Students Clearing the ground
Students Clearing the ground

Green Finger Forum

October, 2021Forum

Newcastle University

In October 2021 I combined two of my major passions - organic vegetable gardening and developing innovative approaches to teaching, especially the role of extra-curricular activities, in building community and a sense of belonging. I’m particularly interested in how forms of ‘peripheral’, informal engagement, that crucially happen outside the modular structure, empower colleagues and students to ‘do things differently and develop alternative approaches to creating opportunities for discussion and collaboration.

The Green Finger Forum began in October 2021as a regular forum open to all UG and PG Fine Art Students at Newcastle University who have an interest in green issues and gardening.

The project began with reclaiming a small, neglected garden to the rear of a Georgian building recently acquired as a Fine Art Postgraduate Hub. We have cleared the ground, built raised beds, compost bins, a small greenhouse and a micro greens area and planted a herb bed and a vegetable garden.

The Hub has a kitchen adjacent to the garden and at the first event I provided a large winter squash, leeks and garlic from my own allotment and we combined gardening with cooking and eating together. This quickly became the established structure of the forum with the communal cooking and eating becoming as important at the gardening.  The forum also runs classes on all aspects of growing edible plants, composting, foraging, pickling, and preserving, natural dyes and using natural materials in making artworks and talks and workshops from invited guests.

Everything has bloomed over the last two years, and project has gained increased attention as an extra-curricular teaching facility provoking debates within the department on the global climate emergency and more climate conscious practices.  

In January 2024 we will launch a 12-week, PT, supervised residency for a recent NCL graduate interested in ecology and socially engaged and/or collaborative practice to explore the potential of working with a small group of undergraduate students during Sem 2 (2023-24).  The residency will will support a transdisciplinary, experiential approach to exploring past, present, and future human/land relationships. The garden will be reconsidered as a workshop/laboratory/gallery space supporting the integration of land practices (gardening, foraging, compost, entomology, ornithology, use of natural materials etc.) and issues of sustainability into artistic practices.


We are very interested in making links to other relevant community or educational projects.  Please contact