May 31, 2024
Art / Belonging / Land / Land Art / Food / Migration / Plants / Repair / Language / Futurity
Invasion Ecology / Diversity in Gardens / Migrant Futurism

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In 2015 the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation came into force in the United Kingdom, prohibiting the growth, movement and reproduction of 49 species of plants and animals.

At Radical Ecology we have been struck by the actions and reactions of the UK government to these 49 forms of life. Chemical, manual and technological forms of violence have been mobilised to eradicate these so-called ‘invasive alien’ species.

This war waged on plants and animals - suddenly re-framed as ‘invaders’ - started our line of questioning as to who is classified as the invader and who defines when the flourishing of one plant or animal becomes unwelcome.

A case often brought against ‘invasive’ species is that they have the negative consequence of creating monocultures - yet, in contradiction, single-species crops which have been consciously developed by humans for the purposes of food production at vast scales are celebrated.

When something thrives and sustains itself beyond cultivation, it destabilises the structures of power by reaching beyond their control.


Reflecting on these ideas led us to develop a programme of activity in collaboration with arts institutions across Devon and Cornwall including Southcombe Barn, Arts and Culture University of Exeter, Drama and Film University of Exeter, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, KARST Gallery, Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange and Eden Project.

The programme questions what we mean by ‘native’ and what it means to belong - reimagining more empathic connections between humans, plants, animals and landscapes. We use the title Invasion Ecology, a term first coined by Charles Elton in his 1958 study ‘The ecology of invasions by animals and plants’, to challenge his ideas that impose national and political borders on the natural world.

At the centre of the programme is an exhibition on display at Southcombe Barn - an arts space and gardens located in Widecombe-in-the-Moor on the edge of Dartmoor. Artists include Ingrid Pollard, Iman Datoo, Hanna Tuulikki, Ashish Ghadiali, Fern Leigh Albert and Ashanti Hare, with works spanning installation, performance, moving image and photography. The exhibition is on view at Southcombe Barn until 10 August 2024.

The Invasion Ecology programme also includes a series of webinar events with speakers including Banu Subramaniam, Alaa Abu Asad and Yan Wang Preston amongst others. More information on this series will be announced on our website and social media.

Where do we go when we realise that we can’t go back to nature? is a participatory performance designed by Iman Datoo, Tsitsi Mareika Chirikure and Ashish Ghadiali as part of the Invasion Ecology programme and will be performed in venues across Devon and Cornwall. It looks at how and why the language of native and invasive species in our gardens became so pervasive and questions what an alternative vision - one that brings us closer to the truth of our planetary existence - might look like.


The language used around these plants and animals is jarringly similar to the language used to address people seeking asylum or with a migration background. We challenge these false dichotomies beyond the realm of invasion ecology through partnership projects such as Diversity in Gardens (DIG).

Grounded in the power of cultural exchange and nature connection, DIG seeks to build bridges between communities, fostering inclusion in green spaces, land work, and food cultivation skills. The project is built upon shared social values of equality, diversity, and compassion, and aims to break down systemic inequities by providing access to nature for marginalised communities.

The project is a collaboration between Radical Ecology, The Apricot Centre, and Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support (DCRS), rooted in the understanding that the principle of diversity is essential to the regeneration of land, lives, and livelihoods.


Where DIG addresses existing concerns on the ground, Of Other Worlds is an event which addresses the structures of power in society. Of Other Worlds looks to active discussion as a driver towards more compassionate policies around the movement of people.

For Refugee Week, Radical Ecology, in partnership with Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support (DCRS), Arts Institute Plymouth, Plymouth University and the Apricot Centre will bring city and regional stakeholders together in Plymouth to consider connections between immigration and asylum policy in the UK and wider cuts to public services.

How might we imagine, in place of a hostile environment, a just and sustainable future? Shaped as a dynamic and collaborative space, with the objective of generating new ideas for policy, the session aims to demonstrate how an anti-racist approach to public space can also point us in the direction of regenerative economy.


To hold all of the work that we are doing, artist and researcher Iman Datoo is designing and developing a low-carbon website and digital hub for Radical Ecology. This curated space will archive, reflect, and build momentum for cultural programs advocating for environmental justice. The hub intends to bring movement between siloed planes of action and will create pathways for thinking across diverse scales, from the hyper-local to the transnational.

Stay tuned for the hub launch in the next couple of weeks.


In case you are looking for more reading material, here are some texts that are helping us to delve deeper into rethinking invasion:

Banu Subramaniam - Botany of Empire: Banu Subramaniam draws on disparate fields such as queer studies, Indigenous studies, and the biological sciences to provide a roadmap for transforming the colonial foundations of plant science. Subramanian demonstrates how botany’s foundational theories and practices were shaped and fortified in support of colonialism’s extractive ambitions, imagining a more inclusive field of botany untethered and decentered from its origins in histories of racism, slavery, and colonialism.

Jessica J. Lee - Dispersals: In this collection, Jessica J. Lee considers plants that are perceived as being “out of place” - whether weeds, samples collected through imperial science, or crops introduced by human hand. Combining memoir, history, and scientific research, Lee meditates on the question of how both plants and people come to belong - or not - as they cross borders, revealing how all our futures are more entwined than we might imagine.

Rivers Solomon - Sorrowland: In this gothic horror story, a young woman, Vern, escapes from a cult carrying in her body more than just a pregnancy. Her life is deeply entangled with the forest where she births her twins, Howling and Feral, and this connection with human and more than human life continually grows throughout the text. The unfolding of Vern’s story offers a radical re-imagination of what it means to be an invader.

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