London National Park City Talks, Walks and Pop-up Picnic 29 June 2019

Trafalgar Square Fountains

Join us for our next Gathering on Saturday 19th October. Book your tickets here.




Watch Videos of all the Talks

We got together at Conway Hall on 29th June 2019 and explored new futures for life in the capital by asking “what if….?”.

You can watch videos of all the talks on YouTube. We’ve created a Playlist of them all in sequence, or scroll down and watch each of the individual talks below.

Watch All the Talks – Play the Playlist on YouTube >


“Great to talk with those who have been contributing to nature and people for years and even greater to those just starting their contribution – Lesley Wertheimer

“Get your children out of the classroom into the outdoors. 13% kids never go outside with class. – Martin Crabbe, London National Park City Schools Network

“Wonderfully diverse group of Londoners calling for a wilder, greener, healthier and happier . People need, demand and a have a right to ! – Russell Galt, ecologist and director of IUCN Urban Alliance

“What if fountains were wildlife ponds? 50 million visitors per year could enjoy thriving wildlife! – Rory Harding

“What if we lifted the filters over our eyes and looked at urban London differently? London has always been changing what is the next evolution of Trafalgar Square. Seasonal wildlife! – Rory Harding

“The London is for everyone. Yesterday at our Talks it was so inspiring to hear voiced such a strong desire to freely share passions, ideas and knowledge and reach as many people as possible. Everyone can be a Maker – Steve Pocock

“What if environmentalism wasn’t a word but a value that lived within us. Wasn’t a sticky label to wear. What if nature wasn’t a privilege? What if eco habits were not called ‘eco’ and instead a normal way of life?  What if access to green spaces was talked about along safety & learning.

Khadijah and Izzy from asked What If Londoner were Greener? “use the space we have already while being more conscious of how we’re using it.” Our place as young people is often dismissed but we will have to live in the future. – Action4Conserv

Mar learned as a girl that in Spain a squirrel could travel from one end of the country to the other without touching the ground? Now Heston Action Group are asking if we could cross London without touching concrete ? – Mar Pelaez-Muñoz

“What if we all did small acts of defiant beauty? What if we all planted seeds? – Karen Liebreich

“What if we abolished the difference of work time and leisure time…? We need to spend less time consuming and more time noticing and enjoying nature. – Farhana Yamin

“What if YOU KNEW your story today could impact someone 200 years in the future? How may that change your story today… How you live your life today? Nicola White Tide Line Art

“What if there were ELEPHANTS in London?! Peak District volunteer ranger on bringing diversity and sharing Indian culture and stories into our National Parks! – Chamu Kuppuswamy

“What if every school in London signed up for our London National Park City Schools Network? – Martin Crabbe

“Trees are threatened. What if we are the answer to the problem. What If we all took someone to a tree and told them your story of that tree… Tell it your way! Art. History. Anything! – Simon, @TiclMe


Lightning Speakers

We listened to and then enjoyed great Q&A and conversations with the following speakers.


Jasmine and Dani, our co-comperes, introduced the Talks and the power in asking “What If?” with Jasmine exploring “What if we understood the value of all urban wildlife?” and Dani asking “What if the closet door led to the forest? A brief look at Queers in Nature.”

Scroll down to see the rest of the talks from our speakers.


Jasmine_Kamal-Pasha_crop.jpgJasmine Kamal-Pasha

What if we understood the value of all urban wildlife?

Artist and photographer, Jasmine Kamal-Pasha, is inspired by nature and wildlife. The coexistence of man and nature is a topic of great breadth and depth, and it is the adaptation of wild animals to the man-made environment that she finds fascinating. In her own words, Jasmine explains, “The dispute between those who believe urban wildlife are a nuisance and those who believe they are a pleasure, is intriguing, as are the consequences that come with wildlife’s attempt to adapt.” With a background in fine art, Jasmine often creates conceptual photography, encapsulating the relationship between humans and the natural world.


For video see introduction

Dani Singer.jpg

Dani Singer

What if the closet door led to the forest? A brief look at Queers in Nature

Dani is a campaigner and community organiser within LGBTQIA+ rights, and a very keen gardener. They are committed to unearthing Queer histories, and nurturing an understanding of the deep-rooted link between LGBTQIA+ culture and the great outdoors.

For video see introduction


Josh Gaillemin

What if we told more stories?

Josh is a founding partner at theWholeStory who, since 2015, have been helping all sorts from CEOs to volunteers apply and benefit from storytelling to their working lives.



Dwayne Fields + Phoebe Smith

What if… everyone believed they could be an adventurer?

‘It’s not about planting flags, it’s about planting seeds’ that’s Team #WeTwo’s motto. Known for their solo escapades – Dwayne was the first black Briton to walk to the magnetic North Pole and was awarded the Freedom of the City of London, while Phoebe has raised over £42,000 for young homeless people with her Extreme Sleep Outs, suspending herself from UK landmarks and walking across Britain as Wander Woman – they are now working together to, quite literally, change the face of adventure. In November 2019 they aim to complete a world first in Antarctica walking Penguins to Pole. 

But there’s more. They intend to take a group of under-privileged young people to Antarctica in 2020 on a specially chartered expedition ship. Together #WeTwo can change the world. Because while we can all fight for our corner individually, the only way we make things happen is by working together. So that #WeTwo will eventually become #WeToo.

@DwayneFields @PhoebeRSmith

Ruth Siddall.JPG

Ruth Siddall

What if we knew more about London’s geological past? Would that change how we live in the Anthropocene?

Ruth Siddall is a geologist and geoarchaeologist based at University College London. She is passionate about increasing the understanding of the Earth Sciences in the urban environment whether that is the geology of building materials or the underlying bedrock of cities. Earth Sciences tells us the truth about climate change and how the Earth responds to changing environments, it also tells us how living in the Anthropocene will impact our planet; this is information that we all need to know and better understand – the past is the key to understanding the present


afn.pngKhadijah and Izzy 

What if London was greener?

Action for Conservation youth ambassadors asked “What if London was greener?”


Rory Harding .jpg

Rory Harding

What if the Trafalgar Square fountains were wildlife ponds?

Rory is an urban conservationist and works on greening projects across London. He has worked to engage Londoners with the wildlife on their doorstep, and improve access to nature for all. While working with the charity Trees for Cities, Rory has worked on projects including hedge and tree planting in school grounds, new woodland creation in parks and pollution busting hedge and street tree planting across over half of London’s 32 boroughs.



Mar Pelaez-Muñoz and Heston Action Group 

What if we all used a network of green corridors to connect with our neighbours across London?

I am a translator by profession, and a busy beekeeper. I am from Spain originally and have been in the UK for the last 20 years. I have a very keen interest in all things green and how we can use the environment to bring communities and nature together. Heston Action Group is one of my passions – we have achieved so much in just a year and we are all inspired to do so much more.



author paul wood.jpgPaul Wood

What if London was a forest?

The aptly named Paul Wood is the author of two books about London’s urban forest, ‘London is a Forest’ and ‘London’s Street Trees’. He has been exploring and documenting the city’s nature and our relationships with it for many years. He was a trustee of the London Wildlife Trust for six years until 2017. You can find him on social media as @TheStreetTree.



Nicola White

 What if your story could inspire someone two hundred years from now?

Nicola White worked full time in the corporate world for 25 years until she gave up her job in 2016 to pursue her passion of creating art with objects which she collects along the River Thames.


Martin Crabbe

London National Park City Schools Network

Martin is a geography teacher in and chair of the London Sustainable Schools Forum. Martin launched the brand new London National Park City Schools Network, a network for London’s schools/educators getting all London’s children #greener #healthier#wilder as part of London #NationalParkCity



Nicola Hughes

What if you are a super hero?

Nicola Hughes is a policy nerd turned community gardener, and a serial trustee. Nicola has worked in government, at the housing charity Shelter and at the think-tank the Institute for Government. She now advises charities, councils, and the good folk of Westminster on how to make better policy. Recently she has worked with Crisis, HMRC, LB Newham, the Cabinet Office, the Greater London Authority and 38 Degrees. Nicola studied organic horticulture at OrganicLea in Chingford, and works on several community growing sites in East London. She is on the board of FRP, the Forest Recycling Project, a Walthamstow-based social enterprise working with brilliant volunteers to help make London a greener place. She is also a trustee at Fat Macy’s Foundation, which supports young homeless people into housing through food and supper clubs.

@nic_hughes & FRPOnline


Chamu Kuppuswamy

What if there came elephants to London?

Dr. Chamu Kuppuswamy is a London resident and award-winning ranger at the Peak District National Park, and was named in the 2014 Independent Happy 100 List for the top people in Britain who enrich our lives.



Karen Liebreich MBE

Small Acts of Defiant Beauty – creating tiny spaces for nature and aesthetics.
What if everyone did the same?

Karen is co-director of Abundance London and an author. She set up the Chiswick House Kitchen Garden for which she received an MBE in 2013 for services to horticulture and education. She is also trustee of several environmental charities, including Cultivate London.

@kareninagarden & @AbundanceLondon

Farhana Yamin.jpg

Farhana Yamin

What if we abolished the distinction of work & leisure? Rights of Nature – legal and Extinction Rebellion activism around London

Farhana is an international environmental lawyer; specialist in international politics and law of climate change; adviser to small islands states for the last 25 years including at the 2015 Paris Agreement; strategist and adviser to foundations and NGOs working on the links between sustainability, nature connection and social justice. She is also an Extinction Rebellion activist.



Zunaira Malik

What if environmentalism wasn’t a thing?

Programme Coordinator, Action for Conservation explored pressing questions like.. What if environmentalism wasn’t a word but a value that lived within us. Wasn’t a sticky label to wear. What if nature wasn’t a privilege? What if eco habits were not called ‘eco’ and instead a normal way of life?  What if access to green spaces was talked about along safety & learning.



Penny Metal

What if everyone had a pot of lavender in their front garden?

Penny Metal is a graphic designer, insect photographer and author of Insectinside: life in the bushes of a small Peckham park. She has an interest in habitats for insects in small urban spaces.




Des Garrahan

Former Chair of The Ramblers’ Board of Trustees (2015-2018) launched London 

National Park City Walkers. Read more very soon over on our Groups page.


We also had a number of groups give rapid “1 minute” talks.

Simon Edwards from TiCLM

Sally Long from Friends of Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, London

Joe Pecorelli from ZSL

Chris King’s Our City London



 #NationalParkCity Makers, Radicals, Geologists, Tree Huggers, Optimists …   Just some of our volunteers who made the day possible.

The Day’s Schedule

National Park City Talks 13:00 – 16:30

Let’s dream the possible as we explore the power of asking “What if…..?”. Come to hear short, inspiring and thought-provoking talks from over 20 activists, adventurers, growers, photographers and more as they share ideas and dream the possible. After hearing the talks we’ll open the conversation into a forum for anyone to ask questions and exchange thoughts.

Two sessions with plenty of time for making friends, connecting and enjoying the day.

Our talks are presented in partnership with the very kind support of Conway Hall.


We’ll adventure with Dwayne Fields and Phoebe Smith who will ask “What if… everyone believed they could be an adventurer?” as they plan their #WeTwo Antarctic Expedition in November 2019. Known for their solo escapades they have decided to team up together to show that anyone – from any background, sex or race – can make their wildest dreams come true.

“What if you are a super hero?” will ask Pernille Moeller from the Forest Recycling Project. Author Paul Wood (@theStreetTree) will take a different look at London in “What if London were a forest?”. Mar Pelaez-Muñoz of the Heston Action Group will be asking “What if we all used a network of green corridors to connect with our neighbours across London?” Josh Gaillemin of theWholeStory will take us on a journey and ask “What if we told more stories?”

We’ll think about what National Park City Rangers can bring to London with Chamu Kuppuswamy, and how London can respond to the climate emergency with climate change lawyer & Extinction Rebellion activist Farhana Yamin. Then “What if the Trafalgar Square fountains were wildlife ponds?” with Rory Harding. Karen Liebreich of Abundance London will argue for “Small acts of defiant beauty.”

We’ll hear about the hidden geology all around us in pavement and buildings from Ruth Siddall, find out about what can be found in the Thames’ mud with Nicola White, and get to know the lifes of London’s amazing secret population of insects with photographer and DJ Penny MetalJasmine Kamal-Pasha will continue her investigation at the boundary of those who believe urban wildlife is a nuisance and those who believe it is a pleasure….

And even more to be announced …

Pop-Up Picnic 11:30 – 12:45

Bring some food along and join in with our Pop-Up Picnic Fair in Red Lion Square. There will be lots of groups coming along to share opportunities for helping to make London greener, healthier and wilder or to get outside and enjoy London more. Feel free to chat to people in these groups, explore the gardens, enjoy some interactive art or simply fill yourself up ahead of the National Park City Talks. Red Lion Square is a beautiful small park, is right outside Conway Hall and has its own cafe, Pistachios in the Park, too! With the hard work of Friends of Red Lion Square and Camden Council and its new signs, new benches, and flowers it is looking great! 

If you represent a group and would like to be part of the pop-up fair, please apply for a space here.

National Park City Walks 17:00 – 18:00

Join free walks guided by experts.You will be able to book them on the day.

Urban Geology in Midtown: the building stones of Holborn and Bloomsbury with Dr Ruth Siddall, UCL, @PavementGeology

This walk will introduce the architectural history of this area of London through the geology of its building stones. Discover the ecology of Jurassic seas and ancient Scandinavian granites on the walls of London’s buildings. Starting at Conway Hall and ending at a local pub.

Urban Forest Exploration: Midtown Trees with author and street tree fanatic, Paul Wood, @TheStreetTree

A chance to discover the surprising diversity of trees found in the inner city: on the streets, in the squares and growing between the cracks. From grand London Planes to opportunistic Trees of Heaven with some rare and exotic species along the way too. Starting at Conway Hall and ending at a local pub.

Building on the success of last year, the National Park City Talks and Pop-up Picnic Fair 2019 took place at Conway Hall in Red Lion Square, Holborn on Saturday 29th JUNE. 

 Conway Hall & Red Lion Square • 25 Red Lion Square • London • WC1R 4RL • Saturday 29th JUNE 2019

• speakersinspiration • free walkswhat if? • free National Park City Maker guidesmaps • volunteering • picnics • makers friends • connections • wilder • greener • healthier 

We hope you will come along for a new view of London, and to meet lots of fantastic and lovely people. And leave knowing to how to make a difference!

[Most photos by Jasmine Kamal-Pasha and Justin McDermott]

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The 1st National Park City Fair 2018

Last year’s Fair was a great success. See all the photos and read all about the speakers, the exhibitors and events over on our London National Park City Fair 2018 pages.

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