As our Inclusive Spaces Week of Action kicks off, we caught up with one of our fantastic Young Green Ambassador and Community group teams to learn more about their local community event taking place on Walk and Talk Wednesday. Tranquil City has joined forces with some of Groundwork's London-based Young Green Ambassadors to bring us South London Sanctuary Spaces, a walking tour with a difference.
Gwk Y: What is Tranquil City and how did the project come about?
Grant: Tranquil City is a project to celebrate the different ways in which our cities can embrace calm, escapism and nature in everyday life. We all need time-out sometimes, as living in cities can be exhausting, and we map these spaces and moments so others can discover them too.
The project began with the understanding that I enjoyed getting lost sometimes, just wandering or discovering spots to sit and think in. I wondered whether everyone else took time out like this and if so, was it in the same places I liked or were they different? So I got a group of friends together who felt the same way and we began posting spaces to Instagram #tranquilcitylondon.
Gwk Y: Why is it important for city dwellers to find ways to connect with nature, even when it seems impossible?
Grant: Ironically, living in London has made me appreciate and care for nature more than I did when growing up in a more rural setting. But it took me a while to realise why I was being drawn to it. Nature and the feeling of tranquillity can enable us to gain perspective on things and our lives. Basically, still, slow-moving and familiar natural environments can help us feel at ease and allow us a clear mind to contemplate. So why is it assumed that we need to leave the city in order gain this perspective?
Gwk Y: Why is it important for community groups like Tranquil City to work with and engage young people to be more actively involved in their local communities?
Grant: Exploring your surroundings and getting involved in improving your community area can be really fulfilling, for both those who do the work and to the others who benefit. Young people today have great care for the environment and tend to choose purpose over profit. This is the perfect combination to make a real difference and getting young people involved in community projects can help them understand that they can actually change things and create better ways of living, and have ideas that most older people wouldn't even dream of.
Gwk Y: What advice would you give other groups on a quest to be more ‘Young People Friendly’?
Grant: Get young people to join in and work with you. Simple.
Gwk Y: What can we expect from Tranquil City’s co-curated Walk & Talk Wednesday event and why should people attend?
Grant: The walk will make you see Brixton from a different perspective, one of calm, natural environments and cleaner air. It will show you that you can take this approach to any part of London and discover better ways of getting around as well as finding great spaces to relax in and escape to when you need it most. The walk will also be followed by a free yoga and meditation session at the Brixton Buddhist Centre which will be well worth coming to!
( Chloe, we have some questions for you too... )
Gwk Y: How did you discover the work of Tranquil City and why did you want to join forces with them on your #InclusiveSpaces event?
Chloe: Recently I completed a BSc Geography degree. I'm particularly interested in the concept of Sustainable Cities, especially in relation to rapidly growing places like London. In my second year of uni, I went to this amazing event arranged by Organicity, which revolved around different organisations proposing and showcasing creative solutions to an array of city challenges like air pollution and traffic congestion. It was here I saw Tranquil City present their work! I really wanted to work with them on this event because back in 2015, as a part of an internship with an environmental charity called CPRE London, I independently arranged and delivered my own walking tour around Hackney, raising people's awareness of pocket park spaces in the locality. I felt that there were parallels between this and their work.
Gwk Y: Why is it important for young people in cities to find ways (or be introduced to ways) to engage with their local green spaces?
Chloe: Green spaces are beneficial in so many ways: they are places (more critically in a rapidly densifying city) where people escape from the hustle and bustle... just relax, recuperate, restore. I feel that young people these days are quite immersed in technology and sometimes it is good to disconnect from that world and connect with your surroundings and nature. There are so many sanctuary spaces, which this week's National Park City event will bring to light. We should make use of them, particularly as some spaces are vulnerable to being converted into housing.
Gwk Y: Why is it important for young people to try to work intergenerationally with groups like Tranquil City and get more involved in their local communities?
Chloe: In the media, young people are kind of portrayed as a separate entity. In light of this, I think it is critical to do more intergenerational work. Young people are the future, thus I feel that they should always have an active role in their communities.
Gwk Y: How have you found the process of organising your event and how has this helped you to develop your leadership skills?
Chloe: Organising the event has been a very interesting experience. It has been challenging juggling this with a full-time job (a good challenge, though!). There have been many different things involved in making this event happen: in the beginning, we had to identify key stakeholders in the area, test and establish a walking route which serves as an alternate, less polluted way of travelling through Brixton's high street. I quickly came to realise that there is so much more to events planning than I had initially thought! As there are so many tasks; you have to be able to delegate effectively, and alongside this, you have to take into consideration other team member's availability (and keep in mind the highly changeable nature of this), so flexibility has been key.
Gwk Y: In your opinion, what can community groups do to make young people feel more welcome to participate in them and help protect their local green spaces?
Chloe: Community groups should try to run more co-hosted events with young people in their local green spaces and when promoting an event should use language which isn't alienating/ is accessible to this demographic group. I also feel that in this now really technology-orientated world, there should be more emphasis on digital means of outreach, alongside visiting schools and youth hubs to promote opportunities to young people and maximise their engagement. Digital outreach, using platforms like Facebook and Instagram, should be creative and innovative.
Gwk Y: What can we expect from your co-curated event and why should young people, especially, come along?
Chloe: There is a FREE mindfulness and meditation session at the end of the walking tour and we will provide attendees with the opportunity to network with a range of people from different backgrounds. We've worked hard to involve universities in Lambeth, mental health and wellbeing centres and environmental education charities.
Chloe is an Engagement Consultant at Fluid & Soundings and a Young Urbanist at the Academy of Urbanism. She is passionate about cities, grassroots regeneration and youth activism and is also a Groundwork Young Green Ambassador.
Grant is the founder of Tranquil City.
Join them in Brixton on Wednesday 25th July - be quick... spaces are limited!