"We wanted to give people an opportunity to share stories of inspiration and be proactive in finding solutions."
The Art of Organising Hope workshops - a collaboration between Department staff and students - provide a supportive space to test ideas and approaches for landscape activism and will see students apply these ideas through short pilot actions.
Around 20 students, from both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, attended the first workshop on Wednesday 23 February.
Led by postgraduate students Daniel Wynn-Mackenzie, Wendy Young and Teveil Walker, students brought with them one item - such as a book, poem or artwork - that both resonated with them and inspires change.
Students split into groups to identify key topics - such as gender inequality, food insecurity or pollution - that they want to work on and were tasked with coming up with small, tangible actions that contribute positively towards change.
Daniel, Wendy and Teveil said: “this workshop is the result of conversations between passionate students and staff in the Department of Landscape Architecture who are keen to think about the unique offer of landscape in addressing the big issues of our time.”
“We wanted to give people an opportunity to meet like-minded people, share stories of inspiration, and to be proactive in finding solutions, rather than attend a workshop or lecture which simply restates the problems facing the world.”
“For many in the room, it was the first time they were able to talk about these issues whilst at the same time calling themselves activists.”
Each group will work to implement their pilot action before the Easter break, with a small budget available to support their work.
Sometimes, it’s just important to know that you’re not the only one who is scared or who cares, and that there are others who want to do something about it too.
Daniel Wynn-Mackenzie, Wendy Young and Teveil Walker
Art of Organising Hope organisers
Suggestions for actions included demonstrations, poster campaigns and guerrilla plantings.
The organisers added: “running the workshop was great fun. Across our little team, there were varying levels of experience with facilitating workshops, and it was the first time any of us had linked design with activism.”
“This dynamic brought together very different perspectives and led to something better than any of us could have created alone. The workshop was definitely a success.”
“We can put that down to the passion of the participants, using the skills that we have learned from the University of Sheffield, particularly those we have learnt from working with Dr Clare Rishbeth.
"We can't wait to see how it shapes the way students express themselves.”
The Art of Organising Hope is open to students from all year groups and courses and is independent of any module.
Daniel, Wendy and Teveil share more about the Art of Organising Hope workshops
What impact do you think the workshops will have? What actions are you looking forward to seeing develop?
"The impact we're hoping for is not necessarily a specific tangible outcome. Yes, we would love it if we could solve climate change with these actions, but that is not going to happen.
"Rather we want to practise activism, starting with small actions and giving students the confidence to take these experiences forward. At the very least, students have had the opportunity to be in a room with their peers and to see a common drive for social and environmental justice.
"Sometimes, it’s just important to know that you’re not the only one who is scared or who cares, and that there are others who want to do something about it too."
Why do you think it is important that Landscape Architects engage with activism?
"We are perfect candidates for activism! Landscape Architects work with communities, study legal frameworks and physical conditions of land, have an understanding of the history and social conditions of a site, and have skills to design beautiful and impactful solutions, where others only see problems.
"Engaging in activism allows us to experience spaces in a way that is not always afforded by working in practice. Oftentimes we do not realise the issues with the way the world is designed until we have to live in those environments ourselves.
"Being a Landscape Architect carries great responsibility. We are in rooms with powerful people and make decisions which impact everyday lives of communities. Being activists will keep us connected and accountable to those who are not present in the room, ultimately making our designs better and responding to the social and environmental challenges of our time."
What did you enjoy most about the workshop?
"Hearing the ideas that other students have for the landscape and how they want to see the world change has definitely been inspirational. We also made sure that there was some really good pizza at the end as a reward, so that was a highlight!"