Project Leader & Founder of The Papillon Project
Matt was born and raised in Sussex. Unlike most state schools, Matt's former school (Oathall) has a working school farm and market gardens which continues to offer a wonderful educational experience for many youngsters.
Matt studied history at the University of East Anglia, which included environmental history. He was particularly interested in the ‘wood shortage crisis’ which emerged during the early modern period. As a postgraduate, Matt completed fieldwork in post-war Bosnia to study how natural surroundings might help heal the wounds of war. Since university, he has worked and taught in rural Uganda where local food is grown because, with no local supermarkets, there was no alternative!
Matt has also visited Cuba to see the island’s success at growing food locally, without fossil fuels. He has also held an allotment in Norwich, has completed an ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ course and has a Permaculture Design Certificate.
As a qualified humanities teacher Matt has taught mainly history at Reepham High School & College. He has reduced his teaching commitment so that he can concentrate on setting up The Papillon Project. This has grown out of 'The Allotment Project' which Matt began in 2014 at the School.
In 2018 his work here won him the Royal Horticultural Society's ‘School Gardening Champion of the Year’ award, which included meeting HRH The Prince of Wales. You can get a very clear sense of why Matt is ‘positively bonkers’ about trying to engage the next generation to grow their own food by viewing this nomination video (made without his knowledge) for this award here:
Matt went on to win the 'Norwich and Norfolk Eco Hero Award', by public vote, in 2019. He has published many articles, spoken publicly about his work and has made numerous TV appearances. He lives with his wonderful wife on a small-holding in rural North Norfolk along with some lovely animals including Dumbledora the Basset Hound. Matt says:
“Going to school simply has to be more about just tests and exams. These are, of course, really important, but, encouraging and skilling our children and young people to lead lives that work with, and not against, nature is of the greatest urgency… The Papillon Project is all about doing this across Norfolk, by supporting High Schools and their local communities to set up an allotment project.
A school allotment is a place for young people, designed with them and to inspire them, so they can inspire each other to grow their own food and so help to restore and work with nature, mediate the impact of climate change and promote their own physical and mental well-being.”
Louis discovered his interest in filmmaking after volunteering to produce and direct Matt Willer's nomination film for School Gardening Champion of the Year in 2018.
After receiving praise and commendation for his own work on the film, he then went on to produce a short documentary 'The Allotment Project', using the footage from the nomination film, specifically about the project at Reepham High School. This gives people insight into how the project runs and is why it is successful. It also won an international film award: WWOOF's Future Food and Farming Youth Video Awards (September 2019). You can view the video, and others on the ‘Our Work’ section of this website
Today, Louis is working with The Papillon Project to advise and produce new video content, with the aim of disseminating the idea and some of the approaches and techniques to school gardening. This is helping 'The Papillon Project's' values and learning to reach a wider audience.
Nigel has had a long and interesting career in various public sector management, research and planning roles including directing major programmes of service change in Social Services and the NHS. He has also spent time advising on social enterprise development and community renewal.
Turning to gardening, garden and landscape design more seriously in 200, Nigel subsequently became interested in community gardening. He joined the Norfolk ‘Master Gardener’ and ‘Master Composter’ programmes and helped individuals and groups to grow their own food and make their own compost.
Nigel has also been involved with play area and garden design and has provided hands on help in school and community gardening projects at both Primary and High Schools (including that at Reepham High School & College’).
He has also played a part in developing the ‘Healing Gardens’ project to provide therapeutic gardens and open spaces at psychiatric facilities locally. This was founded on the Sandringham Show Garden ‘Grow and Trust’ which he designed and co created with young people, The Grow Organisation and the Prince’s Trust in 2018. The Garden won a Silver Gilt medal and one of the judges, top garden designer Chris Beardshaw, described it as ‘A remarkable piece of work’.
As well as being qualified in Garden and Landscape Design, Nigel has undergone training with the Royal Horticultural Society, completed a traineeship in Heritage Gardening and is a volunteer in the gardening team at the National Trust’s Blickling Hall. He also has an interest in Permaculture and has completed an online course in this.
Nigel has lived in rural Norfolk for over 30 years and continues to develop his own garden (which includes an ornamental Kitchen Garden). A Fellow of the Royal Society, he says of his role as Chairman of the Papillon project:
‘I’ve witnessed first-hand the power and energy of Matt Willer’s inclusive approach to the ‘Allotment Project’ at Reepham. I share his commitment to developing sustainable approaches to food production, environmental protection and promoting wellbeing in individuals and communities, so I was proud -and eager- to help with The Papillon Project.’
Debbie spent much of her childhood outside in a fairly wild ‘garden’ climbing trees and digging holes. She was given her own small garden at a young age and has always had an interest in things that grow, whether in the garden or the countryside. Debbie has a huge passion for the environment and humanity’s relationship with nature. This human relationship with nature was kindled around the time Debbie had her own children. She noticed, with fascination, how her children felt towards the world around them; from wriggly worms, mud pies and the like. Debbie believed that this opened her eyes to how precious our planet is and inspired her to go on to study Environmental Biology.
Debbie has worked as a dinner lady, a special needs learning assistant, as a childminded and a volunteer for school gardening clubs. She is a very knowledgeable horticulturalist and now works as a professional gardener, with her own gardening business, gaining her qualifications through the Royal Horticultural Society at Easton College. Debbie’s says:
‘At home I grow as much of my own food as my modest plot will allow, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that we need to go further than this to maintain a balance in how much we consume of the planet’s resources. And we need to teach our children. Something that embodies that idea is Permaculture, and this is something that I think can be applied to every aspect of our lives alongside conventional food growing'
Chloe has a lifelong passion for sport and love of animals and, combined with her degree in law, has led her to peruse a career in the Sport Law industry. She is currently working as Legal Advisor with the British Horse Racing Authority and lives in London.
Chloe was born and raised in the Republic of Ireland in Ballyclough, County Cork and is a “proud Irish girl at heart’.
As a former elite athlete and with her legal training, experience and skills, Chloe hopes that she can help The Papillon Project grow and ensure that it meets its obligations as a Charitable Company. She says:
‘I’m honoured to accept the position as Secretary of The Papillon Project and fully support Matt Willer, leading this inspiring project. I first met Matt through his incredible wife, Natasha. Matt’s professional approach, strong work ethic, perseverance, and determination are illustrated by his achievements thus far. The success of the ‘The Allotment Project’ at Reepham High truly inspired me to get involved with The Papillon Project.'
George lives with his family in the beautiful Norfolk countryside where he spent much of his childhood watching the local wildlife, cycling and playing with friends in the nearby villages. After completing his earlier education at his local primary and secondary school, George went on to study History, Geography and Sociology A Levels at Reepham College, where he became well acquainted with Matt Willer, in his lessons and at the Reepham Allotment Project. George regularly volunteered during and outside of college hours in constructing the Allotment Project, along with helping students at the site and teaching them about the importance of permaculture, growing food organically and the protection of the environment. After two incredible years of working at Reepham, George was inspired to help make Matt’s allotment charity vision a reality, and now volunteers with The Papillon Project developing new and existing allotments at local secondary schools.
During this Gap Year, George plans to learn first-hand about the dynamics of wildlife conservation and the threats species and habitats face, by volunteering with a variety of local and national wildlife organisations such as the RSPB and The Norfolk Wildlife Trust. In addition, he plans to travel across the UK to different nature reserves to observe different conservation strategies in action. And if that wasn’t enough, he also hopes to do international volunteering in the Galapagos Islands in order to help preserve and experience the abundant yet, fragile biodiversity of this unique archipelago. After this, George will be taking up a placement at Kent University to Study a BSc in Wildlife Conservation with a Year in Professional Practice.
In his spare time, George tends to his extensive vegetable garden at home and grows organic produce for his family to use. He is also a passionate outdoorsman; he enjoys annual country sports and taking regular walks and bike rides near his home and outdoor swimming and sailing on the North Norfolk Coast. When not outside, George can often be found reading about natural history, listening to classical music or keeping updated with and discussing current affairs.
George says of his role and expectations:
‘The Papillon Project helps to encourage shared stewardship of our planet’s resources, fairer societies and the transfer of vital knowledge and skills; simply by creating long-term, ecologically sound allotments. It is so rewarding to play an active role working alongside students who have come together from a diverse range of social backgrounds, to produce something for their school that, due to the constraints of the Education System, is often impossible to contemplate.
The Papillon Project will generate both a series of self-sufficient allotments that become integral parts of School life, and in time form a network that can share resources efficiently to help create and improve other sites- just like a healthy forest sharing water and nutrients to survive.’
Peter has worked in schools as a Business Manager since 2019 for Reepham High School & College completing academistation and the school through to establish it as a ‘Multi-Academy Trust. In 2018, Peter moved on to the Clarion Academy Multi Academy Trust and is responsible for all the non-teaching elements of the Trust ensuring compliance with the Department of Education funding agreement and is responsible for all reporting and accounting for the Trust.
Peter, who works with three other business manages, set up the Association of Business Management in Norfolk Schools (ABMNS) in order to share best practice and to provide a support network for business managers in Norfolk. The ABMNS now has excess of 100 members thanks to Peter’s hard work and vision.
Before Peter was a school business manager, he worked as a Commercial Bank Manager having completed twenty-eight years of service with NatWest/RBS. Peter had a brief spell as EUHLA Contract Manager with CEFAS managing contracts valued in excess of forty million pounds and managed their contract for the twenty-five million pound research vessel.
Peter also runs a small company (my-belt.co.uk) which he started with a friend to develop and sell a unique style of belt buckle which has design protection.
Additionally, in his spare time Peter enjoyed playing golf at Eaton Golf Club in Norwich