The Root of the Matter

Join JC Niala on a journey to understand how plants can provide a lens on human health, history and belonging.

  • Serial
Photograph of a cyanotype. The emulsion of the cyanotype has been roughly spread onto the textured watercolour paper leaving brush marks around the edge. In the centre of the blue tone of the emulsion is the white silhouette of two small plants showing their leaves, stems and roots.
The Root of the Matter. © Faye Heller for Wellcome Collection.

Our lives are intrinsically entangled with the plant world: through the food we eat, the medicines we use, and the spaces we inhabit. In this five-part series, writer and maker JC Niala explores what the plant world has to teach us about being human. Join JC in conversation with growers, scientists, writers and activists on a journey through five different landscapes, from the familiarity of the garden to the seemingly hostile wasteland. We’ll take a closer look at the entanglements and stories underpinning the plant world to understand how plants can provide a lens on human health, history and belonging.

Presented by JC Niala
Produced by Alannah Chance and Mae-Li Evans
Music and sound design by Alice Boyd


‘The Root of the Matter’ is a Reduced Listening production for Wellcome Collection.

About the contributors

Photograph of a smiling woman with long braids, wearing a print dress and standing in front of a tree.

JC Niala


JC Niala is a writer, a poet and a keen grower. She is currently carrying out doctoral research at the University of Oxford on our relationships to plants, and is specifically interested in how our imaginations of nature affect how we treat it. 

Photograph of a woman with fair shoulder-length hair, and dark-rimmed glasses.

Alannah Chance

Lead producer

Alannah is an award-winning radio and podcast producer with extensive experience making podcasts for the arts. She has made programmes for BBC Radio 4, 6 Music and Radio 3, as well as podcasts for the Guardian, The Quietus and Somerset House. She’s surrounded by pot plants in various states of health.

Photograph of a woman with dark, shoulder-length hair and transparent-rimmed glasses, leaning forward in a chair, with an audio mixing desk in the background.

Mae-Li Evans


Mae-Li Evans is an audio producer whose work has featured on BBC Radio 4, Monocle 24 and at Somerset House, in independent productions ‘The Last Bohemians’ and ‘Shade’ podcasts, as well as in installation with the Empathy Museum. Her favourite plant at the moment is the burrito. 

Photograph of a man with short hair, in a warm jacket, standing in front of a crowd of people, behind them are the trilithons of Stonehenge.

Adam Rose


Adam is a graduate trainee in the Exhibitions Team in Wellcome Collection. He is also about to start a MA Apprenticeship in Curating at Teesside University. 

Black and white, head and shoulders portrait of Faye Heller.

Faye Heller


Faye Heller studied for her MA in Fine Art at the Slade School, University College London, UK and is a qualified teacher. She has been making artwork for over 25 years and her work was shown at the Tate Modern on a late night for the Dora Maar exhibition in 2020. Using handmade photomontage and collage, she combines portraiture with the natural and man-made landscape, exploring the psychological and environmental, and evoking layers of time, landscape, places and encounters. 

Black and white photograph of Alice Boyd

Alice Boyd

Composer and Sound Designer

Alice Boyd is a London and Bristol-based composer and sound artist. Her work uses the voice, everyday sounds and electronic textures to tell stories about the world around us. She has been selected as one of Sound and Music’s New Voices composers 2020, and has worked with venues such as Eden Project and Donmar Warehouse.