A city-centre garden of magical proportions

Did you know that more than 80% of plants found in UK city-gardens originated overseas?

For 17 days in September 2022, giant architectural trees created a canopy over a spectacular pop-up garden in Victoria Square, Birmingham. A vibrant programme of free events animated this urban oasis, where thousands of plants and flowers were co-planted by the city’s residents.

The super-natural wonderland uncovered the origin stories of the plants we know so well, including daisies, pansies, apple trees and roses. These, and in fact most of the plants we see in our gardens are not from the UK. These plants tell the story of journeys, movement, dispersal, and new roots.

PoliNations was a celebration of colour, beauty, and natural diversity. A place for everyone to explore, enjoy and be their true unique selves.

“PoliNations takes its inspiration from the fundamental truth that the very landscape and plant life that surrounds us each day is multicultural. It celebrates the colour and vibrancy that plants and flowers have brought to the UK and invites us to reimagine our societies as more diverse, greener and wilder places to be.”

Angie Bual — Creative Director of PoliNations and Co-Director of Trigger

Project story

Part one

Ideas & Research

Did you know that around 80% of plants found in UK city-gardens originated overseas?

The ideas informing PoliNations were found in research by ecologist and entomologist Professor Jane Memmott OBE. Jane is an expert on the interactions between insect pollinators and plants, and in particular the role that cities can play as a home to pollinators. Work by author and biological scientist Jon Drori informed our 8 Iconic Plants, who’s stories were woven throughout the PoliNations programme.

 *Statistic taken from a forthcoming study by Professor Jane Memmott, Professor of Ecology at Bristol University and President of the British Ecological Society, and colleagues.

Part two

Creative Programme

Taking the form of an epic pop-up garden bursting with living plant life and sheltered by 40-foot-tall architectural trees, PoliNations uncovered the origin stories of many mainstays of traditional UK gardens:

From the ‘Hybrid Tea Rose’ (hybridised China and Asian forms), classic ‘Weeping Willows’ (introduced from China and the Middle East), lavender (brought over from countries around the Mediterranean), apple trees (imported from Kazakhstan) and tulips (Central Asia). 

Together, they paint a picture of the journeys, migration, dispersal of plants we now consider to be part of our shared ecological identity. PoliNations was a vibrant reflection on the UK’s complex histories surrounding migration and diversity. Whilst celebrating our differences, our roots, and our future, the rich programme emphasised the importance of access to green spaces and a healthy planet.  

Part three


Various elements of the PoliNations programme have now been developed as concept-rich standalone experiences.

Using the specially commissioned PoliNations tuk tuk, TEABREAK is a brand-new touring show that tells the story and history of tea. As you stir your cup, gently glide through the journey of tea with a transportive audio piece and live dance performance. Follow tea across continents and centuries, onto our shores and into our teapots as the great comforter of our time. 

The TEABREAK Tuk Tuk was first presented in September 2023 as part of PoliNations Birmingham, originally developed to represent one of nine Iconic Plants celebrated throughout the PoliNations programme.

Creative Team

Angie Bual
Creative Director
Carl Robertshaw
Design Director
THISS Studio
Architectural and Spatial Designers
Bronia Housman
Production Design
Chris and Toby Marchant
Horticultural Designers
Dock Street Events
Technical Event Production
Clary Salandy
Costume Designer
Joey A Frenette, aka Bourgeoisie
Costume Designer
Matt Daw
Lighting Designer
Tom Gibbons
Sound Designer
Yshee Black
Associate Artist
Format Engineers
Engineering Designers
Funder + Partners

Commissioned as part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK and presented as part of Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Keep exploring


Curious passersby can peer through letterboxes to discover objects contributed by our neighbours.

Curio project story