The art of campaigning

How do you capture the heart of an issue and inspire people to get involved? Fusing photography, poetry and shots of gorgeous landscape, local group Darlington Friends of the Earth show us how to marry campaigning with art.
  Published:  27 Jul 2021    |      2 minute read

Amid acres of untouched woodland, an assortment of wonderful wildlife call Skerningham Woods home. Popularly known as the “Jewel of the North”, the woods boast 18 endangered birds, hares, deer and badgers, among others. 

Alternating photos of wildlife captured in Skerningham Woodland. Photos of: orange and brown wall butterfly, yellow wagtail, grey heron, roe buck, red fox, sedge warbler, dipper, cuckoo, mute swan and willow warbler
Wildlife in Skerningham Woodland
Credit: Leanne Carroll

It’s not surprising that when a housing development was proposed in Skerningham Woods, the local community of Darlington mobilised. 

Skerningham Woodland under threat

Darlington Borough Council has proposed plans to build 4,000 homes in Skerningham Woodland. If carried out, the development would cause catastrophic devastation to the biodiversity of the area, including:

  • the destruction of ancient woodland
  • threatening local species extinctions
  • loss of home for many mammals and birds
  • disrupting the beauty of untouched land 
  • interrupting walking paths and wildlife corridors.  

How can I make people listen?

It’s a story that’s all too familiar. Green spaces, including ancient woodland, are being threatened by buildings and infrastructure projects in places like Hounslow and Kirklees. Local groups across the country are mobilising to defend their green spaces, but it's often the case that the wider community aren't aware of the plans, and it’s difficult to oppose something when you have no idea it’s happening.

So how can we communicate a local issue effectively? 

With so much going on in the news, it can be a challenge to find a way to cut through the noise and get your voice heard. 

But members of Darlington Friends of the Earth, like Kendra Ullyart, knew that Skerningham Woodland held a special place in many people’s heart: “Everyone has their own story as to why they want to protect Skerningham Woodland. But the thing is, their stories just weren’t getting out. Darlington residents were unaware about the proposed housing development that was threatening their woodland.

“Coming from an arts background, I knew we needed to create something engaging to get people to take the time to understand what was going to happen if we didn’t take action. So we decided to create a film about woodland. A bold film that would inspire, engage and of course, make a difference”.

Unsurprisingly, producing films comes at a cost. So Kendra applied to the Friends of the Earth Local Group Fund to help finance the project, alongside launching her own fundraiser. With her successful application and fundraiser, Kendra commissioned Iron Shirt Media to produce Skerningham: Jewel in the Crown, with the help of members of the Darlington community, Darlington Friends of the Earth and local artists, including photographer and poet Leanne Carroll.

Watch the film

Skerningham: Jewel in the Crown combines heartfelt words from members of the Darlington community with beautiful shots of the woodland. Interspersed with photos of the wildlife that inhabits the space, the film reminds us that Skerningham Woods is a sanctuary and a home. 

By fusing breath-taking visuals with anecdotal experience, we get an essence of why Skerningham Woods is so important to Darlington residents. The message is clear – we need to protect these oases from destruction. 

I’m inspired! What next?

Our grassroots network is filled with creativity. Just look at Cardiff Friends of the Earth who recently worked with Greenpeace, XR and Green Squirrel to create a life-sized mural of a humpback whale to highlight the climate crisis.

Mural of humpback whale to highlight the climate crisis
Humpback whale mural

If you’re interested in joining like-minded people to campaign on issues affecting your area, why not join a local action group today?