Breathing Spaces is a community project in Southampton, which has at its heart clean air, liveable streets and increased health & wellbeing. In 2019 we worked with residents in the neighbourhood of St Denys, to collect data on local air pollution and test community approaches for cleaner air. We developed a robust evidence base on air quality in the area and gave a voice to local concerns, such as ‘rat running’ and poor air quality from congested main roads.

This year of community engagement led to Southampton City Council inviting the people of St Denys to co-design the city’s first low-traffic neighbourhood.

Residents feel affected by poor air quality in many locations in St Denys

Breathing Spaces was funded by Nesta through its Connected Communities Innovation Fund. This was a partnership between Nesta and the Office for Civil Society at DCMS, providing up to £2.7 million in grants, alongside significant non-financial support, to the best innovations that mobilise people’s time and talents.

The project is a collaboration between The Southampton Collective and partner organisations in Southampton including:

The University of Southampton provided the air quality sensors and associated data for the project. An academic at Solent University produced visualisations of this data; Robin Wilson developed an online air quality map for the city and static visualisations; and Mandy Smith, artist in residence at Solent has provided the artwork for the project.

Transition Southampton has also kindly provided some financial support for the project, which will go towards running community engagement events.

The Southampton Collective has also been awarded Catalyst funding from the RSA for a pilot project, to test arts engagement on clean air issues. We commissioned Nathan Evans to create the ‘Air Pollution Breaks Hearts’ banner which was put up around the city to coincide with Clean Air Day 2020.