Who we are

UrbanWilderness@CentralForestPark,Hanley,Stoke-on-Trent-16Laurel Gallagher established the concept of the Feral State through her practice as a visual artist. Paintings depicting children escaping their urban lives and returning to the wild led to her research question ‘What is the relationship between urban children and wild spaces?’ Laurel has been working with young people in formal and informal education since 2003, has a PGCE and PGDip in Art and Design Education and was awarded a Practice Research Fellowship at Leeds University for her work with CUSP. In 2018 Laurel became director of Urban Wilderness CIC, a not-for-profit company that empowers young people to discover belonging, adventure, and creativity in urban green spaces. Currently studying an Urban Planning MSc, Laurel specialises in developing models of co-production in urban regeneration.

Dr Jenny Hallam

Who we work with

Dr Ben Anderson is a multi-award winning environmental historian whose research seeks to explain how people made sense of their lives by interacting with their immediate environments. This has led him to investigate naked trespassers from early-twentieth century Vienna, the role of the rural landscape in courtship for schoolteachers and clerks, and the ways in which an Alpine landscape of huts and paths was first invented in urban museums and exhibitions. After completing his doctorate at Manchester University in 2011, Ben briefly worked at the University of Gloucestershire, before arriving at Keele in 2012. In 2018, he became an Arts and Humanities Research Council/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker (see broadcasts here and here). His first book, Modern Natures: Mountain Leisure and Urban Culture in fin-de-siècle England and Germany will appear in late 2019.

Nicola Winstanley is a socially engaged artist who seeks to explore the relationship between participatory arts, perceptions of place and community action. By forging new relationships between art, people and place, Nicola believes that art practice can have a lasting effect on communities. Nicola has collaborated internationally with artists and worked alongside academic researchers to evaluate the impact of ‘place’ on individuals and communities. Nicola has 10 years workshop and 8 years public consultation experience, as well as having designed and managed large scale public art projects. Nicola is currently undertaking a negotiated MA to build an understanding of the role socially engaged artists can play in urban regeneration, particularly town planning, public spaces, and social housing.

Research Projects

Exploring wild spaces and wellbeing Growing levels of childhood obesity, increasing amounts of screen time and rising reports of mental health issues in children and young people have become a cause for concern. Dr Jenny Hallam, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Derby, looks at the benefits of nature and outdoor play in tackling these problems.

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Action research project co-produced by Laurel Gallagher (Feral State) and Jenny Hallam (Derby University) with funding from the Canal and River Trust.

Exploring wild spaces and wellbeing with young people

Nature Connections 2019: 5th Interdisciplinary Conference

Feral Futures Exhibition showcasing the finds of ten child explorers who investigated, mapped and recorded a local area of disused, wild industrial space. Through play, discussion and experiment, the children found clues about how this space once emerged and came to an end, which non-human friends are using it now and what sort of future it might yet have.

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Public engagement workshop co-produced by Laurel Gallagher (Feral State) and Ben Anderson (Keele University) with funding from the Being Human Festival 2018.

Stoking Curiosity 2018

BBC Radio 3 Why trespassing is the right way to go!

Adapt the Nothing The peripheralisation of ordinary groups of young people leaves Middleport with the impression of a monoculture of troubled and troublemaking teens, but in reality, there are many more positive young people whose imprint cannot be felt in the public realm. The ‘Planning the Future’ workshop was co-designed by Nicola Winstanley and Laurel Gallagher (Feral State) to introduce basic concepts of planning then support young people to create a campaign of tactical urbanism that led to unexpected results.

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Publication documenting workshops, experiences and groups associated with Middleport, produced by Nicola Winstanley with funding from the Arts Council.

Co-creative processes Forest Worlds Festival 2019 is an Urban Wilderness production that will facilitate action research into processes of co-creation between artists and young people. Research partner Dr. Jenny Hallam (Derby University) will evaluate co-creative processes for publication and dissemination.

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Urban Wilderness empowers young people to discover belonging, adventure, and creativity in urban green spaces. It is a not for profit company funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and Arts Council.