Meet Trafford based fellow, Caroline Ward FRSA. An artist, filmmaker and farming social entrepreneur.
Where are you based currently in the NW?
I live in Old Trafford, Manchester and cycle to work at BBC MediaCityUK in Salford. I also work part-time on a farm in Cheshire and cycle there too. I like to keep moving!
What’s your background and what do you currently do professionally?
I trained originally in fine art and film. Currently I work part-time as a project manager at BBC Outreach and Corporate Responsibility. My role involves creating opportunities for BBC staff to volunteer on charity projects. One of my favourite projects was hosting a centre for The Festival of Code at BBC last year – young people spent a week, mentored by BBC staff, designing apps for social good using open data, from weather data, to library data and transport data – one group made a book swap app.
This year I’m also training as an organic farmer through the Kindling Trust FarmStart programme.
What social actions are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about environmental sustainability, I’ve made a few short films on the subject, exploring how a city might feed itself more sustainably and documented research projects, such as Everyday Growing Cultures, led by researcher Dr Farida Vis based at Sheffield University and on the IT as a Utility project led by Professor Jeremy Frey at Southampton University. I try to ‘be the change I want to see in the world’ and I get there through creatively exploring the issues I am passionate about.
I’m also reading up on John Ruskin and feel affinity for his ideas on craft “You must either make a tool of the creature, or a man of him”. I’d like to see more of society ‘making’ again, and this is partly why I’m farming – in order to create and contribute to the food system beyond being a consumer with spending power. I’m also very interested the role of making and design in eliminating waste and contributing to a ‘circular economy’ by innovating how we manage and use resources. I recently secured a place on the Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneurs Programme to start up a circular economy business to support urban farmers.
What social action projects are you involved in and how could other fellows get involved?
I’m involved in my local residents’ group, Love Old Trafford, where we are planning to green up Old Trafford – anyone living or working in Old Trafford can get involved in this.
At BBC Outreach we run a scheme called Community Doorway where charities and community organisations can apply to get BBC volunteers involved in community projects. It’s all about creating, sharing and giving back to communities, as well as staying connected with our audiences.
It’s my first year of growing at the farm, I’m growing purple sprouting broccoli, lettuces, shallots and chillies on a quarter of an acre of land. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of seeing my lettuces on the shelf at a Unicorn Grocery, an organic supermarket. I had a big smile knowing that my first crops have entered the organic farming system – I have a product and it’s come from a responsible way of farming with little, if any, negative impact on the environment. A big help comes from volunteers who help out on the farm every last Saturday of the month. The volunteers make a great difference – any NW Fellows could volunteer to help out through the Land Army initiative.
I am keen to connect with engineers, makers and designers to get involved in my start up social enterprise. I also blog to share what I’ve learned about growing organic, local and seasonal produce. It all began when I moved up to Manchester and wondered where I could get local and seasonal veg.
When did you become a fellow (roughly – years ago) and who or what motivated you to join?
I’m a relatively new fellow and joined In November 2013. However I’ve been very aware of the RSA, having been involved in the arts scene in London and attended lectures at the RSA in London. I found a talk by contemporary artist, Jeremy Deller, as part of the RSA Art & Ecology series, very inspiring. And the book, Land, Art: A Cultural Ecology Handbook, published by the RSA in 2006 sits alongside my farming and gardening books. It’s a key publication drawing together the artists working with ecology alongside key people from the 1960s.
Joining was the right time in my professional life, where I could afford the fee, make best use of the connections and contribute to socially driven actions.
How have you been involved to date – locally or nationally? is there anything else you’d like to be more involved in?
My film, Feeding Cities, was screened at the North West conference last year. The focus was on food. Pru Leith spoke about the link between growing your own food, cooking and eating. It was an honour it to be in the audience. I’ve also offered filmmaking skills on a couple of fellows projects.
If you woke up suddenly one morning and you could gain a new skill, what would it be?
This is such a difficult question as I actually enjoy the learning during gaining a new skill, I don’t like short cuts! I’d like to make my own furniture or design and build my own home.
If you could have dinner with a social change agent or social entrepreneur, living or dead, who would it be, why and what would you eat?
Elinor Ostrom she is the first woman awarded the Nobel prize for economics. Her research is around natural resource management – water, forests, fisheries, land – collective resources or commons and ways to govern the commons collectively
At the heart of it is this idea of a local sharing economy. So we would have to have tapas that celebrates regional variations and an English wine.
- The Great recovery: Investigating the role of design in the circular economy http://www.greatrecovery.org.uk/the-great-recovery-report/
- Re:make hubs: http://www.thersa.org/support-the-rsa/what-are-rsa-re-make-hubs
- Lloyds Bank SSE programme: http://www.the-sse.org/schools/8/north-west/111/lloyds-bank-social-entrepreneurs-programme
- Art & Ecology: http://www.thersa.org/action-research-centre/current-projects/arts-and-ecology
- Feeding Cities: https://vimeo.com/65024088
- Kindling Trust Farmstarter profile: http://www.kindling.org.uk/FSCaroline