John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) was an artist, art critic, philanthropist, social reformer, and one of the most progressive influencers on British culture and society.

He loved beauty and nature and wanted to protect the environment from capitalism and industry. He was angry about the way that money so often makes things ugly, both ugly looking and ugly inside. He believed in changing the education system to one that helped everyone to find beauty and purpose in their world, not just wealthy men, but women and the working class.

He thought that the Victorian education system, which concentrated on trying to teach children facts by rote, was wrong-thinking and argued for a system that allowed students to learn by observation, to learn things that would help them to live rich lives, not in terms of money, but in terms of connection to beauty.

To mark the bicentenary of his birth, I’m working with pupils from Lyndhurst Primary School and The Charter School North Dulwich to explore John Ruskin’s ideas about education. Using creative writing and active learning techniques each student will develop individual critical thinking in order to question what it means to be ‘good’ in the world and what ‘wealth’ means for different people in the community.

I am also running sessions with The Recovery College, based at the nearby Maudsley Centre to look at if and how creativity, nature and conversations about aesthetics and appreciation of beauty can impact wellbeing and health.

Together, we will create poems, to be shared at a celebratory fete in Ruskin Park on 22nd June 2019.

For a full programme of events, please click on the link below.

There is no wealth but life. Life, including all its powers of love, of joy, and of admiration. That country is the richest which nourishes the greatest numbers of noble and happy human beings; that man is richest, who, having perfected the functions of his own life to the utmost, has also the widest helpful influence, both personal, and by means of his possessions, over the lives of others.
— John Ruskin

These and other events have been commissioned by The Friends of Ruskin Park and generously supported by Arts Council England and Maas Galleries.