The BIG idea

Tigger at the Greenhouse gallery and café in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk

Tigger at the Greenhouse gallery and café in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk - Credit: Archant

Please tell us a little about the history of The Greenhouse.

Tigger at the Greenhouse gallery and café in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk

Tigger at the Greenhouse gallery and café in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith for EDP Norfolk - Credit: Archant

The Greenhouse Trust was the first Norfolk-based educational charity to focus its goals around the environmental challenges created by man-made climate change. The trust bought this listed Grade Two-star building in the centre of Norwich and has restored it as a working model of what we can to do to make our homes and businesses sustainable.

What are the major achievements of the trust during the past two decades – and what are the biggest challenges it is involved with now?

The trust set precedents for the installation of solar hot water and solar electricity generation technology on a listed Grade Two-star building in Norwich and pioneered the use of natural insulation materials like cork, wool and recycled paper. I guess our greatest success is that as a consequence of thousands of conversations with visitors over time, environmental design ideas are now no longer viewed as “cranky”. Today, installing solar technology generates a better return than any ISA. The cultural shift across the past two decades is very noticeable, the motivations for being green are as much about reducing the cost of energy bills as the need to stop burning fossil fuels.

What events are being planned to mark the 20th anniversary of The Greenhouse Trust?

We have commissioned four local artists to create images of the Greenhouse building to celebrate it as a Norwich landmark. During the year we’ve focussed on securing Arts Council funding to involve the region’s artists in the issues that flow from increasingly extreme weather and global warming. As the recent storm surges have shown, Norfolk is a low-lying region of the planet and has some very serious challenges to face. We are now working with local artists who we believe are well placed to engage, educate and inspire.

What sort of people and organisations are involved at The Greenhouse?

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The Greenhouse runs on voluntary effort and also has a very wide range of “Friends” and supporters. We are always interested in working with other environmental education organisations. We recently promoted the national Butterfly Conservation count and Norfolk Forestry Club during Open Studios, alongside Friends of the Earth’s national BeeCause campaign. We are currently arranging promotions with Survival and Solar Aid. Although the campaigns we run and support and the people involved in them constantly change, the underlying issue is always sustainability. The Greenhouse website provides links to numerous organisations which promote ideas and actions for sustainable living.

So, Tigger, what is The Greenhouse’s Big Idea for drawing attention to the challenges of climate change?

The Marchioness of Worcester is a patron of the trust and is helping promote our next project, entitled Melt. Other fabulous local folk like Stephen Fry tweet to help us spread the message.

The Greenhouse has a bookshop, café, courtyard garden, shop, and gallery, so there are lots of ways the public can enjoy the space. The Arts Council have part-funded an exhibition at the Forum in Norwich which will run from November 25 to 29. We will also show work in our gallery space on the first floor of the Greenhouse throughout October and November in preparation for an evening charity auction at the Forum on November 28.

The Greenhouse Trust is raising funds for its Climate Art Fund which will continue to develop the role of art and local artists in promoting solutions to the serious environmental challenges facing us all. Engaging and supporting artists is also important to us as a way of supporting the both the local economy and Norwich as a fine art city. Rebecca Mayhew from Durrants Auction Rooms in Beccles has kindly offered to be our auctioneer; we welcome gifts of relevant art work from artists, collectors and business to support our work.

The Greenhouse, 42-46 Bethel Street, Norwich, NR2 1NR; 01603 631007; Open Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4.30pm.

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