Hello, apologies for the space between posts, 6 months this time – a new record, but hey there’s a whole world outside of the digital, and getting the balance right is important. Indeed, that’s a part of what The Lions’ Gate is about. Plugging into natural time. I’m old enough to remember stories of ‘burn-out’ in Silicon Valley, when Systems folks packed it all in and went and opened delicatessens or ran to the hills to homestead. Yes please, but try affording it now! These days the digital follows us everywhere, delighting and frustrating in equal measure – so, all the more reason to connect with things non-human, things other than our obsessive complexities, and perhaps, therein, open a space to realize – there really is only one eco-system – Mother Earth, and how she needs our help.
With The Lions’ Gate’s existence always hanging by a spiders thread, I thought it may help to provide a before and after photo diary, detailing the interventions made to a largely grey, angular, and biologically (bar humans), dead campus – an attempt to provide some medicine for a ravaged planet.
As Gorillaz, on my Spotify playlist sang this morning – ‘individual actions change the world’. We should make time for them. Long, time.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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, soplease register here.
Look forward to seeing you on the 24th!
The planet does not need more successful people. The planet needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds.
Cyd, Cal, Leeloo, Nicole, Grace and Keir by Andrew Waterhouse
Firstly, apologies for taking so long to write a new blog post. I’ve been incredibly busy, and ill with Covid, and I’ve changed roles at the university, and also I guess I’ve just been feeling somewhat exasperated by the failures of COP26 and trying to keep The Lions’ Gate going. But here I am, the sun is shining and my attempts to green the concrete of Merchiston campus and beyond continue, haphazardly perhaps, but spurred on by volunteers, staff and students. Actually, a big thanks has to go out to Alan Curits and Peter Pryde who are enabling some essential works over the next couple of months. However, access remains a thorny issue.
Envisioning The Lions’ Gate by Grace Newbigging
Since January I’ve been lucky to have Emily Hairstans working with me via a placement module from SRUC. Emily has been absolutely invaluable with her enthusiasm and passion for all things horticultural and I hope she can continue to pop by now the placement has come to an end. She’s the second student I’ve worked with via the SRUC placement scheme and I hope that the relationship with them continues into the future.
Logo designs by Lauren Stein
Also, since January I’ve been working with seven Creative Industries students in developing a number of interventions, (graphics of which are scattered throughout this post):
Cyrielle Dabere – a mosaic and the design of a green roof
Grace Newbigging – an outdoor classroom / pergola
Leeloo Moreau – lighting and signage
Lauren Stein – graphics, badges and a style guide
Keir Flint – a 3D model of the garden using Unreal Engine
Nicole Barrios – a pond with fountain and a wayfinder
Andrew Waterhouse – photography and animations
Badges by Lauren Stein
The work is ongoing, but it’s been a real delight to work with such creative souls, and Lindsay Morgan and Sophie Purchase in the SACI office have been a great help too, as have Cher and Jennifer in the Finance office.
Mosaic development by Cyrielle Dabere
Also, the Student Futures team are back helping out and it’s great to have them working on the development of our digital chamber area. They always bring cake too :).
Nicole’s Wayfinder ideation
A big thanks goes out to Niyamal from Edinburgh University who for the past six weeks has been a dedicated volunteer, but now moves on to his first proper job down in the big smoke as an Environmental Consultant. Good luck Niyamal, and ‘hello’ to Rachel our new volunteer!
Pond by Niyamal Ali
Finally, more details to follow but we’re running an open day in the garden on Saturday 27th August 1130-6pm. We have Tim Ingold giving a talk; music; food and cocktails from garden produce; student exhibits, and garden tours. Watch this space.
Keir Flint: Unreal 3D – Outdoor Classroom
Keir Flint: Unreal 3D Wayfinder nightime
Keir Flint: Unreal 3D Lions’ Gate
Keir Flint: Unreal 3D Stage at night
Keir Flint: Unreal 3D Cyd’s mosaic
Testing Nicole’s fountain
If you and/or your students would like to get involved with The Lions’ Gate please just drop me a line: email@example.com