Fruit Routes 2010-2022

In 2010 I was invited to propose a project for the Building Green arts programme, a series of works curated by RADAR, Loughborough University’s (L.U.) Contemporary Arts research programme.

The vision of Fruit Routes: To make an edible campus by planting fruit and nut trees along walking and cycle routes across the University Campus and to develop a local fruit, foraging and harvesting culture and trans-disciplinary outdoor learning space at the University open to staff, students and local people.

This project was funded by the University, as part of their Master Plan and Biodiversity Action Plan the following year and started with a residency in October 2011, where I mapped, harvested and shared existing fruit growing across campus (currently unharvested) and introduced students, staff and local residents to on-site foraging. The residency included a site- specific installation, a biodiversity themed feast, apple pressing and interdisciplinary walks and talks. The next stage in February 2012 was to plant the 1km route with students, staff and the local community. This included a wide range of fruits (pear, plum, quince, medlar, mulberry, damson, apple) nuts, berries and hedgerow plants. Variety choices were made in response to the changing climate. We celebrated with a promenade performance around the route with local musicians and performers. The first route was completed in 2015 with a total of 150 trees and several hundred tree whips. Creative events, walks and workshops take place each year inhabiting and marking the route through the seasons. Different departments across the university work with the route for teaching and research i.e. Architecture & Engineering, School of the Arts, Design School and Institute of Advanced Studies. Many different collaborations with local people, artists and experts and university staff and students have taken place as part of Fruit Routes.

This is a long-term project supported by the Sustainability Team, School of the Arts and Institute of Advanced Studies. On handing over this project to a steering group of staff, students and local people in 2022 we co-created a Fruit Routes Charter to guide the project in its next phase and celebrated 10 years as part of the Festival of Ideas: Transition. In 2014 Fruit Routes/Eat Your Campus won the Sustainable Project – Guardian University Award 2014. More details, event archive, maps and images on the Fruit Routes website.

Keywords: intergenerational; food systems; collaborative; seasonal; legacy; interdisciplinary; site specific; long term

Marsha Meskimmon, Director Institute of Advanced Studies, Loughborough University on Fruit Routes celebrating 10 years at the Transitions Festival:

At the centre of the Institute of Advanced Studies’ Transitions Festival was the 10th Anniversary Celebration of Anne-Marie Culhane’s extraordinary living artwork, Fruit Routes. Entrusted to the care of the University as more than a collector’s piece, FR is an invitation to undertake the work of living as art, as an ethico-aesthetic transition and commitment wholly in keeping with Loughborough’s determination to help create the possibility of a more sustainable and equitable world through knowledge and innovation.

Throughout the days and into the evenings, the Route provided riches – old friendships renewed over teas, cakes, and conversations, new friendships forged through song, stories and walks. Time and again our campus community opened to a wider local community through the festivities. It was with great pleasure that I partook in the feast that is Fruit Routes … and its flavours linger with me still.”