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Cultural Reforesting: Darkness in Urban Spaces

As part of an artist-led research programme, Cultural Reforesting, we are looking for an artist or artist collective to explore the theme of darkness in urban spaces. You can download this artist brief as a document.

The deadline for artists to submit expressions of interest was Sunday 16 July 2023.

About us

We are collaborating with the Planning Policy team on Cultural Reforesting.

The Arts Service aims to build community through creativity. We foster creativity and enjoyment of the arts, enable people to reflect on their lives and develop new ways of seeing the world. 

The Planning Policy team is responsible for setting out priorities for the development of the borough and writing the polices and guidance that are used to make decisions. Factors considered include transport, climate and sustainability, design, health and wellbeing and involving local people in the planning process.

Cultural Reforesting

Cultural Reforesting asks the big question, how can we renew our relationship with nature? Through a range of artist-led, interdisciplinary research projects over this decade, which scientists have defined as the crucial one to act, the programme aims to provide wide-ranging positive action in this ecological crisis.

These projects have led to films, exhibitions, sculptures, young people’s projects, schools’ workshops and more. For more visit the Orleans House Gallery website,

About the project

Choosing whether to light our parks and open spaces can be a contentious issue. Many of Richmond’s green spaces are left intentionally dark to avoid unnecessary artificial lighting that can disturb protected species like bats. These spaces are called ‘dark corridors’.

However, for many people who use parks and green space to walk dogs, commute to and from work and for leisure, darkness can compromise their ability to use and enjoy the spaces. We also need to ensure community safety.

It’s currently not a requirement to protect ‘dark corridors’ in planning terms. Much of the UK experiences excess light pollution, particularly in London.

This project could impact policy and strategy around the borough, influenced by the voices involved.

The brief

We are looking for an artist or artist collective from any discipline to explore this theme and work with local communities to understand darkness in urban environments. Artist(s) should have socially engaged participatory practices at the core of their work.

  • How do we balance the needs of human park users with more-than-human ones?
  • What do ideas of darkness mean to our cultures in 2023?
  • Is darkness a human right / should everyone have access to darkness?
  • Does light ensure community safety and does darkness equate to risk?

We are keen for the artist(s) to work collaboratively with local people, where process is as important as the potential output. We are therefore open to an output that organically arrives through the project and is realistic to the budget.

We expect artist(s) to be self-sufficient in managing production of the project.

Outputs will be displayed as part of the Richmond Arts & Ideas Festival in 2025.

What we will provide

We will provide:

  • £12,000 (excluding VAT) inclusive of all artist fees, production support, materials and expenses for the delivery of the project. All costs incurred directly by the artist(s) will be subject to VAT unless registered as VAT exempt.
  • Support connecting with individuals and communities in Richmond


The deadline for submission of expressions of interest was Sunday 16 July 2023.

Selection and interview

We will be selecting three artists to further discuss their project ideas. There will be a fee of £250 per artist or artist collective/group invited to interview to share their ideas.

Creatives will be selected using the following criteria:  

  • Concept thoughts in response to the brief
  • Experience of working with communities
  • A socially-engaged practice
  • A clear collaborative research practice
  • An experimental approach

Project timeline

Key dates for the project.

  • Sunday 16 July 2023 - Deadline for submission of expression of interest
  • Friday 21 July 2023 - Shortlisted artists contacted and invited to interview
  • Week commencing 14 August 2023 - Interviews
  • August 2023 - Artist or collective appointed
  • September 2023 to September 2024 - Project runs
  • June 2025 - Richmond Arts and Ideas Festival 

Updated: 18 July 2023

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