol.

These represent some of the central issues we have begun to tackle in the Food Justice Network. As researchers, we also recognise that to fully address concerns around our contemporary food system, we need processes that expand our conversation, allow everyone to tell their stories and to fully engage all our senses. Working with artists and creative practitioners has started to help us broaden and clarify our definitions of food justice and will give us opportunities to engage and interact between and beyond the boundaries of research, public knowledge, and practice.

Creative practice and public engagement can become critical tools as we address the twin challenges of climate emergency and social inequality and their radical impact on our food systems – at local, national, and global scales. Above all, an  emphasis on food justice will be imperative if we wish to develop food policies that sustain both our environmental and human futures. Our current food system embodies historical systemic inequalities that reflect the diverse legacies of colonialism, industrialization, and globalization; these must be addressed rather than amplified in our responses to the climate emergency.

New Director for the Brigstow Institute

We are delighted to announce that Professor Debbie Watson has been appointed as the new Director of the University of Bristol’s Brigstow Institute! Debbie will take over the role from Professor Tim Cole from August 2022 but will work in a limited capacity alongside him and the Brigstow team until then to ensure continuity. She will continue to lead the Institute to grow the interdisciplinary, co-produced research environment that Brigstow champions, and expand research partnerships involving academics and the creative industries, as well as activities that address structural inequalities. 

Debbie is Professor in Child and Family Welfare, based in the School for Policy Studies. She has a wealth of experience in co-productive research methods, creative and arts-based research methods, working with children,​ young people and families, as well as creative industry, statutory service and civil society partners. All her research and writing is interdisciplinary and has been related to childhood identities and diversities particularly with care experienced children and families in low-income situations. She is also passionate about the use of digital technologies in research and is currently engaged in co-produced research with young people at risk of criminal exploitation bringing together hip hop and virtual reality to enable alternative narratives. 

Debbie said “I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this fantastic Institute and I am very much look forward to working with the whole Brigstow community” 

Professor Phil Taylor, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise said:  “I am delighted that Debbie has been appointed to take over from Tim as Brigstow Institute Director. Debbie’s experience of working with civil society, the creative industries and co-produced methodologies, places her in an excellent position to lead Brigstow in the future as a unique incubator space for novel, interdisciplinary research around Living Well”.  


Why we need new stories of everyday climate action

Whilst awareness of climate and ecological crises has increased, many are still unsure how they fit into the wider pattern of policy to address it. The question that many ask is ‘what can I do?’.

Answering this question is tricky and for a number of reasons. The first is systemic. Thinking in terms of individual carbon footprints is problematic, exposed as a term popularised by the fossil fuel companies that still emit vast amounts of greenhouse gases annually. The biggest polluters hide in plain sight – 20 companies are responsible for a third of carbon emissions.

For many, it is often difficult to see how the individual actions that we take contribute to the wider scheme of change necessary to address climate change. Particularly when carbon-heavy industries promise change but, behind the scenes, spend heavily to restrict it.

The second element that can stop us from seeing how we can make change is based on equity. As colleagues have recently detailed, the conversation around climate policy is often dominated by a narrow demographic group of white men.  This restricts many from seeing how they fit.

To have a voice in the future, you must feel like you have a place in it. Yet, contemporary environmentalism can often fail to make space for the voices, concerns or activities of other groups – such as minority or migrant communities. A focus on lifestyle environmentalism overlooks what other members of our community might be doing, even unconsciously, which fits into the fabric of climate action.

Recent work, as part of a Brigstow Ideas Exchange project, has explored how environmental messaging in Bristol can avoid this – showing people from communities across the city how their action, behaviour and aspirations can fit within a broader, more-inclusive vision of net-zero.

We have outlined our approach in a recent briefing paper published by Policy Bristol. Key is the need to broaden how we understand environmental action to include our diverse communities, highlighting actions that are already taking place, and grounding stories locally. Net-zero and climate justice are not objective facts, nor are they self-obvious. They hold different meanings.

Our answers to ‘What can I do?’ will always be different. Each of us seeing our own capabilities and actions – and how they fit within or contribute to wider systemic change – in different ways. We are grounded in context, history, and community.

The climate action available to us is varied and context-dependent. Be it rooftop solar or electric vehicles, divestment or lobbying and protest – we have many levers to pull. More must be done to illuminate this, harness it. To do so, space must be made and messaging must be altered.



Telling the story of temperature

What is the most extreme temperature you have experienced?

Take your time and have a moment to think about it.

What was happening that day? Where were you? Which of your senses feature in the memory? Do any emotions come back to you?

While you’re thinking about it, I’ll tell you a little bit about the Temperature Life Stories project that I brought to COP26 on 1st November 2021.

We all experience temperature differently. The hottest day I remember might be very different from the hottest day you remember. Where we have been, when we were there and our specific circumstances at a given moment all affect the physical temperatures we have lived through. We have lived different temperature life stories.

Why does this matter? Even in the UK, in Glasgow where world leaders will be meeting for COP26, which we often think of as being cold and driech, some people will be at risk from extreme temperatures. Meanwhile, for some of us that have always lived in and become acclimatised to temperate climate zones, we may never appreciate the searing strength of heat experienced by others on a daily basis. What does “1.5 °C or 2 °C of global warming above pre-industrial temperatures” even mean for ourselves or individuals like us elsewhere in the world? Expressing our differences in circumstances in creative ways can help build new understandings and narratives of how we will live with temperature extremes in a warming world.

The Temperature Life Stories project explored these questions. By digging into global temperature data, the same data that informs global temperature targets, we produced temperature life story graphs for both individuals and our collective of research participants. As individuals we may never ‘feel’ the global average temperature, but our experience is part of that bigger picture. Memories and experiences of temperature were explored through poetry, with exercises designed by Caleb Parkin (Bristol City Poet, 2020-2022), and a host of other creative methods from the wonderful (and hidden) talents of our research participants.

Of course, there were and will be contradictions too. The temperature that the data says we lived through might not match what we remember as being the most extreme of days. But that’s okay: unreliable narrators are part of storytelling, aren’t they?

So back to COP26, what was Temperature Life Stories doing there? Of course, I would have loved to have run a series of poetry workshops with international COP26 delegates to take the temperature of the conference, but unfortunately for them, time is more of the essence. For that reason, I settled for a providing a tiny morsel of the project as a taster at the COP26 Green Zone.

I asked attendees to spare just one key memory from their temperature life story. Something that stood out for them. I asked for them to describe it in just a few lines, which could be as poetic or as factual as they pleased. I asked them where and when the memory occurred (being as specific as they could or wanted to be).

Often, relative warmth appears in the memories: perhaps not extreme in a global sense, but enough to seem unusual to locals and visitors alike in Yorkshire, the Hebridies, alpine and polar environments. Sometimes a lack of snow says as much as burnt brown grass. Travel appears regularly, making up a key part of temperature life stories – both the biting cold of northern climates after a lifetime spent nearer the tropics and vice versa. Even a momentary blast of air changing connecting flights in Qatar can give a glimpse of what temperatures are possible. We don’t expect similar blasts of heat to hit us getting off the train in Birmingham, but recent summer heatwaves featured regularly in memories too, and in with them that same wall of heat. Finally, there are emotions too: nostalgia about climates of home or childhood not being the same when people return after time spent away, sadness for places of significance lost in wildfires, weeks of unbroken heat and sunshine “both amazing and terrifying”.

Using this collection of memories, a bespoke map of experience, emotions and stories in space and time will be produced for the COP26 conference. An alternative story of a warming world. Keep an eye on Brigstow channels in the coming weeks for this.

So what about you? Have you been thinking of your memory of temperature? Maybe it was during last summer’s heatwave. Maybe you were on holiday. Maybe you were stuck in an unairconditioned bus in a traffic jam. Maybe the heat was emotional, not physical: passion, anger or embarrassment. There is no right or wrong answers – every story is different.

If you have a memory and want to add it to our collective COP26 story, you can add it here ( We’ll ask you for the same information as the Green Zone participants an all memories and data recorded is anonymous.

Together we can rewrite a new story of our warming world. One which shows our vulnerabilities, frailties and fears but also our lighter moments, hopes, achievements. We have a complex relationship with the weather and climate we experience. Sometimes a graph can’t say it all.

Creating hospitable environments – growth on the (de)Bordering plots

Over the past six months, we’ve been working on (de)Bordering, a project exploring the languages of environmentalism and migration. It is a project quite unlike any we’ve done before! As the artists in the project, we’ve been collaborating with academics and having conversations with students, gardeners and third sector organisations to explore what it means to create hostile and hospitable environments – for migratory humans and nonhumans. The result is the establishment of two plots and structures in Royal Fort Gardens at the University of Bristol, which officially launches on 22nd September.

It’s been an interesting moment to begin such a project. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic many people have found a renewed appreciation of gardens, parks and ‘nature’, and at the same time we’ve seen increasing efforts in universities and in horticulture to decolonise the ways in which knowledge, education and engagement are practiced. As we write this blog, the news is filled with images of thousands of people attempting to leave Afghanistan as it reels from the destabilising departure of US troops and return of Taliban rule, and world leaders are preparing for COP26, where decisions about climate change will impact on global ecosystems for generations. That our lives are entangled with those of other humans and nonhumans has never felt more important.

We’ve both been involved in collaborative projects before with other artists, communities and academics. And as well as working as artists, we both have other hats to wear – Charli as a professional gardener and Paul as a cultural geographer. We came to the project with curiosity and a keenness to explore the process of collaboration as well as its product. Our work with the academic team from MMB – Bridget AndersonKatharine Charsley and Nariman Massoumi – began towards the end of the winter 2021 lockdown, initially via video calls and in time via convivial in-person conversations at the plot. We discussed their research in the field of (human) migration and mobilities and their instigation of the (de)Bordering project, which has been funded and supported by the Brigstow Institute. Into the mix we brought our own ideas from participatory art and performance, ecological thinking and more-than-human geographies, and together we started to dig over the ground on which the project was to grow.

Collaboration can work in many different ways – through processes of exchange, of synthesis, of partnership or of negotiation. And while our collective creation of (de)Bordering has involved all these things, it’s also taken on a life of its own – akin to that of Green’s (2001) ‘third hand’ of collaboration, in which the identities and authorship of the artists become (intentionally) marginalised. Given that the two plots – the Hearth, a living studio/ outdoor classroom and events space, and the Hide, a space for observation and contemplation – are designed in part for nonhuman users, the decentring of the human artists is perhaps unsurprising.

Our designs for the Hearth and the Hide and the planting around them take into account not only the aesthetics and practicalities of human hospitality, but their capacity to be attractive and useful for migratory birds and insects (see more about these species in Bridget’s blog about the plots). And as with all best laid plans, ours have had to be adapted to circumstances beyond our control. Reduced availability (and increased prices) of plants and timber – due to Brexit- and COVID-related border and labour issues – have forced certain substitutions and modifications. While for us such impacts are an inconvenience, they bring into focus our connection with those who might experience them much more deeply – through lives disrupted, families separated, habitats damaged and businesses lost.

In the few months since the plots have been installed, we have already seen them develop as ecosystems, as communities of humans and nonhumans. While most of the hundreds of plants we planted have survived, a couple have not. We have noticed some growing bigger than others (some will undoubtedly outgrow the plot) and, in some places, weeds (‘a plant in the wrong place’) returning or proliferating. We have witnessed international students helping to construct the Hearth and sharing poetry around the firepit, and we have seen pollinators around the Hide being observed by microbiology researchers.

We have also staged a number of human encounters in these shared environments, in the form of curated conversations between academic and non-academic specialists. Bringing our attention to common ground or otherwise around migration-related issues, these dialogues have been recorded and linked to QR codes located around the plots. It is our hope that these conversations – be they they excited, difficult, moving, provocative or impassioned – will be the beginning of many around (de)Bordering.

You are warmly invited to visit the Hearth and the Hide and we encourage you to start your own conversations about human and nonhuman migration, and to reflect on your place within it.

Paul Hurley is an artist and academic interested in encounters between the agencies of human and nonhuman beings, be they dogs, farmed animals, viruses or bacteria. He often works in collaboration with other artists, researchers and communities, producing participatory projects, engaged research, videos and installations.

Charli Clark is an environmental artist, gardener and beekeeper, working to increase reverence and understanding of the natural world through socially engaged projects. She is currently researching the relationship between insects, plants and pollen in a changing climate.  

This can also be found on the Migration Mobilities Bristol blogsite