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The Imaginarium comes to life at King’s College





The Imaginarium set up shop in King’s College for a two-day festival of activities and events designed to challenge, encourage and enchant at the weekend.

Saturday proved to be a huge success, with almost 1,000 visitors as the spring sunshine – and the collection of Giraffes Around Cambridge - brought people on to the city’s historic streets.

Imaginarium at King's College, children from Wilburton Primary School. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imaginarium at King's College, children from Wilburton Primary School. Picture: Keith Heppell

The Imaginarium - part of the Cambridge Festival, which runs until today (March 28) - was right next to the Senate House at the market end of King’s Parade. From the street you walk on to a King’s College lawn on which there are some large marquees and tented areas: inside these are nature-themed activities and events to explore and enjoy.

The themes were helpfully painted on to boards and they include ‘Helping Nature Thrive’, Health & Wellbeing’, ‘Sustainable food’, ‘Adapt’, ‘Balance’, Circular Living’ and ‘Travelling Gently’.

Various craft-based stands – windmill making, repairs, painting – were very busy, and group stands included Cambridge Parents for Future, Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Camycle, Transition Cambridge, plus there was a busker and a choir singing outside while in the reimagine area a series of large cardboard boxes were transformed into nature scenes, gardens, waterfalls… “our place in the natural world”.

Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell

It seems like an anything-goes al fresco art hub, yet some of what the Imaginarium is about resembles a giant networking opportunity, a chance to find out what your skill set might be if humanity were to successfully transition from an economy based on growth to an economy based on living sustainably.

“There were some great people on board trying to engage the public in different activities,” said visitor Colin Ramsay - the director of Six Inches of Soil - who went with his partner Priya and their children. “It was a fun, colourful, family-oriented event that highlighted what people can do to reimagine a better world through the lens of climate change, personal responsibility, local nature, etc. and there was lots of drawings and paintings reimagining what that world might look like.

“There was a lot of discussion around what you can do at home to make a difference.”

Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge-based Pushpanath ‘Push’ Krishnamurthy, who combines environmental activism with charity walks, said: “It was an absolutely enchanting experience at the Imaginarium event at King's College! The convergence of creativity, innovation, and a shared commitment to addressing the climate crisis has been truly inspiring.”

Push was selected as an ‘regenerator’ for this year’s Imaginarium: the title was given to a dozen local individuals who are making a difference, from making local rain gardens, to clearing a city verge of overgrowth to allow existing seed banks to germinate, to repairing textiles and kettles in Repair Cafes or volunteering as a mentor and leader in youth sports groups. Push was selected due to his track record of long-standing support for regenerative farming practices, especially in India.

“Being chosen as an regenerator undoubtedly fills me with a sense of honour and humility,” says Push.

Co-organiser of the Imaginarium 2024, Hilary Cox Condron, with 'Imaginarian' and environmentalist Pushpanath Krishnamurthy
Co-organiser of the Imaginarium 2024, Hilary Cox Condron, with 'Imaginarian' and environmentalist Pushpanath Krishnamurthy

The Imaginarium was curated by Ruth Sapsed, director of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination; creative producer and artist Hilary Cox Condron; Nicole Barton, volunteer and events organiser, Cambridge Carbon Footprint; and Alex Elbro, who is charity manager for Cambridge Curiosity & Imagination as well as being a C105 radio presenter.

A sign at the entrance to one of the tents reads ‘Imagine a greener, fairer, more connected Cambridgeshire’. It sounds fair enough, but what does it actually mean, I ask creative director Hilary Cox Condron?

Doin' stuff.... at the Imaginarium. Picture: Mike Scialom
Doin' stuff.... at the Imaginarium. Picture: Mike Scialom

“It’s creating a space where people can think creatively,” she replies, “whether they’re an artist, a campaigner, an environmental organisation or a member of the public. About making a space where things can happen – where people come together and make connections.”

The Repair Cafe team at the site reported 88 items brought in; 70 items repaired; 138kg of waste saved; and 1,253kg of CO2 emissions prevented.

Visitor Wendy Hicken said: “They’ve transformed a small area of King’s College lawn to share and generate some big ideas.”

Imaginarium at King's College, repair cafe. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imaginarium at King's College, repair cafe. Picture: Keith Heppell

Visitors Colin Ramsay - of Six Inches of Soil fame - and Priya Kalia said: “It was a fun, colourful, family-orientated event that highlighted what people can do to reimagine a better world through the lens of climate change, personal responsibility, and local nature and there was lots of drawings and paintings reimagining what that world might look like.

“There was a lot of discussion around what you can do at home to make a difference. It was very interactive and full of energy!”

Creative director Hilary Cox Condron with children from Wilburton Primary School at the Imaginarium. Picture: Keith Heppell
Creative director Hilary Cox Condron with children from Wilburton Primary School at the Imaginarium. Picture: Keith Heppell

Kirzten Newble of CCF said: “Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and organisations for all the enthusiasm, creativity, planning and hard work that made the event so wonderful.”

Ruth Sapsed concluded: “We were just delighted that so many people of all ages spent time in the Imaginarium this weekend. 2,300 visitors joined in, many spending several hours with us.

Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell
Imaginarium at King's College. Picture: Keith Heppell

“Alongside the Repair Cafe, and our Reimagine tent run by Hilary and supported by seven other artists, there were also 15 partner organisations sharing ideas and information and 129 volunteers helping to make things run smoothly - an incredible team effort.

“The overriding feedback has been how people felt welcomed and how they left with a greater sense of hope and a renewed energy to act as regenerators for nature.”



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