Meet the Urban Wilderness Team

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We started researching the relationship between young people who live in disadvantaged urban areas and nature in 2016. We invited groups of young people to explore local areas of disused wild space and asked “If this was your space what would you do here?”. As a result we spent 2 years adventuring, climbing trees, picking flowers, building dens, floating rafts, taking photographs, painting and making friends. The young people we work with have taken ownership of their local wild spaces and told us “It’s just not good enough, you guys being here three times a year. You really need to be here every week!”

So here we are! Urban Wilderness CIC is a social enterprise that will support young people and communities to get outside, adventuring, building and playing in disused wild spaces across Stoke on Trent and beyond, Explore the site to find out what we’ve discovered so far, what we’re doing next and how you can get involved.

Let us introduce ourselves…

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Laurel Gallagher


Laurel has been working with young people in formal and informal education since 2003. She led the interdisciplinary research project Feral Spaces, working with young people to repurpose disused urban spaces for adventure, creativity and play. Working with academic partners under the name Feral State Laurel develops action research projects evidencing the positive impact that connecting young people with disused urban land has on their wellbeing, sense of identity and belonging.

"For me it's all about empowering young people. Feeling connected to the place you live, the nature around you and the communities you live in has a significant effect on young people's health and wellbeing, especially in deprived urban areas."

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Isla Telford


Isla Telford is a project and events co-ordinator with a background in social housing and community engagement.

Isla has worked with a range of organisations in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire to animate and celebrate public spaces, including the New Vic Theatre and Keele University's Live Age project, Newcastle Under Lyme's Midwinter Wakes project, and the NSDDP's Discover Dance festival.

She runs a Code Club for 9 - 13 year olds.

"Children typically have a lot of restrictions and expectations placed upon them. When you step back and listen, allow them space and time, and respond by adapting your approach to their needs, everybody is enriched and the results are amazing."

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Jenny Harper


A ‘Stokie’ born and bred, Jenny qualified as a solicitor before becoming a documentary photographer and videographer after having her children. She is passionate about the benefits of being outdoors and taking advantage of the vast array of wonderful disused green spaces in urban environments.

Jenny has worked with the Feral Spaces project since 2016. She loves working with young people as they are less reserved in sharing their thoughts and more open to new ideas and experiences.