Guest blog: Feral Spaces - by Laurel Gallagher

We're currently working on a project to develop booklets on the parks of north Staffordshire, as places to be active, creative and outdoors in the urban environment.  Burslem in Stoke-on-Trent is our pilot site, and conversations with local community groups led us to the fabulous Feral State.

Feral State is currently running a local artist-led project called Feral Spaces, which invites children to transform spaces through play, place-making and immersive art experiences.  And best of all, they're working in the wastelands of Burslem Port, to encourage children to use urban wilderness as a playground. Urban 'edgelands' are in many respects the opposite of formal civic park settings, but equally important in encouraging physical activity and outdoor adventure.

We're delighted to welcome Laural Gallagher, Feral State's founder, as a guest blogger to tell us more about her project:


What happens when children go wild!

Children are running riot, climbing crumbling factory walls, spraying paint, cutting down vegetation, defining spaces, manipulating materials and sharing thoughts, feelings and ideas. 

“It’s like a children’s wonderland” exclaims a visitor from the YMCA in awe at the joy a disused ex-industrial wasteland provides for young people. 

“I never knew this place was here” comments a teacher who has brought students from the local Co-operative Academy Stoke to take part. 

We are running a morning of activities for 20 children aged 8-14 for a publicity film with ITV. It is an intense morning spent balancing the children’s experiences, facilitating interviews with ITV and catching up with partners. 

The location is Burslem Port; a disused section of canal alongside a demolished factory transformed, through neglect, into a natural wilderness. I started working in this space in 2016, following an artistic vision of children escaping their urban lives and returning to the wild.  The Feral Spaces project explores the question: how do urban children connect with wild spaces and how does this relationship affect them?

With ITV interviewing previous participants about what the Feral Spaces project means to them I was able to gain insight into young people’s experiences and values.

“We want to be outside learning new things” 

“It’s a community. We create a community here”    

Children who had never been to the space before also shared thoughts on how to develop and use the space.

“Keep it clear and tidy”

“Bring homeless children and children in care here”

I was struck by the strong social and environmental values the young people place on their experiences and the idea of child led communities. Feral Spaces mission is to discover wild spaces where kids can be kids and empower them to claim those spaces for themselves. 

If children are given the space and freedom to connect with wild spaces, to develop their own communities, to feel empowered to improve their environment, what impact will that have on the rest of their lives?  

Follow our social media to find out how to get involved and support the Feral Spaces project.

#feralspaces #reclaimingspaces #childledcommunities

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