Why did we need your Earth Stories?
The things our parks and green spaces offer us have never been more important than they are now. The restrictions the Covid 19 pandemic brought over the last 2 years meant we couldn’t do all the things we would normally have done but the one thing that we have consistently been able to do since March 2020 has been to visit our parks and green spaces. They became our classrooms and offices , our gyms, our meet up place for friends and family, entertainment spaces (when appropriate) – they helped to keep our mind and bodies healthy.
We wanted to find a way to capture how people felt about their green spaces, why they were important, what we need to change to make them better. We didn’t want to create another survey so we simply asked for your Earth Stories.
Here is a short video from Humera Sultan – Director of the Birmingham FPA Project, Naturally Birmingham, telling her Earth Story.
You can read some more Earth Stories on our Blog Page: https://naturallybirmingham.org/blog/ where you’ll find a wide range of stories, poems and videos.
If we want nature in our city to always be there for us and never close, we need to look after our parks and green space not just for us now, but for future generations. Birmingham City Council Parks Service, green groups and volunteers have a huge job to make sure these spaces are well looked after and not only survive but also thrive and are welcoming to anyone who wants to use them. We have over 600 public open green spaces throughout the City, and all of them need to be nurtured, supported, respected and made accessible to all those that need them.
Birmingham is a city of huge diversity – over 1.1 million residents, from over 180 nationalities speaking over 100 different languages. We want our green spaces to offer an opportunity for community cohesion, one of many ways all people of different social backgrounds, ethnicities, faiths, and generations can interact with and relate to each other in a positive way. We want to find ways to help that happen.
While there is no universally agreed definition of community cohesion, it is usually understood to describe what is needed to foster trust and good relationships between and within diverse communities. We want to take that idea to help build a fair and inclusive city for everyone who lives in, works in, and visits Birmingham with regard to it’s natural environment. Yes the City is much more than it’s green infrastructure, it is a bright and beautiful place with different art to see, different music to listen to, different food to eat, different stories to tell. But beneath all of that wonderful mixture of lives is still the earth, the one thing we all then have in common, the place we live. We want to create an open and ongoing dialogue across the city in which we all continuously consider how our decisions, our resources, and our relationships across communities and with nature can be used to promote community cohesion and together as a community how we can care for our green spaces.
We know that not everyone has a park near them, or even if they do, they don’t always choose to use them and can’t always use them. We also know some of our residents have spent nearly all their lives looking after their local parks, often supported to do so by Birmingham Open Spaces Forum (BOSF) our Ranger Service and other national and local organisations. But – everyone in the City has a story to tell about parks or green spaces – the canal (the cut) the right of way or gulley, their allotment, their garden, a tree, a plot, a flower their own “Earth Story” – and we still need to hear these stories.
You may be still be asking:
“Why?…..how will my story help to achieve this ambitious plan?”
We want parks and green spaces to be as well managed as they can be – What would better managed green spaces look like to people? Someone we spoke to said:
“When I used to visit Perry Hall Park as a child I used to catch (and release) sticklebacks in the little stream that ran through the garden area. I would spend hours looking for them and then watching them in a jam jar until I returned them back to the stream. I don’t know if you can still do that now, but I wish you could”.
We want a place that allows all our residents to talk about nature and give each other ideas for how to notice and enjoy the wonderful things our parks and green spaces give us – what do people think that looks like – what kind of forum would that be? Someone told us:
“ I find myself shouting at the television or the radio wondering why no one can hear me wishing that there was someone who wanted to hear what I have to say, a place where I can chat to others who care about what I care about. A Green Network of people asking for action and suggesting ways to achieve it. Yes a green movement”
We want our parks to become Healthy Parks – what does that mean to people, what should be available to do in a park, what would people expect to see if health money was invested in this?
“What really washes away my stress is to walk into the woods until I can’t see or hear anyone else and just breathe”
We want more people to have the skills to do what they want in green spaces – either as a volunteer or a career path. What things have you enjoyed learning about nature? Was it easy to do this? We’ve launched a green skills showcase https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxRBfrbavWeTOv9KrHzVchA and a young person told us:
“ I have gained some insight into the practical and theory aspects of a career in horticulture from the people sharing their views on the YouTube channel that you sent, thanks for sharing”
We want every young person in the City to have experienced nature – we believe all young people and children should have the chance to grow something. What else should we be supporting young people and children to do? What have you enjoyed doing in a park as a child or with your children? And what haven’t you/ don’t you enjoy?
Someone’s child said when asked what do you like about parks? They simply replied:
“I like growing acorns….”
We want more and a wider range of people to be involved in parks and green spaces – how easy do you find it to get involved? Is this something you’d like to do? What was your first memory of being in a green space.
A member of the team said:
“I don’t remember going to the park as a child – there wasn’t one near me. So I just grew up thinking they were places that weren’t for me. Now it couldn’t be a different story….I’ve recently set up a Friends of Park for my local park.’’
We want parks to be a place for business and enterprise, somewhere that they can invest their money and time – do you have any ideas for this? Which businesses would you like to see working to support our parks?
We want there to be enough funding available to support local communities – is there something you’ve thought that would be great idea but not had the chance to tell someone? Someone we spoke to said:
“Why are we scared to try new things? Why haven’t we got more places for tea, coffee and cake in our parks? It would help my family stay there longer when it’s a cold day.”
There must be a million more stories out there – we want to gather as many as we can from our residents, from a wide range of backgrounds – different ethnicities, nationalities, faith groups, young and old, LGBT, those with disabilities. Give us your memories, the good bits and the bad bits, your hopes, fears and dreams. Only then will we be able build a future for our parks that reflects what our City wants. We want to hear the good and the bad – don’t hold back!
We have written a plan that brings all of this together and will shape the future of our green spaces for the next 25 years we need people to want that plan, to protect it and to govern it going forward. It’s called “The City of Nature” Plan. We want to ensure there is environmental justice for the 1.1 million plus people living in Birmingham over the next 25 years and into the future, tell us your earth stories so we know what you want and continue to shape this work. Here is the plan so far, including some of the Earth Stories we gathered:
To find out more about the City of Nature Plan [please visit: https://naturallybirmingham.org/birmingham-city-of-nature-delivery-framework/
For more information please email us on Futureparks@bosf.org.uk or you can use the contact form below: