Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Creativity for Wildlife - Initial Artist's Brief May 2008

Outdoor Culture, working with BBOWT (the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust) seeks to commission an artist to collaborate with primary and secondary-age children in the production of a public art work during September 2008, to be sited on the Haymill Valley nature reserve, Slough. A total budget of £5,300 is available, with the expectation that at least 7 days will be spent working directly with young people. This initial brief is intended as a starting point: the final brief and contract will be developed in dialogue with the appointed artist.

BBOWT already runs a successful education programme, and is interested in exploring new approaches to engaging learners and the public with its conservation messages. Outdoor Culture has been appointed as a consultant to help BBOWT undertake a creative outdoor learning project in the Haymill Valley Community Nature Reserve as an action research pilot, and to make some wider recommendations as to how the Trust might make more use of the arts to further its mission.

The Haymill Valley reserve sits between residential developments close to the Slough Trading Estate at the Burnham end of the town. It is one of the most extensive areas of wildlife habitat in urban Slough and so provides a valuable local resource for both local wildlife and the local community. Historically, part of the valley once formed the mill pond for the medieval ‘Ay Mill’. Presently, a stream runs along the length of the reserve supporting a central reed bed surrounded by wet and dry woodland. These habitats are home for bluebells, yellow Iris, warblers, kingfishers, dragonflies and small mammals. Conservation work on the reserve is primarily carried out by a local ‘friends of’ group and includes scrub clearance, path creation, litter picks and pond creation.
The broad aims of the Creativity for Wildlife commission are as follows:
• Local children and young people positively engaged on site through creative outdoor learning
• Local children and young people develop their appreciation and respect for nature on the site
• Art work co-created by artist and young people, which deepens public engagement with the Haymill reserve
Vision for art work

A map and an aerial photograph of the reserve are available on request.

Our initial thinking is to create two new pieces: a new sign at the northern entrance to the reserve, and an art work near the stream at the extreme southern end of the site, which will attract visitors through the reserve to this focal point. The art work should encourage visitors to pause and reflect at this spot, and should be conceptually accessible to a broad family audience. The piece should complement the natural beauty of the site and be sensitive to its designation as a nature reserve. Inspiration might be drawn from the bio-diversity of the site, its history as woodland and mill stream or a wider environmental agenda.

A major factor for consideration is the history and ongoing likelihood of vandalism onsite: materials, location and design must all address this very real risk. The art work must endure in some medium, with minimum maintenance requirements. Please note that there is no electricity or lighting anywhere in the reserve. The sign will be very close to road access; the art work is likely to be at least 200m from the nearest road access point, along a fairly flat but at times muddy path.

We are open to a wide range of concepts for this commission – although we envisage a physical sculpture, we are open to the possibilities of less traditional work, perhaps in digital imagery or sonic art, or the recording of a more ephemeral or performance-based piece. We are interested in how different audiences might interact with the piece – perhaps climbing or sitting on it, perhaps exchanging digital information. The creation process is of equal importance, in that children and young people must have a substantial degree of creative ownership, and should be acknowledged as co-creators in terms of intellectual property.

We expect the artist to take part in a launch event for the final piece.


Although we can flexible as to how the budget is divided up, we expect a minimum of 7 days to be spend working directly with children and young people. Here is our current thinking:

Outdoor Culture is a recently formed company, led by Alistair Will, that specialises in using the arts, learning and play to connect people with the landscape. Alistair’s background is in music and creative learning, with previous employment in the Asian Music Circuit, Youth Music, Arts Council England and Creative Partnerships. For further information, visit www.outdoorculture.com. Outdoor Culture has been appointed by BBOWT as the project manager of this commission, and will contract the appointed artist on its behalf.

BBOWT, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust, is one of a network of 47 county-based Wildlife Trusts working across the UK. BBOWT cares for 88 nature reserves, works in partnership to conserve the wider countryside and inspires people to take action for wildlife. The Trust has 60 professional staff, 1,250 volunteers and 23,500 memberships. It has grown to be the largest and most influential conservation organisation in the region. For more information, visit www.bbowt.org.uk

Creative Junction is a new community interest company based in Slough and working across the same three counties as BBOWT, promoting innovation in creative learning and managing the Creative Partnerships programme in this sub-region. For more information, visit www.creativejunction.org.uk or call Jo Whitham on 01753 470324. Creative Junction is the major funder of this commission.

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