To design and deliver an event series as a form of collaborative climate action which brings people together in Conversation Circles to explore the themes communicated in the ‘On Loss and Damage’ exhibition at The Turner House gallery in Penarth, and our own personal perspectives on climate change, culminating in the production of a spoken word poem, and performance event, by 4th June 2023.


Client brief, thinking through drawing, mindmaps, 5 activators of wellbeing, flow chart, H.C.E.P, Canva, Principles, pattern observation.

Date: Jan-June 2023

Location: Penarth

Client: Curator, Bob Gelsthorpe

Status: Implemented

Domain: Education & Culture

Ethics: Earth Care, Equity


Carla’s design forum, Nick Jais PermaCafe design, Holmgren’s ‘Essence of Permaculture’ booklet, Wilf’s Design Report Expectations, Liz Postlethwaite’s PDC sessions.


On 15 January 2023 I had an email with an attached letter ‘help for an art project and possible collaboration’ from local artist Mari Writh, about an Arts Council of Wales exhibition she is involved with at the Turner House Gallery in Penarth, with Curator Bob Gelsthorpe

Mari expressed an interest in the work I was doing around climate change with Penarth Growing Community. The exhibition, entitled ‘On Loss and Damage’ included a series of fringe events. It ran from 13 April until 4 June 2023.

After a few emails back and forth, Mari and I spent a gloriously sunny winter afternoon talking all things art and the living world at The Kymin. Soon after I met with Bob Gelsthorpe to talk in more detail about my involvement. 

The event series is the first active work I will undertake with my new social enterprise, Wild Ceridwen CIC. 

This design plots the route from these initial conversations, and the design decisions made along the way, to the delivery of the  Involve Earth event at The Turner House on Saturday 3 June.

Collecting site information
client brief

I met Bob one early spring morning in a local cafe. We had a good chat. I came away with a scant amount of information, but it was enough to make a start. In his Western Mail article, Bob expressed his desire to ‘draw in local concerns and try to provide space in which to consider the crisis from a local view…’.

From this information, I wrote an Events Proposal, which I sent off to Bob, awaiting a reply and the go ahead. Bob thanked me for taking such care with the proposal, and said he would arrange a date for the performance. The events proposal encapsulated much of the thinking I had been doing when developing Wild Ceridwen CIC [ see Design 3]. Having worked as a lecturer and facilitator for many years, I am practised at coming up with workshop ideas.

With the proposal clear, I began gathering other information about the ‘On Loss and Damage’ exhibition, and the artists involved from  The Turner House websiteJulie’s Bicycle ‘Loss and Damage’ webinar, which had been an influence for Bob. The Western Mail article and the artist’s websites.

Exhibition information produced by Bob Gelsthorpe, curator
Bob’s Western Mail article.
Pattern Observation

When I visited the gallery on the first day it opened, I noticed some patterns emerging. Writing in my journal, I asked myself ‘what patterns do I perceive?’ 

  • Pattern of a triangle repeated in images by Mohammed Hassan, in the elbow, the hill, the house
  • Patterns in Mari’s intricate leaf shapes
  • In Rebecca Wyn Kelly’s piece I observed a net structure, to capture the detritus from the River Arth, and in the structure of the kite
  • Sound waves filling the room in Durre’s video
  • Mentions of hiraeth (a Welsh word which whilst it has no direct translations, means longing for home. Hiraeth is mentioned on the websites of Rebecca, Durre and Mohammed.
  • I did perceive a lot of deep longing. For me, it’s a deep longing for connection to others and communication. 
  • I also happened upon Lee Waters (Deputy Minister for Climate Change) in the gallery on that morning. We had a great conversation! 

I happened to be talking with my Mum about the project, and she told me about a framework in Gestalt psychotherapy which seeks to express our experience of engaging with the world. 

Further influence was drawn from my experience of attending an exhibition in Exeter entitled ‘ Earth Spells: Witches of the Anthropocene‘. I was hugely inspired by the work of Mercedes Muhleisen, her video installation resonated deeply with me. See  Lament of the Fruitless HEN (2015) [scroll to the very end to see the video of the two birds in dialogue]. I wanted to bring some essence of it to the dialogue we created with the poem. 


After I had written the proposal, and before I started planning the events, I considered how the ethics apply and created this mindmap. I used Holmgren’s ‘Essence of Permaculture’ as source material, and as a springboard for this process. I read and made notes that came to my mind along the way, which turned into this mindmap. I did this because I wanted to understand the ethics more deeply. It also came to my mind, after a rich conversation in Liz Postlethwaite’s PDC session, that merging Earth Care and People Care might be a way to imagine ourselves re-embedded in the living world. 

The circular forms on the mind map, and the location of specific words, relate either to earth care, on the left of the image, or equity, on the right. The words in the centre seemed to form around actions and behaviours, transformations we need in order to see ethical behaviours emerging in the world. The overlapping circles narrate the interconnected nature of topics being given consideration. 

I make a deeper inquiry into the ethics in the PLAN phase below. 

Evaluate the information

From the Project Proposal, I was able to identify a set of aims:

From the information collected I was able to identify a number of themes emerging from the exhibition. 

I then set about a process of thinking through drawing, to begin to understand the context I was working in more deeply. What emerged was a series of network drawings, which plot the interrelationships between the people, and the intersection of the questions I was holding as I was thinking about the content of the Conversation Circles. 

The Relationships, 11 May
Network Map, 11 May
Interconnections, 11 May
Belonging. Joy. Fertile Void, 15 May
The questions I was holding, 15 May

By the end of the COLLECT and EVALUATE phases, I concluded that:

  • I’m interested in Bob’s desire to ‘draw in local concerns and try to provide space in which to consider the crisis from a local view…’
  • I’m interested in the pattern that’s emerging around equity, and our human experience of engaging with the world. That the Gestalt model could be a design framework to play with – Contact boundary, Imagination, Sensation, Awareness, Mobilisation, Action, Contact, Satisfaction, Assimilation, Integration
  • That I’m going to play with the idea of merging the Earth Care and People Care Ethics as a way to find ourselves more integrated in the living world, and consider the third ethic as Equity
  • I have a clear set of aims, and the themes to work with are also clear. The questions to hold feel like they offer scope for rich insights to be gleaned from the conversations
apply permaculture Principles & generate a design

I used Holmgren’s Principles as a tool for exploring and meaning-making. As I wanted to deepen my understanding of the principles, I used Holmgren’s Essence of Permaculture as a springboard. I used certain principles as thinking tools for different stages of the process:

  • When I was planning the conversation circles, and doing the marketing 
  • When I was thinking about how the performance would be
  • And then finally when the performance was done, and I was coming to the write-up of the design. 




The useful insights that I gleaned from this exploration of the principles, which informed the design were: 

  • Acceptance and adaption feature strongly
  • Other ways of knowing are important for me – embodied, emotional, intuitive
  • Relationships and communication
  • Where are the seeds of change that we can find and plant with our experience here?
  • What has been lost, what can be repaired, and what just needs to transform?
  • Keep it local
  • Let nature take its course – iterative and emergent process
  • Bringing a range of perspectives together into a whole (the poem), synergistically, adding a touch of my own spice
  • Small is beautiful, slow is cool
  • Be patient, create space for emergence
  • Do a little bit everyday
  • Big picture – modernity, capitalism, feminism, patriarchy
  • Holmgren ‘people embedded in cultures of place often need new experiences to help them view their landscapes and communities in new ways’ [Essence of Permaculture]
  • Trusting the creative process
  • Challenging the status quo

Generate a design

Generating a design happened through the various stages of planning and implementing. As such it makes sense to visualise it as a flow chart. It was an iterative process. You can see the decision making process as it unfolded in PLAN section below. You will also see that I identified this as a flaw in the framework in the EVALUATION section. 

plan a schedule of implementation, maintenance and tweaking

I created three to do lists, as a way to move myself forward.

I created a Project & Engagement Plan, to identify dates and steps along the way to identify suitable dates for the events, prepare for and promote the project. 

In order to plan the Conversation Circles, I created a Session Plan. I considered the ethics and how they apply here, as well as the 5 activators of wellbeing.

This highlighted the need for a range of prompts to have on the table during the conversations, to focus the conversations. I created a range of prompts – questions and quotes related to the aims and the themes. 

To promote the events I sent emails to my mailing list, invited friends and did a series of social media posts on Instagram  @wildceridwen_ and @_sallyhughes, Facebook and Twitter, as well as putting up a poster in the gallery. Bob reposted all my posts, as did Mari Writh – thank you to them!


During this process, I started free writing. It was at this moment that the pivotal idea for the poem emerged, the appearance of The Girl at the Top of the World…

This insight brought a big flow of creativity, and I was able to produce a first draft of the poem.

When I met with Sara a couple of days later, in the urban chic setting of Kings Road Yard in Canton, I talked about the nature of our collaboration. In our emails to arrange, we hadn’t talked about if we would write the poem collaboratively, or if the performance would be the collaborative aspect. I said that I was happy to write together, and also let her know that I had made a start on writing. We moved in to further conversation in Sara’s garden, where we read through the piece I had written. Sara said she liked it. With time running out, it seemed sensible to go with this, and work on how we would perform it together. 

I sent the draft to my Mum, and three friends for feedback. In response to the feedback, a more rounded version of the poem emerged. I changed ‘girl’ to ‘woman’ and flipped it so that The Woman at the Top of the World played capitalism, The Woman in the Woods played nature. I felt very tentative about the poem, whilst it included many direct quotes from the words people had shared at the conversations, it had this added extra spice, drawn from my own thinking and feeling into the words – a challenge to capitalism. I stretched out the time it took for The Woman at the Top of the World’s transition (shaped by the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) and reformed the way in which I described capitalism. You can read the final version of the poem here: 

The words that emerged through the process of stretching the transition are the richest part of the poem for me. 

The process of bringing the performance to life included:

  • A zoom call with Sara for another read though, with more tweaks to the poem afterwards
  • I made a voice recording of the poem, so Sara could practice the intonation. Being written to be performed, the sounds and rhythms the words create are as important to me as the meaning of the words
  • Sara had a fruitful chat with a friend who is a performer to support her delivery, in particular around projecting her voice
  • On the Thursday before the performance (on the Saturday), we had a run through in the gallery space
  • One more practice on the Saturday morning, before the performance at 1

We were prepared, and ready!

Were the project aims met through the design solution created?

The SMART Goal for the design was:

To design and deliver an event series as a form of collaborative climate action which brings people together in Conversation Circles to explore the themes communicated in the ‘On Loss and Damage’ exhibition at The Turner House gallery in Penarth, and our own personal perspectives on climate change, culminating in the production of a spoken word poem, and performance event, by 4th June 2023.

The design decisions supported achieving this goal, the events, writing process and performance were delivered successfully.

The aims I identified from the Project Proposal helped me to identify what I would like the events and performance to deliver, in terms of the experience people got from participation, how I would like it to be framed in order to explore the ways in which joy and connection comes, as a counterpoint to loss and damage, and the outcomes I was looking for.

Those aims were achieved in the following ways:

Did the design work? 

My method of designing is iterative, an unfolding of the process as I go along. It works for me! This design was very much about planning, the planning went well. Having worked as a lecturer and facilitator for most of my adult life, and working in recent years to organise community events, I have skills for planning events that brought this design to life easily.

How do you know that it worked? 

 When we did our skills audit work for creating Wild Ceridwen (Design 3), I identified that one of my core talents is bringing people together, this design demonstrates that once again. The other is writing, a skill which was also articulated well here. 

In that process of identifying our skills and talents I realised that I was looking for a way to perform my poetry. This design allowed a space for that. I’m so grateful to Bob for allowing me this space for experimentation. 

I am also interested in deepening relationships with people who are already engaged in the work I do in the world with my various projects. This project enabled that to happen. There was also a chance to make new connections, and rekindle an old connection, which is brilliant! 

Looking back on the project now I see that many positive connections were created through the work. There was one person who came to the conversations who I would have liked to connect with again, but she didn’t come to the performance, she did follow me on socials though, so there’s a breadcrumb there for future connection to happen. 

What went well? 

People came, they were interested, engaged and involved. The poem is moving, the performance and the process of creating it with Sara was wonderful! 

I did have a little feedback from people who were involved:

“Was great, thought provoking, and really liked the way you made the performance itself into a conversation and used the space too. Looking forward to you doing more like that as you are very good at it!”

“An inspirational event”

“The more I read the more I appreciate the words… well done, they are beautiful and strong.” (about the poem)

“Thank you Sally and Sara, I loved the way that you wove the themes together into such a beautiful poem and performance …. and asked the difficult questions.”

“The dialogue you wrote is very moving. I got into the conversation as if I were the woman of the world, almost tears came out. Empathy is perhaps the word. After reading your dialogue, I felt as if we had had a whole emotional journey with you.”

“I feel like it’s given me a real boost of confidence and ignited something! What a wonderful message that is. The event was really well attended, and the conversation raised lots of good points.“

What went well?

The lightbulb moment came in relation to the writing when I did H.C.E.P and the idea for the character ‘The Girl at the Top of the World’ emerged, and then when I had feedback on the first draft, switching the characters roles around.

The flow chart to plot the different phases of the design (Proposing, Planning, Promoting, Conversations, Writing and Performance) was an effective way to demarcate the steps I needed to deliver the project successfully.

The tools used helped to generate insights to move the project forward, particularly H.C.E.P. I could have had more detailed information from Bob about his needs and wants, the brief I received was scant, but it was enough to get me going. 

  • Using the design as an opportunity to learn more deeply into the Principles. 
  • Using the Ethics to uncover rich learning about equity and diversity
  • I have a format for presenting the write-up that works well now, it’s visually appealing, and I’m seeing more of my own style emerging.

UPDATE (July 2023) Producing the word maps – at the time I was creating the word maps, I was using colours in a way that felt right, without ascribing any particular meaning to them. Now I look back at them, during the post-assessment phase where I’m doing corrections, I wonder if there is a way to apply meaning to the colours using the elements as a frame to view them through? Perceiving them as follows:

  • Green tones – Earth, grounding, action, embodied experience
  • Grey tones – Air, ideas and inspirations, thinking, being in a ‘head’ space
  • Orange/yellow tones – Fire, energy
  • Blue tones – Water, emotional experience
  • Pink tones – Spirit, intuition

This reading would indicate that I was in an Air mode a lot during the design, in my head, thinking and generating ideas. I feels true to say that my practice would be enriched by more focus on being in an embodied, grounded Earth space more, and I could find more useful insights from finding ways to document my intuitive responses more.

What didn’t go so well?

I struggled a little along the way with communication about arrangements and technicalities. I found ways to overcome this, and through the principles process I saw that I needed to develop more patience, and came to accept that this is how it is.

Holding the emotions that emerge from climate conversations is hard for me, I had a big physical response in which I found my heart hurting, literally – feeling the pain and suffering of the Earth and the people. I managed this by being careful about creating time for self-care, which meant I missed out on a crucial event that would have added a different dimension to the project if I had been able to attend.

I think I could have done more to use the insights gleaned from the word maps I made to explore the principles to inform the process. I was trying to do too much. Exploring the principles in this way certainly contributed to deepening my learning. What I do well is express the huge amount of stuff going on in my brain. What I don’t do so well is pick out the details that are important and relevant, and use them to inform the process. 

I had no idea where to put the ethics in this framework, it’s just not clear. My approach to the Ethics was:

  • To reflect on them right at the beginning of the process, creating the Ethics mindmap, using Holmgren’s ‘Essence of Permaculture’ as a springboard again.
  • I used the words I’d generated from the Ethics mindmap as part of the session planning for the Conversation Circles – ascribing my articulation of them to each aim.
  • I also wrote a Note on Ethics.

I didn’t know where to put these, so I asked in the Diploma Facebook group to see if anyone else had any ideas. The feedback I had was to attend to them in each stage, so I fumbled through and put them where I thought they fitted best.

The idea that came to my mind to merge Earth Care and People Care as a way to imagine ourselves re-embedded in the living world was an interesting notion to play with. What has been revealed to me is the tricky, messy intricacy of people care and how we are in our interrelationships. I conclude that given the complexity of People Care, and the very precarious and sensitive issues of equity, People Care does in fact need to have its own focus in the ethics. Next time then, I’ll add a question about how we experience ourselves as embedded in the living world as part of my approach to the People Care ethic and see how that works! 

I feel my approach to the ethics has been too complicated in this design. For the next design I’ll simplify, asking three questions:

  • How am I going to make sure I am caring for the earth in the design and the decisions I make?
  • How am I going to make sure I am caring for people in the design and the decisions I make?
  • How am I going to make sure I am caring for the future in the design and decisions I make?

I could have deepened into the exploration of the Gestalt Cycle of Experience – I don’t think I managed to communicate the impact this new learning had, it made so much sense in he moment. I do wonder if it could become a framework for a design, something to play with in the future.

The framework, initially conceived as a framework for land-based designs, didn’t really have the flexibility to stretch and flow for this iterative people-focused design.

The decision-making process unfolded in the process of planning, in the PLAN stage of the design. For this design, the idea that all the decisions might have been made in the APPLY stage just didn’t fit on this occasion. I perceive this as a flaw in the framework choice I made for this design.

I had to purposefully shape the way I told the story of the design as it emerged to fit the framework. I would have preferred to plot the route the design took in the order things emerged, to show the cumulative nature of it, and how one thing informed and shaped the next. But the framework didn’t allow space for this. 

What it did allow for was my gathering of relevant information under the headings, for example having all the research together in COLLECT – where in reality, the learnings from the research emerged along the route. It wasn’t as if I designed from the beginning with collecting, then evaluating the information, it all seemed to happen together in an unfolding process, but the framework seemed limited in offering a way to express this unfolding. 

The design to me feels like this, the torus – I have little understanding of what this image represents other than it’s about the fabric of space-time, but it demonstrates visually the way I feel about the unfolding nature of the whole I experienced in the designing. CEAP as a framework just does not have the space to express this!

Update – July 2023. I wrote this about the torus because this is how I feel. Afterwards, at Liz’s PDC session, I learnt that Bill Mollison had been keenly interested in the Torus, Liz shared the following image with us:

What would you do differently next time?

Be more clear with participants that there was an expectation that they would be involved in writing the poem, to make it more collaborative, in fact, I’d purposefully make space for this in the process, adding another event for writing together.

I didn’t have any markers of success in particular, so next time I’ll be sure to define what success looks like at the beginning.

I didn’t have any mechanism to seek feedback from participants about their experience. Next time, I would add time at the end of the conversation circles and performance event for people to share and write down their thoughts.

  • Choose a different framework that has space for communicating the unfolding whole. 
  • Use just four or five principles!
  • Highlight the design decisions more clearly in the PLAN stage and note how the gathering of research informed the decisions more clearly, the structure of the framework feels like it impeded this.

Next steps?

  • Use Jasmine Dale’s workbook to see what new insights that brings.
  • Learn about how Holmgren’s Principles apply to the garden.
  • Read/do the White Supremacy and me workbook
  • Read David Abrahm’s book, Becoming Animal
  • Add a question to People Care about how we embed ourselves more deeply in the living world.
  • Write ‘The Woman at the Top of the World’ dialogue as a story so it’s easier for reading, then share it.
  • Create a client interview proforma.
  • Create more opportunities for performing my poems.

What I’d really like to do is make a video of me performing the poem that’s more like the Mercedes Mulheisen video, but time and cost just doesn’t make this feel like it’s possible right now. I’d love to be in a place where I am supported by the Arts Council for developing my own arts practice, and utilising Mike and Cam’s filmmaking skills too. 

  • Learn how to make videos myself better! This keeps coming up….I made a start with this, but my video is a bit crude. There’s a lot to learn.

Carla gave some useful feedback in her forum. I had been talking about how by trying to make the write-up of this design shorter I was feeling like I was losing some of the beautiful story quality in the write-up that I enjoy. She said don’t make the write-up smaller, make the design smaller, very helpful indeed!

  • Do a couple of quick designs, one that I set aside an hour for (inspired by a method I heard a fellow diploma apprentice had used that was offered by Looby and Delvin), and one that I do in a day. 
  • Read Chapter 4 of Mollison’s book, Carla recommends, after Torus discussion
  • I feel my challenge now is to simplify! One of the phrases that came up in the ‘design from patterns to details’ principle word map was ‘Complexity arises from Simplicity’, seems fitting. 
Final remarks

This design has been the first formal work I have done through my new social enterprise Wild Ceridwen CIC. I haven’t done any public facing creative work really since before I had my baby in 2018. To be involved in arts practice once more feels rich and deeply transformational for me, and the work I wish to do in the world.

As an approach to the delivery of climate conversations, adding a creative output as part of the conversations works for me as a way to disperse and use the emotional energy that comes from opening up these spaces for people to share their emotional experiences of climate change. I think what I have here is the beginning of a model that is replicable in other places with other groups of people.

In his Western Mail article, Bob expressed his desire to ‘draw in local concerns and try to provide space in which to consider the crisis from a local view…’. In my mind, there’s no doubt that the Involve Earth project, as part of the programme of fringe events for the exhibition, has contributed to Bob’s aim.

Overall, this design has been a joy to complete, and it’s deepened connections, which is exactly what I was aiming for, so that’s great! 


June 2023

Word count: 4530