Rethinking the Future of Parks

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On 13 October 2020, with our partners at the Future Parks Accelerator, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, we hosted an event to share learning and ideas from parks and greenspace innovators across the country, and take an opportunity to rethink the future of parks. Here we share the content from speakers recorded on or shortly after the event, to help spread the ideas and learning. Join in the debate on social media about the future of parks at #rethinkingfutureparks.

Introduction

In recent years our parks and greenspaces have been under huge threat. As a result of austerity and the demand placed on local authorities’ budgets to support statutory services such as social care, non-statutory services like parks have been facing budget pressures.

Over the last seven years, Nesta, in partnership with The National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund, has provided two rounds of funding and support for organisations and partnerships to develop innovative ways of managing and financing the UK’s public parks. Rethinking Parks has backed 24 innovations, with £3 million in funding and support, to test and replicate ideas. Innovations experimented with a broad range of ideas – tapping into the public willingness to give in new ways; mobilising the skills and energy of communities; developing ways to generate and use data to create smarter parks; designing approaches to use spaces in more environmentally friendly and financially astute ways; using parks assets to generate renewable energy and income, as well as developing new ways to engage with local businesses.

The Future Parks Accelerator, a collaboration between the National Trust, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government is supporting nine places to help local authorities transform their green spaces to enable these valuable places be more financial sustainable, and ensure that communities can continue to benefit from them for generations to come.

The event, co-hosted by Carrie Deacon, Director of Government and Community Innovation at Nesta and Victoria Bradford-Keegan, Delivery Director at the National Trust leading the Future Parks Accelerator, shared the learning from the innovators from across the country. Together with partners Drew Bennellick, from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Tony Thapar, from The National Lottery Community Fund, the team sought to help spread the ideas and learning, and keep innovating for parks and greenspaces at the forefront of priorities.

Our experience of working with parks innovators up and down the country, both inside of local authorities parks teams, and outside in universities, community organisations, social enterprises and charities, shows there is a real community of experimenters, activists and entrepreneurs working to enable our parks and greenspaces to evolve, adapt and continue to be at the heart of our communities. But to face the challenges and opportunities ahead, we must continue to adopt and spread the mindset, habits and tools that can support this innovation. The challenges and opportunities ahead create a loud and clear call for us to keep innovating for the future of our parks and greenspaces.

The recordings below allow us to share some of the learning and advice from different teams and innovators, and a range of contributors who outline some of the challenges and opportunities for us to rethink our future parks.

Session one: The innovation imperative to rethink parks

The first session highlighted a range of exciting projects from the Rethinking Parks programme and the Future Parks Accelerator. Speakers from around the UK shared their experiences, explaining their motivations for innovating in parks, the opportunities they hope to realise and the challenges they are trying to overcome.

Rethinking income and income funding models

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Speakers:

Cathi Farrer, Bournemouth Parks Foundation
Rob Acton-Campbell & Charlee Bennett, Bristol and Bath Parks Foundation
Emma Trickett, Love Leeds Parks

Rethinking community involvement and participation

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Speakers:

Colin Harker, Par Track
Dave Morris & Paul Ely, Parks Community UK
Gill Moore, Friends of Turn Moss
John Thorne, London Boroughs of Camden & Islington

Smarter parks and greenspaces

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Speakers:

James Dymond, Nottingham City Council
Lucy Kennedy, EcoRecord & Sara Cavalho, Spottitt

Valuing and enhancing our natural resources

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Speakers:

Neil Jones, Possible
Bruce Irving, London Borough of Hackney
John Maslen, ParkPower project, greenspace scotland
Donya Davidson, Edinburgh City Council / Scottish Wildlife Trust

Working at a Landscape Scale

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Speakers:

Michael Rowland & Mark Holloway, Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole Council
Oliver Burke, Nene Park Trust, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough  
Nick Grayson, Birmingham City Council
Barbara Hooper, Urban Green Newcastle

Session two: Visions to shape the future of parks

The second session looked to the future of parks and greenspaces, with some lightning talks from the authors of the Rethinking Parks: Visions to shape the future of parks essay series. They encouraged the audience to think of some of the trends that are likely to shape the future of parks as well as the possibilities for innovation over the coming years.

Will Covid-19 make parks even less accessible?

De-traumatising the city

Valuing the invaluable

What if we thought about localities the way we think about gardens?

News from nowhere gardens

The park is dead. Long live the park

The piece “Fresh ideas in green places” was not shared at the event, Please view it as part of the full series.

Publications

A series of leaflets and a toolkit, capture the experiences of the projects supported by the Rethinking Parks Programme to test and develop innovative ways of managing and financing the UK’s public parks. They outline what the projects tested, the challenges they faced and what they learned, as well as successful implementation examples and helpful tips.

The essay collection presents seven visions of the future of parks and greenspaces, featuring essays, provocations, and fiction. Whilst not exhaustive in their possibilities, these contributions seek to encourage us all to be bold in our imagination about the role of parks and greenspaces in our communities in the coming years.