Culture Forward Interim Academic Director Prof. Sara Jones presenting
Culture Forward Interim Academic Director Professor Sara Jones presenting at the ‘Culture, Sustainability and the City’ sandpit

On 15th May 2024, Birmingham Botanical Gardens played host to the second ‘Culture, Sustainability, and the City’ event, bringing together cultural leaders and academics. The event featured a series of insightful talks and engaging discussions, emphasising the critical link between cultural initiatives and sustainable practices.


Interim Academic Director of Culture Forward, Professor Sara Jones, commented: ‘Sustainability is a key priority for the University and Culture Forward partners alike. These workshops have given us the space to discuss how we can collaborate across sectors to deliver sustainable culture for the city and harness the power of culture to foster new relationships with the environment.’


Attendees enjoyed coffee and pastries while networking with fellow participants. The formal programme began with introductions from Sara Blair-Manning, Chief Executive of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and Professor Sara Jones, Interim Academic Director of Culture Forward.

Anna Bright, Chief Executive of Sustainability West Midlands, opened the series of talks with an overview of her organisation’s efforts in promoting sustainable development across the region. Following her, Symon Easton, Head of Cultural Development for Birmingham City Council, discussed the Eurocities Cultural Sustainability Pledge, highlighting the city's commitment to integrating cultural policies with sustainable urban development.

Sara Blair-Manning reflected:’ The recent UoB Sandpit, held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, was a chance to regroup and exchange ideas with other cultural and research partners.

Having this ringfenced opportunity to refine how we can actively work together in meaningful ways was extremely helpful and has informed The Gardens approach to several research, learning and engagement projects.’

Simon Curtis from Climate Meets Culture presented on the vital intersection of culture and climate change, providing thought-provoking insights into how cultural practices can influence and be influenced by environmental sustainability. After a brief break, Professors John Holmes and Rob Mackenzie from the University of Birmingham shared their collaborative research on forestry, underscoring the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to sustainability.

The event transitioned into interactive group discussions, allowing attendees to delve deeper into the key themes presented and share their perspectives on fostering a sustainable cultural future. These discussions fostered a rich exchange of ideas and strategies among the participants.

Concluding the event, attendees were treated to guided tours of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens by Emily Hazell, the Director of Horticulture and Curation. The tours provided an opportunity to see firsthand the sustainable horticultural practices implemented at the Gardens and to continue networking in a beautiful and inspiring setting.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Birmingham Botanical Gardens