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Voices of the future February 2024 Update

A message from Kate Pahl

Thank you to everyone for working so hard at the moment. It is very exciting to see all the work come together. Do remember to share and celebrate Clare and Ambika’s resource which can be found here. Alternatively, if you’d like a free printed version, you can request one using this form.

Also, do let us know about celebratory events and work that you are doing as we head into the final stages of the project. Our work is exploring important themes such as hope, immersion, ways of knowing, multilingualism as well as trees and as we start to finish the project, I realise how unique it is.

David provided an incredible insight from the work of Virgina Woolf at a recent meeting:
Thinking of language, I read the following passage from Virginia Woolf yesterday. Forgive the length but I think that it’s worth sharing:
“I like to think of the tree itself: first the close dry sensation of being wood; then the grinding of the storm; then the slow, delicious ooze of sap. I like to think of it, too, on winter’s nights standing in the empty field with all leaves close-furled, nothing tender exposed to the iron bullets of the moon, a naked mast upon an earth that goes tumbling, tumbling, all night long. The song of birds must sound very loud and strange in June; and how cold the feet of insects must feel upon it, as they make laborious progresses up the creases of the bark, or sun themselves upon the thin green awning of the leaves, and look straight in front of them with diamond-cut red eyes…. One by one the fibres snap beneath the immense cold pressure of the earth, then the last storm comes and, falling, the highest branches drive deep into the ground again. Even so, life isn’t done with…”

Ambleside writing retreat

The VoF writing retreat in Ambleside will be taking place from Tues 16th July until Thurs 18th July 2024.

If you haven’t already done so, please complete this booking form to confirm your place at the retreat and identify which nights you need accommodation.  If you could please do this by Friday 23rd Feb that would be great, as we need to confirm the rooms with the venue.

The provisional programme is as follows:
Monday 15th July – Arrivals / Dinner

Tuesday 16th July – Day 1
Morning: Focus on Forest Literacies and other writing (several breakout rooms will be booked)
Afternoon: Sharing session – Steve’s film, Seymour Park work and others

Wednesday 17th July – Day 2
Full day focus on the Children, Young People and Trees book.

Thursday 18th July – Day 3
Morning: Hope book, and discussions about what’s next for the project
Meeting end

Ambleside writing retreat

This is our reporting system. It is very important that we all fill in new publications, events we have held, any interactions with the public, and celebrate our achievements. UKRI don’t ask for a formal report – this is it. Please do this from now until the 5th March. You should all be down to contribute, and already have a log in – please check this here.

Project Updates

WP3 – Learning, belonging and re-imagining
WP3 had a wonderful meeting on toolkits and these meetings are continuing monthly – we are sharing practice and thinking aloud together. The meeting record is in the Toolkit section of the Drop box folder saved under WP3 meetings. Some insights from the meeting:

  1. Verbs are good to start with, such as, Holding (the space), Kinning or Relating, Knowing (in multiple ways), Listening (to children, to trees), Languaging
  2. We are working with research, not practice, and our toolkits need to be working to surface the underlying ethos of the project which is centred on learning from and with young people -including different nature-human ontologies.
  3. This includes the idea of kinship and being with, and a different way of relating to trees.
  4. Our focus is on a Child-led typology of trees and how to create this.
  5. The importance of touch.  With most children’s groups, the moment that we engage with the material (touching the tree, walking through the understory) is a really powerful way to build this affective engagement that opens doors up. In Johan’s words, ‘How do we become spirits of the forest?’

We are going to be asking a web designer, Maisy Summer, to work with us to design templates for our toolkits that respond to these ideas. Our plan is to work with her over the next few month sand develop a template for the UK Treescapes conference in June. Our next meeting of the WP3 working group is March 4th at 11.30-12.30.

WP 3.2: Re-imagining treescapes of the past, present and future.
Oldbury Wells School, Bridgnorth

In January, Chris and David visited the English department at Oldbury Wells School, Bridgnorth, to discuss the development of a programme of place-based activities with their Year 9 pupils. They’re now working with one of the teachers, Liz Roberts, on the curation of a mini-anthology of writing organised around the key words of Caring, Sensing, Mapping, Noticing, Responding and Recording. They’re also planning to take two writers into the school, to lead creative writing workshops in a local wood, in May or June.

Bolton College

David and Chris are continuing to work closely with Marion Farnworth (Early Years Lecturer) at Bolton College. The ongoing work, which builds on our programme of activities in 2022/23, includes the organisation of field trips to local urban and rural treescapes, creative collaborations between students in Early Years and Art/Media, and the ‘greening’ of the College campus.


David has had two recent meetings which have involved discussing our collective work on ‘Voices of the Future’. First, the Royal Town Planning Institute were interested in finding out about our work as they seek to encourage their members to think in new and innovative ways about landscape and environment. We hope to write about the project in a future edition of their professional magazine, The Planner, and to draw up on some of our work in the development of CPD training for their members.

Second, David met with Nancy Scheerhout (Head Gardener) and Hamza Rana (Senior Volunteering & Community Officer) from the National Trust staff at Castlefield Viaduct Both Hamza are keen to explore ways in which we might use their amazing space and develop future collaborations.

Please get in touch with David if you’d like to find out more about either organisation.

WP 3.3: Seeing the Future of Treescapes through Outdoor Learning

Seymour Park Community Primary School

The next few weeks will mark the start of the manifesto building work with Year 5 at Seymour Park Community Primary School. Khawla is planning this work with Katie Jones (Manchester City of Trees), Susannah Gill (Mersey Forest), and Tara Ratcliffe (the Geography Lead at the school). The work entails developing a manifesto on the subject of ‘trees and people in our city’. We are excited to work with Maisy Summer who will oversee the final design of the project. More updates to follow.

We submitted an abstract for an interactive workshop for BERA 2024. The title of the submission is ‘Research for collective thriving in education: a case of co-producing environmental research with children and teaching professionals in a primary school’. If accepted, the workshop will be delivered by a group of children at Seymour Park along with the school’s headteacher, the geography lead and Khawla.

We are working to develop the activities delivered at Seymour Park into engaging educational resources for our toolkits. The work entails co-producing the activity plans with the geography lead at the school. We will share more updates about this work soon.

School of the Resurrection

As part of our on-going work in a faith-based school, our project philosopher Dr Johan Siebers, Kate Pahl and Samyia Ambreen will be working with Year 3 children in March. The focus of this work will be around emergence of “spirit”. Re-imagining religion/spirituality not as a tradition but as a facility to make sense of our experiences/relations with trees. We will also explore how knowledge from sciences and cultural traditions can be combined to re-imagine future of treescapes with children from diverse faith backgrounds.


Please do let us know your plans for conferences.

We are hoping to present at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference in Manchester in September. Samyia is hoping to go to the European Educational Research Association conference in June.


Please keep letting us know if you give a talk about the project and how it went.

This is our time for impact. We are going to use ResearchFish as our impact log but we always want to celebrate success.

Film Projection at Stretford Grammar School

Young people from our Film and Science clubs organised a display of their work on the 29th January at Stretford Grammar School.  The event was attended by the headteachers, teachers, and parents of the young people. The Voices of the Future project team treated everyone with delicious food.

Our project artist, Steve Pool, projected videos and still footage on multiple screens. Classroom tables and walls were turned into screens to project the work of young people through a fascinating visual display. Some of pictures from the day

The parents of the young people very much appreciated their work during afterschool clubs. We have received some impressive comments about the way the work was displayed and projected organically.

At the beginning of the event, Kate invited the young people to think about the work that everyone in team including young people themselves and us (Voices of the Future research team) did as part of film and science clubs. The young people formed their own questions and interviewed themselves and their classmates as part of reflection/evaluation.

The young people also drafted an abstract for a film display at the British Educational Research Association (BERA) conference. If accepted, the film display will be held in September at the University of Manchester by the young people. In summer, young people from both film and science clubs will also be visiting the science lab at the University of Manchester. This trip will be organised by our science team, Simon Carr and Ian Davenport.


We are now working on the following project books:          

  • ‘Children, Young People and Trees: Transdisciplinary Perspectives’,
  • ‘Forest Literacies’ which has a focus on literacy and language and more-than-human encounters with trees led by a smaller team.
  • A book on Hope, to be organised by Johan Siebers.

Please get in touch if you are planning a book or an article, as we need to keep a record.

Please also remember to acknowledge the funders on any published or public work like this: ‘This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council [NE/V021370/1]’.

Articles going in:

  • Kate was very pleased to have got in the ‘So Many Ways to Measure a Tree’ project article in to ‘Research for All’.
  • Kate, Samyia and Khawla are working on their revisions for the ‘Childhood’ article on the Seymour Park work.
  • Caitlin, Kate and Khawla are working on the revisions for an article for the Journal of Language and Intercultural Communication on the Tree of Hope research group river walk.
  • Samyia and Kate are working on an article for Compare with Linda Mitchell and Hoana McMillan in New Zealand on Layers of Belonging and the land.
  • Kate and Samyia are working on an article for the Journal of Environmental Education on embodied responses to trees.


The AHRC Doctoral Focal Awards in the Arts and Humanities

This funding opportunity is now live.

One of the themes is arts and humanities for a healthy planet, people, and place healthy planet, people, and place.

The AHRC would like to see these Doctoral awards build capacity and foster some of the interdisciplinary connections needed to address such a vast challenge, and are encouraging other disciplines, beyond the arts and humanities, involved in the funded awards.

The call is here:

It would be great to see some Voices of the Future consortia going through – please contact Kate if you have any thoughts on this

New Website

We are developing a new website!

This is to be internally funded by Man Met and will be outward facing, with a focus on our resources. This is going to be designed by Maisy and again to be launch at the Treescapes conference in Mid- June.

Maisy’s work can be found here:


UK Treescapes Conference June 2024

The UK Treescapes conference taking place 11th–13th June 2024 at
Glasgow University
. Please do come if you can.

Timberfest 5th-7th July 2024

We are still deciding if the team is going to go to Timberfest, which is a festival in a wood that takes place in early July. Please let us know if you would like to go. We are hoping that the Tree of Hope research group will be able to go and disseminate the work.

Ambleside Retreat July 2024

We are planning a project team writing retreat in Ambleside on 16th-18th July 2024. If you haven’t already  booked your place, please do so here.

Celebrating the Voices of the Future project.

We are going to have a celebratory stakeholder dialogue day on Monday 22nd July at Man Met to engage with stakeholders about our work. It would be great if you could put this in your diaries now. The plan is to make this interactive and learn from our advisory group and stakeholders about where to go next and how our impact works.

WILD at Manchester Museums

Manchester Museums would like us to take over their Wild Lab and curate a set of programmes, activities and exhibitions. This would be in the Autumn of 2024.  Watch this space!


Our Voices of the Future Seminar Series has continued to host a number of excellent speakers.   We recently hosted seminars from Prof E. Jayne White, and from Riikka Hohti & Pauliina Rautio.  If you missed these, you can access the recordings using the links below.

18th January 2024 – Professor E. Jayne White

“Waterways and learning: A series of pedagogical tensions for pedagogy”

Recorded Seminar Link

15th February 2024 – Riikka Hohti & Pauliina Rautio

“Introduction to the transdisciplinary research projects, Fellow Feelings from the AniMate team, and Children of the Anthropocene”

Recorded Seminar Link

We hope you can make it to our upcoming seminars from Prof Helen Lomax at 12pm on 14th March 2024 and Dr Liam Healy at 12pm on 25th April 2024.  Details will be published on our Eventbrite page shortly.

If you want to be the first to hear about our upcoming seminars, you can follow us on Eventbrite or on Twitter.