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Campus Sustainability Climate Action Earth Care Education and culture Fair Share Health and spiritual well-being People Care

The Lions’ Gate – shortlisted for the LUSH Spring Prize

I’m thrilled that the hard work of many volunteers, students and staff over the past few years, and the collaborative application efforts of Rachel McCrea, Clive Gee, and myself, has resulted in The Lions’ Gate being shortlisted for the LUSH Spring Prize in the Permaculture Magazine category. A big thank you to everyone involved along the way, and fingers crossed for success, which would enable us to employ a horticulturist and volunteer co-ordinator – securing the project going forward.

Lush Spring Prize

The Lions’ Gate is an on-campus garden laboratory, venue, outdoor classroom, bio-diverse habitat, and play-pit for doing sustainable things, that seeks to address the climate crisis head-on, influence policy and learning, and fundamentally work with nature for planetary and human health.

We are a solutions-focused group employing Permaculture Design Principles and Ethics to realise a green university, where community, health & well-being, creativity and quality learning and research are core to all our thinking and doing.

Food Forest

It’s been a challenging year but we’ve had many successes – fantastic creative input from SACI and SCEBE Placement Students – involving, murals, a green roof, ponds, a wayfinder, photography, 3D animations, branding, pergola design, and a bespoke environmental sensor system; amazing volunteer input from Paul Ardin (3 bin composter, trunk benches, dome development), a  wonderful community Open Day as part of the Climate Fringe; significant 4* recognition from REF 2021; association with Napier’s short-listing for the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award, and now a short-listing for the LUSH Spring Prize! Quite dizzying when I think about it.

Returning to the now, I’d just like to say a personal big thank you to current volunteer Tanya, a Ukrainian refugee, presently living with her family on a ship docked in Leith. Tanya is a trained horticulturist and has proved to be an extremely talented professional who has kept things going these past few months, regardless of arriving with virtually no English. Her circumstances have certainly put things into perspective for me.

Finally, none of our success would have been possible without you, so please get involved again in 2023, and in the meantime have a Mirthful Christmas and a Joyful New Year!

Tree benches and geodesic dome

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Thinking Back On The Lions’ Gate Open Day

Saturday 24th September 2022 1-5pm

Lions' Gate Open Day 2022

After much planning and impressive contributions from students, friends, colleagues, volunteers, performers, and over 100 participants, our Climate Fringe Festival, Great Big Green Week, and My Green Community Open Day enjoyed great success in the glorious September sunshine. The garden came to life through exhibits, performances and debate, not to mention massage therapy sessions in Merchiston library.

Lions' Gate Outdoor Classroom with Mojitos

At 1pm our event gently came together as people drifted through the 16th century arch to the laid-back, uplifting dubby sounds of DJ Someone’s Dad (SACI’s Dr Tom Flint). With last-minute signage and guidance from students and volunteers, participants wandered the garden grounds and library finding little delights in every nook and cranny. At one end, through the Food Forest, where we’re developing an outdoor classroom the wonderful SACI Student Placements team were serving up delicious Mint Mojitos and donated beers from Stewart Brewing, under our recently completed Green Roof, whilst SACI students Cyd Holoran and Leeloo Moreau worked on Cyd’s mosaic.

DJ Someone's Dad
Lions' Gate Green Man

Around 1.30pm, Heron Blue took the stage and lulled all with his gorgeous solo set, singing original songs and covers, backed by his sumptuous, spacey Fender Telecaster electric guitar work, seeping through the sweet tones of his effects board and amp. Heron Blue is actually Fraser McMillan who worked on the gardens as part of his SoC MSc last year. He was also instrumental in building the geodesic dome and helping me harvest Hazel wood for it from a wood-lined cycle-path to the west of the city.

Heron Blue
Cyd Holoran and Leeloo Moreau

Throughout the afternoon, visitors were able to engage with research and staff. Emily Hairstans provided tours of the garden spaces she had beautifully planted over the year. Brian Davison demonstrated the Grow Cube technology he’s developing as part of the Dandelion Festival. Through the library, on the rooftop allotment, SACI’s Professor Jaya Garrabost with the help of Cinematography lecturer David Byrne, and with great thanks to P&Fs Lee Murdoch for use of Merchiston’s kitchens, were serving up Aloo Subji and Chana Masala, alongside Sally Bennett’s not-one-crumb-left Homemade Lions’ Gate French Apple Cake and Tart, and Leeloo Moreau’s quickly-vanishing chocolate cookies.

French Apple Tart and Cake
Love in The Lions' Gate

In the library, 4th Year SACI students Andrew Waterhouse and Keir Flint exhibited their work on the gardens as placement students. Andrew displayed his elegant photographic close-ups and GIF animations, and Keir showed the humorous 3D ‘Garden Tour with Robots’ film he’d miraculously and accurately developed using Unreal Engine.

Andrew Waterhouse Exhibition

Visitors enjoyed the sublime holistic therapeutic talents of Edinburgh Napier Alumnus Emma Stout (Blue Butterfly Therapies). Emma provided 20 minute consultations, and was fully-booked throughout the day. Meanwhile, guests mooched, chatted, ate and drank, and lay in the sun on bean bags, with their friends and families and even their dogs.

Folk at The Lions' Gate Open Day 2022
Harry Bongo's Eco Sound System

Prior to our headline talk with Tim Ingold, Harry Docherty, SACI Music PhD student experimented with his ecological sound system, using environmental sensors as triggers for sounds, processed, synthesized and output through the PA as deep squelches and colourful washes, abrupt blips and mellow tones, complex and otherworldly in their scape.

Tim Ingold at The Lions' Gate Open Day 2022

At 3.30pm Tim Ingold took the stage, to an audience of around 60. Tim is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at Aberdeen University and has been immensely influential across various disciplines. His talk ‘Generation Now’ reflected on the demise of intergenerational knowledge in modern society. As ever, Tim’s insightful storytelling journey provided a wealth of generative metaphors; bell curves, lines, ropes, layers and queues, to describe the epistemological textures of indigenous and modern networks. Tim’s public conversation in the garden, provoked debate amongst audience members, with plenty of time for questions. A big thank you to Dr Kirstie Jamieson for chairing the talk. You can find a cinema-veritesque audio of the talk here – sadly our recording equipment was playing up and we didn’t manage to capture the final part of the Q&A. However, the richness of Tim’s narrative eclipses the bark of a dog, the wail of a baby and the rasping exhaust of a boy-racer – it has a direct/concrete feel to it, and I for one like that.

Folk listening to Tim Ingold at The Lions' Gate Open Day 2022
Kirstie Jamieson, Tim Ingold, Callum Egan

With some reflection on the future of modern universities, Tim did go on to discuss the alt-university project he was part of at Aberdeen, details of which including their manifesto and campaign are here.

Well, that’s quite a long blog post so I’m going to wrap it up here. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen, not already mentioned; Peter Pryde and Alan Curtis in Properties & Facilities for their continuing support with building structures. The School of Computing, particularly Professor Ben Paechter and the Procurement Team. ENSA for moral, social media, and physical support. The Student Futures team for their back-breaking work on office away-days, cargo bike mechanic and volunteer Paul Ardin for his great cheer, amazing skills with a Japanese saw and all the work he did on the compost system, securing the trunk benches and finishing off the geodesic dome. Nicole Barrios and Grace Newbigging for their work on the pond, wayfinder and pergola. Clive Gee and Rachael McCrea in the Development Office for their help with trying to find funding, and you, if you’ve helped out in any way!

Our sustainable blended spaces provided a unique and inspirational background for a great celebration of community, or as one visitor described a ‘joyous hack’, and that appeals to my open-source ethos as well as the need for critical debate and action on climate issues. Universities can and should be places that are outward-looking, community-focused, where local people can meet to engage in sustainable practices and research.

There’s lots more to discuss about where The Lions’ Gate goes from here – it’s forever a precarious notion, so please do get in touch if you’d like to be involved.

callum.egan@napier.ac.uk

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Campus Sustainability Climate Action Education and culture Health and spiritual well-being People Care

Talk, music, food & drink, garden tours, holistic therapies, student exhibits at The Lions’ Gate Open Day

We still have a few tickets left for our Climate Festival and Great Big Green Week Open Day on Saturday 24th 1-5pm. You can get yours here.

Lions' Gate Open Day 2022
Entrance through The Lions’ Gate, 40m before Merchiston Campus main entrance on Colinton Road.

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The Lions’ Gate Open Day

The Lions' Gate Open Day

On Saturday 24th of September from 1pm – 5pm we’re throwing the gate open and inviting you to be a part of the Climate Fringe and the Great Big Green Week, supported by the Permaculture Association.

Headlining @ 3.30pm, we’re delighted to host influential, Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at Aberdeen University Tim Ingold, who’ll be presenting his latest work ‘Generation Now‘ from our Storytelling Chair.

Tim has made a huge impact on design philosophy, and was a favourite of Edinburgh Napier’s late, great Prof. David Benyon, whose own design work on Blended Spaces has fundamentally informed The Lions’ Gate, to the extent that our work contributed to a Blended Spaces Impact Case Study awarded 4* in 2021’s Research Excellence Framework, denoting research quality that is world-leading in originality, significance and rigour.  What goes around…

Other wholesome and life-affirming activities of the day include:

  • Holistic Therapies by Emma J @ Blue Butterfly Therapies
  • Student exhibits from the School of Arts and Creative Industries
  • Campus-grown food
  • Cocktails and drinks
  • Music, including DJ Someone’s Dad
  • Garden tours
  • Plus more! Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved: callum.egan@napier.ac.uk

As we experience environmental and economic collapse, failures in geo, national and local politics, human health & well-being under siege, and a general sense of hopelessness, the day will provide an opportunity to share, unwind, discuss, listen and delight in what is possible, in our imaginative, permaculture-inspired, urban, campus garden.

The event is free but ticketed, so
please register here.

Look forward to seeing you on the 24th!

 

Climate Fringe

Great Big Green Week

Permaculture Association

The planet does not need more successful people. The planet needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.

Internet meme
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Summertime in The Lions’ Gate

I’m sitting in The Lions’ Gate under the boughs of a rowan, in dappled sunlight and it’s most delightful. Birds are tweeting, bees are buzzing and nature’s bounty is putting on a bit of a show. Apple, medlar, plum and cherry trees are fruiting. Strawberries are ripening, herbs are flowering and our new lawn seems to have established itself as a soft and green shag-pile-like carpet ready for sun-worshippers to unwind upon.

As I finally relax after a busy day, supported by students from both Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier Universities, who tirelessly helped landscape areas of The Lions’ Gate in the glare of the sunshine, I thought I’d share a few updates on what’s been going on.

Photo of student volunteers in The Lions' Gate

Craiglockhart Orchard

Photo of Craiglockhart Orchard Team

Last Thursday an extraordinary Edinburgh Napier team made up of colleagues from the Development and Alumni Department (Clive Gee, Barbara Kidd, Geoff Day, Kirsty Connell-Skinner, Miia MacDougall, Avani Patel ,Mandy Duncan, Alan Bree, Ben Waite and Ashleigh Thow); Panagiotis Siokas, a Masters student in the School of Computing; and Ankit Dougal, former President of Edinburgh Napier Student Association, planted an orchard up in the delightful Craiglockhart campus grounds, betwixt the chapel and the wilderness area, which we hope to incorporate as part of a ‘thinking walk’, for the health & well-being of Edinburgh Napier communities.

Well, we got a great turnout. 14 willing, and more than able workers, planted 12 fruit trees from Appletreeman Andrew Lear (10 apples – Jupiter, Bloody Ploughman, James Grieve, Lord Derby, and Beauty of Bath), two Victoria plums, and a silver birch in a loosely mandala-like layout, in alignment with the cardinal points of the chapel. Each tree also has a companion plant or two from this list (purchased from Sarah Wilkington’s Plants with Purpose nursery up in Perthshire):

  • Mugwort Oriental limelight
  • Wild bergamot
  • Bronze bugle
  • Golden creeping Jenny
  • Evening primrose
  • Flax/Linseed
  • Fox and cubs
  • Goats beard
  • Hemp agrimony
  • Marsh woundwort
  • Mullein
  • Nottingham catchfly
  • Orpine
  • Scots lovage
  • Teasel
  • Valerian all heal
  • Water avens
  • Yarrow
  • Yellow loosestrife
  • Yellow toadflax

It should be a great spot. It gets sunshine all day, and though we’ll be looking to provide some seating – sitting on the grass, in the height of summer with nature blossoming all around, will provide much enjoyment, as well as fruit, jams, desserts, chutneys, juice, cider, vinegar etc, and opportunities for seasonal community events, at harvest-time especially.

After two and half hours of hard work and good cheer, this spirited group of fine folks, enjoyed delicious refreshments provided by our Development and Alumni friends, and there was a real sense of accomplishment and community. People coming together for the first time in a long while is something I’ve been experiencing quite a lot of, of late in The Lions’ Gate, and it’s uplifting to be around that positive energy. So, a huge thanks to everyone involved.

Colleagues also discussed how it would be a great idea to associate the orchard with The War Poets Collection and I’m hoping this is something we can take forward.

This work was made possible by a successful collaboration between ENSA, The Lions’ Gate and the Development Office, gaining funding via the Community Climate Asset Fund. There are more actions to carry out with regards this funding – raised beds at both Sighthill and Craiglockhart campuses, so please get in touch with the Sighthill Gardening Club or Miles Weaver from The Business School up at Craiglockhart, to get involved.

Student Futures team volunteering

Over the past month or so a wonderful team of volunteers from Student Futures have been helping out at The Lions’ Gate – clearing weeds, building soil, planting herbs, shrubs and flowers, moving trees, landscaping, and having lots of fun in the process. They’re even planning a few pallet projects. As can be seen below, the raised-beds around the staging area are now looking great, thanks to a donation of plants from the Secret Herb Garden, and the contribution made by the team. They’re booked-in to volunteer every month now, and we have a team from Marketing and External Comms helping out next week. If you’d like your team to volunteer then please just drop me an email: callum.egan@napier.ac.uk.

Lions’ Gate Fringe Show – Hasten Slowly

On Thursday 26th of August we’re creating a little Fringe show in The Lions’ Gate. At present the plan is to open the gardens to around 30 participants in a relaxed atmosphere to learn about what we’re up to. There’ll be music, a talk by leading permaculturist Graham Bell, pizza and tea made from garden produce, a hands-on ‘how to plant a food forest’ activity, displays of our future plans (the digital bothy and the outdoor classroom), a wishing tree linked to COP26, an interactive audio tour, a plastics recycling game, and the unveiling of our interactive storytelling, memorial chair to the late, great Professor of HCI David Benyon. David was instrumental in getting The Lions’ Gate going, and one of his favourite idioms was ‘Festina Lente’ – Hasten Slowly, thus the name of the event.

If you’re interested in helping out with this ‘happening’, please get in touch: callum.egan@napier.ac.uk.

Here are some development photos of the interactive, memorial storytelling chair – an interdisciplinary project between the School of Computing and the School of Arts & Creative Industries (Andrew O’Dowd and Richard Thompson); and a shot of the ready-to-be-installed trunk bench that’ll sit under the canopy of the 120 year old sycamore in The Lions’ Gate, both crafted by Neil Fyffe down in Selkirk.

Cheers for now.


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Seed-bombing the rockery below John Napier’s tower

#BeeDiverseI’ve just been sent a pack of 100 seed-balls as part of the Keep Scotland Beautiful #BeeDiverse campaign.

I’m sure we’d all agree that the rockery beneath John Napier’s tower would be a delightful sight covered in flowers and populated with bees and butterflies.

Bee populations are in dramatic decline due to habitat loss – a by-product of intensive human-centric productivity. Healthy eco-systems are dependent on bees, so it’s imperative that we show our respect for nature by designing bee-friendly spaces.

If this is something you’d like to be involved with, drop me an email: callum.egan@napier.ac.uk.

#BeeDiverse

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Campus Sustainability Climate Action Education and culture Health and spiritual well-being

Preliminary insights from our student attitudes to sustainability survey

I’ve been playing with data from our recent School of Computing survey into student attitudes to sustainability. The point of the survey was to gather evidence of how students feel about sustainability, as a precursor to organising focus groups that will investigate how we can embed sustainability methods and materials into computing modules, in the first instance, but scaling up across all university modules going forward. It’s heartening to discover that over 60% of respondents are willing to take part in the focus groups with over 80% of female respondents keen to be involved in our ongoing research.

I am always wary of statistics that are not backed-up with qualitative, individual responses, thoughts or images, so we deliberately kept many of the questions open, offering students the opportunity to share their belief’s, perceptions, assumptions etc, in their own words.

So, here’s a few illuminations:

Over a quarter of respondents said that their current studies didn’t deal with sustainability at all, and over 65% said sustainability formed only a small element of their taught programme.

Nearly 90% recorded that they felt climate change would affect their future, whilst none felt really positive about a sustainable future. Around 60% felt somewhat positive or positive about it. 30% felt negative about the future when thinking about sustainability.

The sustainability issues students felt most concerned with are detailed in this graph:

Graph detailing the sustainabilty issue School of Computing students felt were the greatest concern

We asked students to describe environmental sustainability in three words. This word cloud visualises the responses:

Word cloud detailing words that students would use to describe environmental sustainability

There’s still a lot of analysis to do but I’ll leave this post with a few quotes from respondents.

When asked about how the pandemic had affected their habits:

“Overall positive: I’ve got more time for me, my family, for relaxing. No more time wasting travelling to work and university and I’ve got a better way to organise myself. Eating more healthy home cooked food and more time for exercising outdoors. Downsides: can’t travel to visit my originate country to see my family and also miss my friends. There’s also a bit of depression and anxiety because of the uncertainty surrounding, and not very predictable future.”

When asked how Edinburgh Napier could become a more sustainable institution:

“By incorporating sustainability education into each course, specifically on how sustainability relates to the given field.”

And finally when asked what they could do personally to address climate change etc. This is a particularly permacultural response, highlighting the need for community action, and a fundamental benefit of self-empowerment:

Everyone must work together to help. I do what I can when I can. Far too many people don’t think it’s worth the while if others aren’t doing it. Lead by example, if others don’t follow at least you can feel good in yourself.

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Garden Cottage in September

A few years ago I made my way back to see Graham Bell at Garden Cottage (the oldest intentional food forest in the UK). I’d met Graham once before and made a film then too. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2M1uMqRUabw

Back in the 90’s I’d read his book The Permaculture Garden and had always found it a source of inspiration for how I may one day live a good life with care of the planet central to my doing.

Anyways, we hit upon the idea of creating a film in the garden every month. So here’s September. A beautiful, bright and windy day. The garden lush and filled with birdsong.

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Education and culture Health and spiritual well-being

A benefit of flexible working.

Sunrise over Edinburgh

One the most positive things to have come out of the lockdown situation has been the ability to work your weekly hours in a manner that supports your health and well-being. That is, if you’re lucky enough to have a progressive employer, or a job at all.

I’ve been getting up early, often in time for the sunrise, and going for a cycle into the Estate that’s close by my home.

This morning I met only two people. I don’t think I’ve ever met more than three on these excursions. A man walking his chilled and scruffy dog, and a woman trotting on her pie-bald horse.

I cycled into the wood where the new wild garlic tempted me with it’s heady sweetness.

Eventually I made it the shore, the cockle-shell beach, the sun low in the East, scattering it’s warming glow over the rippling estuary.

Back on the bike, for the climb up the hill. On any day I may meet deer, sheep, pheasants, buzzards, hare’s, highland coo’s, all kinds of nature’s bounty.

An added bonus this morning was that when I approached the gates to leave, they opened electronically for me and so I didn’t have to wrestle with the kissing gate and a long bicycle.

Within little over an hour I was home, and once I’d washed and had breakfast I was ready to start work. Invigorated, inspired, unrushed.