Rebuilding Beirut’s port: an opportunity for social justice

By Nadine Khayat

An aerial view shows the massive damage done to Beirut’s port on 4 August 2020
Image: Alex Gakos /

On 4 August 2020, a powerful explosion in Beirut’s port left the city devastated with thousands of people injured and dozens dead. It took a few seconds to destroy around 40% of the city’s urban, social and architectural fabric and heritage.

In the aftermath of the explosion, we have a rare opportunity to instil social justice in the city and commemorate the victims by reimagining the destroyed port; linking the city’s seafront public spaces and reinstating historic links that the port had to the seafront, the city and its inhabitants.

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“If there is no empirical evidence that supports the need for gardens, who can blame city planners for removing them?”

If gardeners can vouch for the benefits of their green space, why don’t policy makers listen?

The mental and physical benefits of gardens are commonly acknowledged and enthusiastically celebrated. Despite this, there is still a lack of scientific evidence proving their value: until now.

By Dr Ross Cameron

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Our cities are ‘naturally challenged’: here’s why

Image: Neil Mitchell/Shutterstock

By Dr Nicola Dempsey

A new book co-edited by Dr Nicola Dempsey highlights the damaging mismatches between what we know about nature and what we do in practice. Online book launch of Naturally Challenged, 08 October 2020, 17.00 BST.

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Why public spaces are important in post war countries

Nadine Khayat


Last year, I embarked on a PhD investigating multiculturalism in public spaces in my hometown Beirut. One of the goals of my work was to learn from Beirut’s crowded and multicultural seafront lessons that could be applicable to the city’s less used green public spaces. And while we tend to think about public spaces as spaces for leisure and respite, in the context I was working on, Beirut- I was also looking at these spaces as spaces of insurgency, temporality, contestation and collective action.

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The environment is hotting up, but is it our political climate that is bad for street trees?

Camilla Allen


How is it possible that in a period where climate warming is one of the major issues affecting the survival of humanity that street trees are not considered as a vital part of the urban ecosystem, and thus integrated in the political debate?

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Debating the financial future of Sheffield’s parks

Dr Nicola Dempsey


This is the second of two blogs sharing the debate we held as part of the recent The Great Outdoors exhibition in the Winter Gardens, Sheffield.

Co-hosted with colleagues Jill Dickinson and Will Easdon at Sheffield Institute of Policy Studies, Sheffield Hallam University, we asked four speakers to debate the financial future of urban parks. The speakers were Councillor Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure, Sheffield City Council), Sue France (Green Estate which is custodian of Manor Fields Park), Peter Neal (landscape architect and environmental planner), Andy Jackson (Heeley Trust which is custodian of Heeley People’s Park). The debate was chaired by Dr Julian Dobson (Department of Landscape Architecture) who asked the following questions:

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Debating the future of urban parks

Dr Nicola Dempsey


I recently co-convened The Great Outdoors exhibition in the Winter Gardens, Sheffield with the Sheffield Institute of Policy Studies (Sheffield Hallam University), Drink Wise: Age Well and Sheffield City Council (Parks & Countryside). As part of this I hosted a debate on the future of urban parks with Hallam colleagues Jill Dickinson and Will Easdon.

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Cataloging by the book

Bristol entry

Playing the Archive Team

Playing the Archive: Memory, Community, and Mixed Reality Play, which is an ESPRC collaborative project, aims to explore the nature of play through the ages, and bring together archive material with modern technology. A key part of this project is to digitise and catalogue substantial sections of the Opie manuscript, held at the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries.

The Sheffield cataloguing team are currently constructing the Place Name Authority in their catalogue of the Iona and Peter Opie Archive. Read more…

Green spaces help combat loneliness – but they demand investment

File 20181023 169831 v37hq9.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Filipe Frazao /

Julian Dobson, University of Sheffield

Urban green spaces – including parks, woodlands, riverbanks, and gardens – are an essential part of a web of physical and mental well-being. They provide spaces to socialise and opportunities to connect with the natural world. They are restorative enclaves in stressful cities.

The UK government’s first strategy on loneliness, recently launched, recognises the importance of green spaces in supporting this web of connections. But England’s urban natural environment is increasingly at risk, jeopardising the ambitions of the loneliness strategy from the outset. Read more…

Peace through Purpose: A week with Scottish rewilding charity, Trees for Life

An area of the Caledonian Forest where the scots pine and birch trees are not being replaced by new growth. Camilla Allen, 2018.

Camilla Allen

In late September I was standing at Inverness station two hours before I was meant to be there. A pause which afforded a moment of reflection on the rush of the preceding week: writing, starting teaching, going to talks, delivering a lecture… It had been busy, and suddenly I was on the cusp of something different and unknown: a week volunteering for Trees for Life in the Highlands of Scotland, working to restore the Caledonian Forest. But was a week in the wilds really a good idea, considering that I am aiming to have my thesis written by Christmas and done and dusted early next year, ready for submission? One might think that it all was a bit of a distraction from the major task at hand… that it might even *gasp* be considered a holiday. Read more…

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