A major arts project launches today, pairing award-winning photographers and poets with the UK’s most inspiring regenerative farmers and food producers. These ground-breaking collaborations will celebrate Britain’s custodians of soil, sea and seed, showcasing their positive solutions to climate change, the biodiversity crisis and social justice.
Coordinated by The Gaia Foundation, We Feed The UK brings together over 40 partners from the environment and arts sectors. The series tells ten time-critical stories across urban, rural and coastal areas, ranging from multi-generational, Black-led growing projects in London, to a majority-women workers cooperative in Edinburgh, via sustainable fishing along the South Coast.
The project follows The Gaia Foundation’s previous ‘We Feed The World’ exhibition, which celebrated smallholder farmers across the globe to bust the myth that we need industrial farming to survive. We Feed The UK focuses in on England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, using the power of photography and poetry to change perceptions and support a nationwide transition to regenerative agriculture.
Ally Nelson, Project Lead for We Feed The UK at The Gaia Foundation, said, “Farmers and food producers are crucial players in our fight to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. Across the UK, regenerative farmers are galvanising communities to think differently about how we produce and consume our food. We Feed The UK celebrates their role as custodians of sea, soil and seed, through the powerful mediums of photography and spoken word. With exhibitions taking place across the UK in 2024-25, We Feed The UK will help the public cultivate a stronger connection to local food, and influence other farmers and food producers to transition towards regenerative practices.”
The project draws in arts partners including the Martin Parr Foundation, Belfast Exposed and Street Level Photoworks. The Gaia Foundation, in collaboration with each arts partner, has commissioned photography from ten acclaimed photographers for exhibition across the UK in 2024-25. The series launches at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool on 8th February.
Sarah Fisher, Executive Director at the Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool, which commissioned photography from Johannes Pretorius at Strickley Farm in Cumbria, said, “We believe that photography has a tremendous power to bring communities together to affect positive social and environmental change. As a national lead for socially engaged photography we already know the potential of creative partnerships, and we are looking forward to all the important conversations this project will spark.”
Alongside the photographers, The Gaia Foundation and award-winning Hot Poets collective have co-commissioned ten poets to tell the stories of each producer, bringing them to life via live performances and videos shot on location.
Liv Torc, award-winning spoken word artist and co-director of the Hot Poets said, “Hot Poets matches the best spoken word artists in the world with incredible people and projects working on the frontlines of climate change to tell stories of hope and action – and regenerative farming is where hope lives. 71% of the UK and 50% of the habitable world is farmland. If farmers en masse incorporated regenerative farming into their land management (and were supported to do so); they could halt biodiversity loss and reduce severe weather events within a decade. It’s not a side quest, regenerative farming is one of the best chances we have to save our future. Through our collaboration with We Feed The UK and their amazing photographers, Hot Poets aims to be the words beneath the wellies, elevating the stories of ten UK regenerative farmers in a powerful new poetry collection, filmed on the land and available for everyone to watch, feel and share.”
The farmers and producers featured as part of We Feed The UK are flourishing against a backdrop of climate chaos, a cost of living crisis, and post-Brexit changes. In one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, where less than half of our biodiversity remains, the project aims to show that nature-friendly and community-centric farming practices are at the root of our future resilience.
Northumberland’s Stuart Johnson, Soil Farmer of the Year 2023, said, “We Feed The UK is important in getting positive stories to the public – the current vilification of farmers needs to stop. There are small pockets of us trying to be better, which We Feed The UK can help the consumer see and understand, whilst also offering hope to farmers stuck in an imperfect system. This project proves that there are other ways to do it that can not only enhance biodiversity and battle climate change, but also bring people together and improve financial performance. Everyone wins and that story needs to be told.”
Aligned not-for-profit partners in the environmental sector – including the Nature Friendly Farming Network, Action for Conservation and The Landworkers’ Alliance – bring evidence to support themes including carbon sequestration, mental health benefits, intergenerational leadership and food justice, educating the public while supporting ‘on the fence’ farmers to join the movement.
Photographer Arpita Shah, who photographed two urban food growing projects in north London, said, “Having been born in India, but grown up in the UK, I’ve always been interested in exploring themes of belonging, identity and heritage through my photography, so to spend time with inspiring women like Pam, Sandra and Paulette – each of whom interweave stories, rituals and seeds from their own rich cultural upbringings through their work on the allotments – has been such a joy. When you’re far away from your ancestral home, you long for your roots, your sisters and your community. This is what the Soil Sistas represent. It’s a powerful community of women, growing and eating food together, sharing stories and passing on knowledge across generations. I hope the images from this collaboration capture some of the spirit, love and dedication of these women, each of whom are anchors in their community.”