Project Pylon gets local school children involved in superhub mural design

08 November 2022

Local artist Andrew Manson, better known as Mani, had help from school children at St Swithun’s CE Primary School for a mural to celebrate the opening of Europe’s most powerful electric vehicle (EV) charging hub at Redbridge Park & Ride. The hub is part of Energy Superhub Oxford, a four-year project designed to help Oxford reach net zero by 2040.

The Year 5 pupils spent the day working on Project Pylon, designing and creating their own electricity pylons out of willow, with help from Mani and Sandy Kelly, a graduate engineer from EDF Renewables UK, the lead partner on Energy Superhub Oxford.

The winning team’s design, a turtle-dragon inspired pylon, has been incorporated into the mural and can be seen alongside the new EV charging hub. All of the children’s willow pylons are now a feature of the school’s woodland garden.

The day was an opportunity for the children to learn about renewable energy and its importance in tackling the climate crisis, in the context of positive action being taken locally to create a cleaner energy future.

Mini Patel and Megan Bamforth, Year 5 class teachers at St Swithun’s said: “Being involved in Project Pylon enabled us to give a real-life context to our work on climate change and sustainability. Children benefitted from working directly with experts from the field of engineering and the arts, they learnt new skills and also the importance of these careers within our economy. 

“Working with Mani and Sandy truly inspired our Year 5s. Project Pylon was the highlight of the children’s year and sparked conversations in school and at home about the climate crisis and what we can do to tackle it.”

The mural is one of the largest outdoor art projects in the city and took Mani approximately one week to paint. It was commissioned by Oxford City Council and EDF Renewables UK to inspire positive action on climate change, promote Oxford’s net zero 2040 ambition and communicate the role of Energy Superhub Oxford in delivering this.

Mani said: “The mural was a great project and team to work with, and I was really excited to be part of it. It’s such an important step towards net zero, and I got the chance to research the science behind it and translate that into something colourful. Working with young people in the workshop and seeing science, art and ideas coming together was fantastic.”

Energy Superhub Oxford is a world-leading urban decarbonisation project pioneering an integrated approach to decarbonising power, transport and heat. The mural showcases each aspect of the project – including the ground source heat pump installations at Blackbird Leys, the giant battery at Cowley substation, the charging hub at Redbridge Park & Ride and the electrification of over 40 of ODS’ fleet – and provides a vision for a net zero Oxford. QR codes throughout the mural provide more information on different aspects of the design.

The project will save 10,000 tonnes of CO2 every year, equivalent to taking over 2,000 cars off the road, increasing to 25,000 tonnes by 2032. It aims to provide a blueprint for towns and cities around the world to simultaneously scale up green transport, power and heating, pushing new frontiers in the race to keep global warming below 1.5°C.

Councillor Imogen Thomas, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford and Climate Justice, Oxford City Council, said: “I’m delighted that we were able to bring together local schoolchildren, industry experts, and local artist, Mani, to help create this mural for the Energy Superhub Oxford project. The climate emergency can be a complicated and overwhelming topic to explain, but we’ve seen time and time again that children and young people are more than willing to listen. Art is a universal language and I want to thank everyone who was involved in creating this beautiful mural.”

Tim Rose, Programme Manager, Energy Superhub Oxford at EDF Renewables UK added: “Working with the very talented Mani to create the mural was a fantastic experience. It’s incredible to see how emotive art can be, reminding us in a very visceral way why we must act now to accelerate net zero and protect our planet for future generations.”

QUOTES from the Winning Team:

We used teamwork to win as we fused our ideas and split our group to make each part of our turtle dragon. This project taught me to think outside the box and to be more aware of our ecosystem.” Adam

“Our design was inspired by dragons and turtles. Using willow for our design made me think more about eco-friendly materials. Talking to Mani and Sandy made me realise that change is possible and change needs to happen now.” Maani

“Sandy and Mani helped me understand that if we change our thinking, we can help save our planet. It was really interesting to talk to Sandy as I am considering being a Royal Engineer in the Army to help our country. The project highlighted the importance of teamwork and positive communication.” Josh

QUOTES from Year 5 children:

“I liked how sandy and Mani opened our eyes and minds to using willow rather than plastic straws. They made us think about responsible use of materials.” Reme

Our design was inspired by nature and plants. I learnt more about sustainability but also how to persevere as a team.” Amelie

“Having met Sandy, I would consider a career in engineering. I liked the way that he can use his skills and knowledge to make an important difference to our future. This project also taught me to always think about eco-friendly options and not give up at the first hurdle.” Charlotte


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