Imagine Bamboo

Appetite & Imagine Bamboo

Bridge2Bamboo R&D 2020 – 22

A collaboration with Imagineer and independent artistic director, Orit Azaz, that began 2 years ago, as part of Imagineer’s Bridge project.

In Summer 2020, Appetite hosted a Bridge Kit, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s design for a self supporting bridge. In line with the themes of the project, we invited local groups to come together to build bridges in outdoor public spaces and to connect with each other after many months of lockdown. 

At the same time, we recorded conversations with residents of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Kidsgrove about their experiences of building bridges – and burning bridges – in their lives and families to create Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-Under-Lyme Bridge Stories Podcast, produced by writer Nick Walker.

Imagineer and Orit wanted to build on these conversations and bridge building activity by inviting people to design and build installations in outdoor spaces in their neighbourhoods which could then come together to form something spectacular. Together, we embarked on Bridge2Bamboo R&D in 2021, with a virtual Bamboo Creative Exchange Lab, bringing together bamboo specialists from Ghana, India and Bali to share skills and expertise with artists, designers and engineers in the UK. Local architect Kim Mountford and Appetite’s Community Participation Co-ordinator Sammy Bishop joined the lab and then used the bamboo model making skills they learnt to develop creative conversations with groups about structures they would like to see in outdoor spaces in their neighbourhoods.

Taking Root

We discovered that bamboo is widely viewed, by engineers, architects, green entrepreneurs, academics and environmentalists, as one of the most sustainable materials on the planet for design, construction, business, soil remediation and carbon capture. In Imagine Bamboo 2022, we’ve explored what we can create, design, build and grow with UK grown borinda bamboo. 

Taking Root’ Project devised by artist Ling Tan in collaboration with Imagineer and Orit Azaz. 17 bamboo parents cared for baby borinda plants in their homes, sharing observations and co-ordinating with each on the growing process, before taking part in Plant Ceremonies at Keele University and at Root n Fruit. 

During the ceremony, parents and participants in the project came together to meet Orit and Ling and  planted 11 of the plants at Keele Hall walled garden allotments. Another 3 plants were planted at Root n Fruit in Middleport. The school group from St John’s attended along with Michael Brisbane (bamboo expert) and others from Keele University. We moved onto Root n Fruit to plant their plants at their allotment afterwards.

Imagine Bamboo R&D 2022

Local artists Francesca Wheeler, Chloe Rickett and Monica Cru-Hall worked alongside artists from Liverpool City Region and bamboo specialists from Bali, India, Ghana, Australia and UK at the Imagine Bamboo Summit, commissioned by Commonwealth Games and presented as part of Birmingham 2022 Festival. They also held activities for the public at Dancing Through The Decades in June, Better World Festival in July and brought the work with communities from the area together at the Big Feast on 27 August.

They also worked with The Portland Inn project, All Saints Garden, Knutton and Middleport Matters to explore creative ideas for structures and musical instruments using borinda bamboo!

Imagine Bamboo at Keele University 23 …

In March 2023, as part of Keele University Green Festival, Appetite and Imagineer, along with Atelier One and ArtsKeele, worked together to build a prototype 6-metre-high arch swing made from UK-grown borinda bamboo. The arch was a recreation of an original created for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Building it on campus was the culmination of lots of collaboration with a whole host of innovators from the worlds of art, environmental science and structural engineering, with the aim of increasing stability. This larger-than-life experiment aimed to create a structure that could support a usable swing.

And it’s fair to say that the experiment was a resounding success. Volunteers and professionals came together in a huge community build over three days. Once tested for stability, over 150 people (and two dogs) enjoyed the swing on the day. Not only that, circus artist-engineer brought a world first with  stunning cloud swing performances on the arch!

… and beyond!

We’re excited to continue to work with this incredible material and to see what new ideas take root in our area as part of Imagine Bamboo 2023!

Appetite, along with our partners, want to make sure that the global research into bamboo continues right here in Stoke and Newcastle. We aim to develop a legacy project to stay connected to the work locally.

If you’re interested in joining the conversation and learning how you can be involved, please get in touch

As for Imagine Bamboo, it’s been on tour throughout summer 2023 across Liverpool and will be heading to more towns and cities soon. Follow the journey over at the Imagine Bamboo is Everywhere 2023 web page!

And if you were a part of Taking Root, or any stage of our bambo adventure over the last few years, let us know what you loved, learned and are doing now. Are you growing your own bamboo? Show us a picture on Facebook @appetite.stoke or Instagram @appetite_stoke 🎍😊👍


Imagine Bamboo is supported by Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Council.

Images by Jenny Harper Photography 

Video by Juntion15