Early in 2021 the John Innes Centre was approached by local artist Jennie Pedley to develop a new science – art project exploring the production and sustainability of food crops.
“Even before COVID I wanted to create a community of artists who could explore with the public, the most important science of our times, offering life-changing tools to the public. Then, during the pandemic I had the idea of an outdoor art and science trail exploring the future of food and its connections crisis of climate and health bringing all sectors together to tackle challenges to both personal and planetary health” explains Jennie.
This is how the Edible East art and science trail was born.
To kick start the project the John Innes Centre Communications and Engagement team worked with colleagues at the SAW Trust to facilitate three workshops that brought artists and scientists together to share ideas and have discussions about the future of food.
These workshops were themed “Healthy Plants”, “Healthy People” and “Healthy Planet” reflecting the pillars of our new vision; and were designed to showcase how John Innes Centre research is working to secure a healthier, safer and more sustainable future.
Over the three workshops, seven research staff gave short presentations, but these sessions were more than scientists sharing their own work and encouraged an honest exchange of views in a dialogue about our future.
“It was a great session to be involved in. The group I was in quickly realised how much we had in common – we are both trying to solve some of the big problems of today, and scientists and artists need each other to do this” notes PhD student Sam Warner.
The presentations from our scientists were followed by discussion groups led by PhD Students; these informal sessions helped scientists and artists find common ground and explore creative ways of exploring the future of food.
Professor Claire Domoney, Group Leader added, “It is always interesting to talk to artists about different aspects of our science and to appreciate their contrasting views of its impact on food, health and the environment”.
Professor Anne Osbourn, Group Leader and founder of the SAW Trust said “The ensuing discussion presented an opportunity to talk about how scientists are interested in the arts, practice the arts and can use the arts to reach a wider audience when communicating.
The Edible East project ticks all these boxes – a meeting place for people to discuss important societal issues, with robust factual science informing creative interpretation by skilled professional artists”
Following the workshops, the artists used different materials to produce a response to the challenges of food production and the role of research in helping create a sustainable future.
In total, 20 artists have produced work which, explores the future of food that’s good for our health and the environment by combining art, science and horticulture and is being displayed in venues around Norwich on a trail which will run until March 2022.