Review of Expanding Communities of Sustainable Practice

By Dr. Sam Broadhead and Suzanne Archer

Leeds Arts University hosted its first symposium that focused on sustainable practice within art and design on Saturday 15th October 2016. This event sought to make connections between thinkers; practitioners, educators and students in order to develop and expand those communities who value sustainability.

The day was introduced by Professor Simone Wonnacott, Principal, Leeds Arts University, who explained the importance of the sustainability agenda to the institution as well as describing some of the progress that had already been made in policy and practice.

Suzanne Archer then introduced the first keynote speaker, Steve Connor, who talked passionately about his pioneering advertising company, Creative Concern. He argued that the tropes of mainstream advertising could be used to invigorate the sustainability agenda.

Lizzie Harrison talked about the innovative design carried out by students at the Royal University of Art through an initiative called Sustain RCA. She gave some interesting examples of how students worked with industry to solve ‘real’ problems around animal welfare and sustainability.

The audience responded well to the speakers and there was a lively set of questions and debates voiced before the break.

The event included a range of provocative session papers by presenters from around the United Kingdom as well as those from Norway and Mexico. Discussions continued through the lunch and coffee breaks.

The third key note speaker Terry Irwin, Professor and Head, School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University, made an excellent film especially for the Leeds symposium where she argued for students to be encouraged to think on a bigger scale and to think about the future in the long term. She advocated her approach of transitional design with great clarity that defined the conceptual framework of the event.

Dr Sam Broadhead, Head of Research and David Collins, Course Leader for BA (Hons) Visual Communication at Leeds Arts University, gave their observations of the day at the plenary. They found the day really engaging and noted how people were posing some challenging questions that needed to be thought about carefully. The imaginative solutions that creatives were able to articulate along with the importance of future thinking was also commented upon. Suzanne Archer drew the day to an end with a promise to stay in touch and to take some of the themes further forward through a possible publication.

Feedback from delegates included:

"I look forward to hearing how this all moves forward in University - exciting times ahead!" - Lizzie Harrison

 "Thank you for a truly awesome event. Great content and people in a relaxed yet inspiring atmosphere. A rare phenomenon that needs to become a common experience." - Dr. David Haley

"I had a great day and came away from it super inspired to approach sustainability in lots of different ways in my own practice and in my teaching." - Faye Power

The organisers Suzanne Archer and Dr. Sam Broadhead would like to thank everyone who helped make the day a success including the IT support, estates and catering departments.