A close-up of a brick wall painted in bright pinks, blues and oranges to look like a knot in a tree trunk

School pupils help design climate mural under Twickenham railway bridge

A mural dedicated to biodiversity has been painted beneath a railway bridge in Twickenham ahead of this year’s COP26 climate conference.

The project, produced in collaboration with Richmond Arts Council and Orleans House Gallery, is one of eight murals across the UK which have been commissioned to depict young people’s views on the climate emergency.

Artist Bryony Benge-Abbott has spent the last week transforming the underpass on Heath Road following workshops with pupils at Orleans Park School and Waldegrave School, whose designs have formed the basis of the piece.

She said: “The pupils were saying some really powerful, really profound things, and they’re angry, and they’re also genuinely worried.

“They get the challenge we’re facing and are fully aware that it’s going to be landing on their doorsteps.

“I found it really humbling. It’s a real honour to be painting their work here.”

Together Benge-Abbott and the pupils sketched out ideas, and discussed ways of renewing our relationship with nature during sessions with scientists from the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London.

A close-up of the pavement section of the climate mural on which blue roots have been marked. The lines "They will die. We're giants to them, to us they're resources. But in fact, they have the power for their roots are our core" are written in blue.
GETTING TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: The work features a sprawling system of roots, leaves, branches and tree trunks interconnected with key phrases and poems written by the pupils. Credit: Bryony Benge-Abbott

She added: “The images that we put around us say so much about who we are and what we value.

“What I love about public art is that it reaches out to everybody, and it doesn’t require people to come into spaces where perhaps they don’t feel like it’s for them.

“It’s something that you can just stumble across, it can lift your spirits, it can provoke new ways of thinking; give you new insight, start conversations.”

The piece comes after Richmond Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in July 2019, and is part of a series of projects anticipating the COP26 climate conference, which takes place in Glasgow this November.

Creative producer Andy Franzkowiak said: “So much of this conversation is about what kind of future the kids today are going to be inheriting – so where is their voice in that conversation?

“What do they want to tell those in power? What do they want to see in their local area to make them feel like their voices are being heard?”

A close-up of a section of the climate mural on which orange, pink, blue, and brown roots sprawl around the word "cooperation"
IT’S ALL LINKED: the mural aims to shine a light on invisible connections in nature that people may not be aware of on a daily basis. Credit: Bryony Benge-Abbott

The team hope that placing more meaningful messages around our everyday experience will help shift perspectives on the climate emergency, and encourage more people to take action in their area.

He added: “People are stopping and looking which is great and maybe something will be hitting people somewhere.

“Whether it’s something you love or something you hate, it’s something that will hopefully get you to think.”

Featured Image: Andy Franzkowiak

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