In the latter half of 2019, Friends of Ruskin Park led a programme of arts and activities to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of our illustrious Denmark and Herne Hill neighbour and namesake.

With John Ruskin at 200 at an end and having received feedback, we’re really pleased to reflect on the success of the programme.

Why John Ruskin?

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) was an artist, art critic, philanthropist, social theorist, and one of the most progressive influencers on British culture and society. Our beautiful Ruskin Park, close to where he lived on Denmark Hill, was created in 1907 to perpetuate his memory and values. We realised that hundreds of people enjoy the park every day, but perhaps without awareness of John’s ideas and influence.

A lasting legacy

More than 1,000 people actively took part in John Ruskin at 200, by attending and taking part in events and creating works of art.

“The first time I came to Ruskin Park was for this workshop. I was overwhelmed by the beauty and majesty of the park, and inspired by the nature and by John Ruskin’s ideas to develop my own writing.”

– Poetry workshop participant, SLaM

“Very pleased that this is going on, raising awareness and appreciation of both Ruskin’s work and his (long) time in South London.”

– Launch attendee

“The walk offered historical information both about Ruskin and also the development of the park that was new to me even though I have lived locally for nearly fifty years.”

– Walking tour participant

As well as holding a photography competition, we jointly created a booklet of poetry inspired by John Ruskin. The booklet also showcases the winning photos from the competition.

And watch out for our commemorative log wood carving – work will begin soon!

We’re particularly pleased to report that our unique history, and John Ruskin’s significance, are now more widely understood by our diverse community of users. They have been reflected in the emerging park master plan and will influence future park developments.

Strengthening links with the community

In exploring historical roots relevant to the park and its community today, we’re delighted to have built or strengthened partnerships beyond our gates:

Ruskin at 200 launch party
Ruskin at 200 launch party
  • The Charter School North Dulwich
  • Lyndhurst Primary School
  • Carnegie Community Trust
  • Lambeth Archives and Lambeth Heritage Festival
  • Friends of Carnegie Library
  • The Guild of St George
  • South London and Maudsley NHS Trust

Events for all, small and large

poetry at the Ruskin Park fete
Poetry at the Ruskin Park fete

We hosted a varied programme of 22 events, engaging audiences from local schools to mental health service users.

Four walking tours of Ruskin’s Denmark Hill ran, based on new research by author and archivist Jon Newman. There was a free exhibition of archival material relating to Ruskin’s life in Denmark Hill, curated by Lambeth Archives and displayed at Carnegie Library.

Brixton-based poet Francesca Beard led twelve poetry workshops with two local schools, re-interpreting Ruskin’s ideas on education. In partnership with the Maudsley hospital, Francesca also hosted three active learning workshops with mental health service users exploring nature and wellbeing.

Author Suzanne Fagence Cooper gave a talk on ‘Why Ruskin Matters’, and we held an event at Carnegie Library, featuring spoken word performances from poetry workshop participants.

A thousand thank yous

Our big thanks to the programme leader and local resident Mary Patterson and to our funders, the Arts Council, England and the Maas Gallery. Ditto thanks to Tim Walker, the programme photographer. We’re pleased to note that the project was delivered within the plan and budget.