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Fool's Gold

25 January - 14 March 2020

fools gold

Climate Change is the 21st century’s biggest challenge and Rugby Borough Council is among many local authorities across the UK that has recently declared a ‘climate emergency’, taking the first steps towards making an action plan to address the council’s carbon footprint. Rugby Art Gallery and Museum is well placed to create debate and encourage local engagement with environmental issues and recently worked with local artist Pamela Schilderman and London based Hayley Harrison to present Fool’s Gold, an exhibition that interrogated the value of materials and their impact on our lives and the environment. Over 7 weeks, RAGM welcomed over 3000 visitors to the exhibition.  

Hayley Harrison was concerned with our disconnection with nature and used man-made products such as crisp packets, discarded and broken umbrellas and plastic bags and disguised them as natural materials. Harrison created a solitary world where nothing grows. Even the trees were plastic. Schilderman took a more transformative approach by recycling components from earlier artworks. She described herself as an alchemist, experimenting with discarded materials to achieve metamorphic reactions using materials such as recycled glass, wallpaper and salt crystals.  

On the surface the artworks on display sparkled and had an instant attraction. However, the world the artists created was presented as our future, where the natural world is replaced by the artificial. A world where there is no escape from the effects of mass consumerism. Throughout the exhibition, we asked all our visitors if the artworks on display made them want to reduce, reuse, recycle or none of the above. 51% said the exhibition inspired them to try to reduce their waste, 58.5% said they would now think more about reusing materials and 61.5% said that the exhibition has made them more aware of the necessity to recycle. An incredible 39% of the visitors we asked agreed that the exhibition had made them think about ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. 

One visitor commented “I really enjoyed the exhibition and the use and repurposing of objects for conveying your visual concerns (which we all should have and be working towards being better with recycling/consumption/less wasteful). Creating something beautiful helps make the issue/meaning behind it stick in the mind like a visual aid!” 

exhibition shot

Practical Action

practical action

We would like to thank Practical Action for supporting the education area of the Fools Gold exhibition with their schools materials on recycling and how we can all help contribute to combatting the climate change crisis. 

Practical Action is an innovative international development organisation putting ingenious ideas to work so people in poverty can change their world and they are based in Rugby.

Practical Action's work is showcased in the Rugby Art Gallery & Museum stairwell with an exhibition of photographs and text illustrating how people around the world are adapting to changes in weather patterns.

Entitled ‘Turning the tables on climate change’, the exhibition tells the story of people living in poverty around the world and shows how they are adapting to more extreme bouts of rain, drought, heat and cold.

From building dams to conserve rainwater, to planting seeds that are better suited to dry climates, the images show how Rugby-based Practical Action is helping people use ingenious solutions to help them change their world.

The Practical Action exhibition is available to view at Rugby Gallery until further notice.

Find out more about Practical Action at

or visit them at 

Practical Action, The Robbins Building, 25 Albert Street, Rugby, CV21 2SD


fools gold