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Muddy good show

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16 July 2012

Visitors to the 2012 Royal Norfolk Show got a real understanding of the importance of soil to farming thanks to a muddy good collaboration between agriculturalists, scientists and artists.


The Saw Trust at the 2012 Royal Norfolk Show  

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The Centre for Contemporary Agriculture commissioned Dr Jenni Rant of the Science, Art and Writing Trust to produce a series of children's activities based on the theme of mud. Visitors got the chance to make miniature profiles of the different soil layers beneath their feet, hunted for mini-beasts in leaf litter and saw how compost is made from household waste.

With the help of local artist Lara A'Court hundreds of children created a large and unique piece of community art. 450 children aged from 3 to 17 blended soils, sand and stones with glue to form pastes to make a painting called 'The Land Beneath Our Feet.' The art represents the hidden scene beneath the Norfolk landscape, celebrating our soils and making us consider the footprints we leave behind. 'The Land Beneath Our Feet' was displayed at The Forum in Norwich, and will be displayed at different venues across Norfolk.

Henry Cator, Chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, visited the stand and said "The work of the SAW Trust is a really good example of how imaginative interaction with children can lead all ages to a greater understanding and appreciation of the basic fundamentals of life, such as the importance of soils for food production."

David Lawrence, president of the Royal Norfolk Show and Principal of Easton College saw the art in action during the show and is delighted that the finished work will be moving to Easton College's schools barn.

The Land Beneath Our Feet on display at The Forum, Norwich. Image: JIC
The Land Beneath Our Feet on display at The Forum, Norwich. Image: JIC

Six year old, Thomas Mack said "I liked painting with the mud, it was really fun and I'd like to do it again and again and again! It was really messy!"

The SAW Trust was founded in 2005 by Professor Anne Osbourn of the John Innes Centre (JIC) and specialises in bringing people together for exciting projects that explore diverse topics through practical science and creative arts. SAW provides projects for schools and public events and works with all kinds of organisations to create bespoke educational and promotional activities. It is supported by JIC, the John Innes Foundation (JIF), the University of East Anglia (UEA) and The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Professor John Turner, Chair of the CCA said "It is probably not widely known that two of the key qualities for scientists are imagination and creativity; these qualities are absolutely essential in the task to discover new knowledge. This project was set up by The SAW Trust with the single intention to encourage young people to take images that result from scientific investigation and put their own interpretation on this."

The Centre for Contemporary Agriculture's mission is to deliver first-class education and skills-training in agriculture and food production. The emphasis is on understanding and meeting the current challenges facing agriculture and food production, and on preparing to meet future challenges. The focus is on developing skills for employment in the agri-food sector.

The CCA represents a collaboration between the University of East Anglia and Easton College which is supported by partner institutes including the John Innes Centre, the Institute of Food Research, The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, and the National Institute for Agricultural Botany and The Arable Group (NIAB-TAG).

Elsewhere on the CCA stand at the Royal Norfolk Show Easton College had constructed a model showing how crop plants interact with the soil. The John Innes Centre presented work on the importance of microbes in soil. The stand won an award for the educational exhibit which best demonstrates its facilities.


Notes to editors

For more information on working with The SAW Trust please visit

To find out more about the Centre for Contemporary Agriculture visit

SAW (reg charity no. 1113386) is supported by BBSRC, JIC, JIF and UEA

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