Newsletter – Winter Solstice 2021 

Warmest winter greetings from all of us at CMUK to all our friends, collaborators and supporters. We hope we find you all well and thriving in these difficult times.

Despite the many challenges thrown at all of us over the past year, we’ve worked hard to carry on offering a brilliant variety of climate-focussed workshops and activities to people across the UK. We’ve also grown our vision of being a distributed museum by expanding our associate numbers, and have put together some of their inspiring work in this newsletter. 

We hope you enjoy our highlights from 2021 below, and warmly invite you to our 2022 offerings, starting with our Lewisham-based Creative Climate Conversations, coming up in January. We look forward to working with you in the coming year to help tackle the climate & ecological emergencies together.

Coming up in the New Year

Creative Climate Conversations: Browse, Make, Chat

Saturday 22 January, Kitto Road, SE14, London
In collaboration with Climate Action Lewisham. You can drop in on the day, or book free advance tickets here to help us manage numbers and send you advance information.

2021 Highlights

If you could talk to plants and trees what would you ask them?

Installation - netting hung in the trees - from Hayley Harrison‘s project
How did we learn to let go – Hayley Harrison

New associate Hayley Harrison has been based at Phytology Bethnal Green Nature Reserve since May, ​​starting conversations with plants and trees, and visiting human communities. Throughout these ongoing conversations she is considering the limitations of the human experience, language, and our struggle to avoid being human-centric. Interactive questions are woven into green and red plastic kindling-sacks, placed on ground cleared of ivy, or suspended under trees. Responses from the non-human include ivy regrowing up through the question, suspended falling autumn leaves, or pigeon feathers left from a sparrowhawk’s dinner.

Hayley is also collecting your questions for plants and trees – please do email any plant questions you would like to contribute, some of which will be included in ‘Projection’ – a participatory video-based performance she is working on.

River Kind

River poem and image by Lucy Carruthers
River poem and image by Lucy Carruthers

In spring, Lucy Carruthers was one of the CMUK associates running the Acts of River Kindness online workshops for Lewisham residents.

The experience of encountering the Ravensbourne river, was captured in a blogpost for CMUK, and left her with aspirations to experience its watery tributaries in different ways. Following on from this experience she participated in the accredited Thames 21 course, Leading Action for Healthy Rivers, having more climate conversation along the way and cycling to the Isle of Dogs for a beach clean up. Part of the course involved volunteering at Creekside Discovery Centre on one of the low tide walks, encountering the ecology and wildlife along the muddy river bed.

In November, as part of the Being Human Festival, Lucy took part in Sounding the River Quaggy which was co-run by John Drever a professor at Goldsmiths, standing in the river again but this time listening to it with a hydrophone.

The Wild Museum

Participants at the Wild Museum at Timber Festival
Participants at the Wild Museum at Timber Festival

In July, Climate Museum UK appeared at Timber Festival in the National Forest, inviting people to create a Wild Museum. Dressed as Squirrel, Badger, Magpie and Beetle, we were the curators of a wilder kind of museum. We showed our collections to the participants, giving clues to the area’s extractive history – of coal mining, clay extraction, non-native plants and rubbish in landfill. We begged for help from the humans to use their amazing hands and imaginations, to create regenerative objects out of clay to make a wilder, greener place. As the participants made seeds, fungi, micro-organisms, worms and insects out of terracotta clay, they talked with the animals and each other about how things grow, connect and support each other.

Serious Play

In September CMUK hosted a skills sharing online workshop to engage people in climate and ecology. Participants shared games and conversation prompts, including some from the CMUK collection.

Topics included adopting characters (from a Rubbish King to a Badger) to promote empathy and examining the rights of different species. We also used symbolism in discussions, including fans and Tarot style cards, where topics were hard to discuss directly. We discussed the importance of location and distraction in the success of events, and whether games could work as an engagement tool with those not yet involved in climate conversations.

Eco Art Action Lab

Participants in the Eco Art Action Lab in a Museum
Participants in the Eco Art Action Lab

We delivered five days of training in ecological activism and education through arts and culture with ten heritage professionals from Poland (part of a project called ‘Socially-inclusive ecological education for cultural and artistic sustainability’, funded by Erasmus Power Funds). The training was delayed by the pandemic but finally took place in person in London in October. There were a number of encounters with practitioners, by visiting venues and holding reflective discussions.

hubRen – Community Climate Conversations and a collectively painted Warming Stripes banner

hubRen artwork hanging in woods
hubRen artwork hanging in woods

hubRen, a mobile learning and connection space, has recently joined Climate Museum UK as an associate. Unfolding out of a Christiania cargo bike hubRen invites us to imagine the beautiful post carbon future and the pathways there. In the lead up to COP26, hubRen was invited to take part in two workshops to create art for the international day of action on Nov 6th.

Amy Scaife, hubRen’s founder, drew Professor Ed Hawkins’ Warming Stripes for England onto fabric as a large ‘paint-by-numbers’ communal painting project, mixing up 16 different shades of blue and red paint and painstakingly drawing out 137 stripes and numbering them with the corresponding shades. Photos and blog here.

On November 6th, hubRen took part in a local day of action at St John’s Church in Leytonstone, setting up with books, posters, reports and a ‘Compost Your Climate Feelings’ activity, holding a space for conversation, sharing and connection. Our plans for the future include a bike tour around Waltham Forest in Spring/Summer 2022, where we plan to include interactive games and creative activities from Climate Museum UK’s collection.

Queer River, Wet Land

Lead on book from Queer River, Wet Land by James Aldridge
Queer River, Wet Land – James Aldridge

Between September and November, James Aldridge worked with the University of Glasgow, as part of their Dear Green Bothy initiative, on the Queer River, Wet Land project. Timed to coincide with COP26, the Dear Green Bothy was ‘a programme of free public events and activities demonstrating the vital role played by the arts and humanities in understanding and addressing climate emergency.’

Queer River, Wet Land saw James collaborating with Professor of Performance Practice Minty Donald and others, to walk, talk and make with the Rivers Kelvin and Clyde in Glasgow, and produce a performance score to support others to creatively engage with their own local river.

An online sharing event with contributions from James, Minty, collaborators and invited speakers then shared the work with a wider audience, responding to the question ‘What can queer perspectives bring to creative explorations of river health and river futures, in a time of climate breakdown?’

You can read James’ reflections, download the performance score, and watch a recording of the online sharing event, via the Blog section of the Queer River website –

Eco Lens On Design

Justine Boussard writes…

This season, we have continued to explore the role of design in the Earth crisis. During London Design Festival (18-26 September), design curators There Project took over our instagram to highlight eco-centric ways of working, delving into an action and case study each day. From ‘observing’ to ‘restoring’, from speculative design to traditional ecological knowledge, you can head over to our instagram feed to revisit these amazing examples of regenerative design practices from around the world. 

We also recently visited ‘Waste Age’ at the Design Museum in London, an exhibition that exposes our 200-year-in-the-making culture of waste. Starting by acknowledging design’s historic complicity in overconsumption and throwaway culture, the exhibition presents the counteractions of contemporary designers who not only are reasserting the value of our waste, but also working towards designing out waste itself. We then met with Chief Curator Justin McGuirk, to discuss the role that museums – institutional or grass roots – can play in systems change. In the coming seasons we will continue to explore what design can do, and we look forward to seeing what work comes out of the Design Museum’s newly formed Future Observatory, as well as the Design Council’s recently announced Design for the Planet fellowship.

Good Living

And finally, in November Jamie Jackson brought together artists, researchers and activists in the ‘Good Living’ project to explore the creative practice of Indigenous artists. This project helped to create ideas and content for the Climate Museum UK’s Virtual Reality (VR) botanical art work, led by artists and community groups in Birmingham and globally as part of the Commonwealth games creative festival and the Biophilic City Network

Honouring the value of indigenous relationality in the time of ecological and climate crisis, the speakers explored a sense of kinship that extends beyond human and individual relations to embrace more-than-human species of plants and other animals.

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