Forest of Imagination 2017 attracted thousands of visitors to the meadows of Bushey Norwood, part of Bath’s Skyline Walk, to experience its fantastical forests, art trails and innovative sculptures.
The free, pop-up contemporary arts event took place 29 June – 2 July 2017 and saw The National Trust-owned meadow at Bushey Norwood transformed into a colourful tapestry of creative workshops and immersive artworks.
Highlights of the nature-inspired event included the successful launch of Aerocene, an air-fuelled sculpture by the globally acclaimed Argentinian artist Tomas Saraceno; soundscapes by musician Martyn Ware of Illustrious and the hit band Heaven 17; and an augmented reality ‘Giant Ant’ experience created by artist Anthony Head with Bristol Zoo, Media Grand and The House of Fairy Tales.
‘Forest on the edge’ had a special emphasis on activities for children and young people, the event was centred round the core theme of ‘Where we feel at home’, with the aim of linking Bushey Norwood’s ancient, Iron Age landscape to the fringes of urban Bath.
2017 represents the fourth consecutive year the ever popular Forest of Imagination has taken place in Bath. This year’s event was aligned with Re-Imagining Childhood seminar and creative workshops, also held at The Edge – an arts and creativity hub within the University of Bath adjacent to Bushey Norwood. The National Trust’ Indoors Outdoors’ installation delighted families whilst 5 bespoke timber structures designed by students from University of Bath and Carpenter Oak and Woodland created local landmarks in the landscape and venues for multiple artist workshops.
Forest of Imagination is the brainchild of a collective of local companies and creatives who co-design and organise the event, including landscape architects Grant Associates, arts charity 5x5x5=creativity, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Bath Spa University.
Forest of Imagination 2017 was made possible thanks to generous funding from Arts Council England and Herman Miller Cares, together with the support of a host of other local businesses.
Andrew Grant, Director, Grant Associates, commented, “Forest of Imagination is about exploring our connection with nature. By offering art installations from a range of disciplines from visual art and music through to landscape architecture, virtual reality, technology and science, we aim to create immersive experiences that truly ignite the imagination.
“Bushey Norwood proved the perfect place for linking the city of Bath to the forest edge. The landscape’s ancient trees, wooded dells and meadows all called for exploration. Many visitors to the event have remarked on how the beautiful walks between the installations were an integral part of the creative Forest experience. There whole event became one great ‘thinking path’ of exploration.
“On behalf of the event organisers, I would like to thank all those who came to visit over the weekend and hope they enjoyed discovering this lesser known part of Bath in its full summer glory.”
Penny Hay, Co-founder of Forest of Imagination (Director, 5x5x5=creativity and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University), added, “It was wonderful to see so many families take ownership of the Forest this year, setting up camps and picnics under the old oaks of Bushey Norwood. Our aim is to encourage people of all ages to experience Forest of Imagination, but our alignment with the Re-Imagining Childhood seminar this year placed a special focus about the world we are creating for, and with, our children. We were delighted that David Almond and Sir Ken Robinson gave such passionate speeches – children’s imagination will save the world.
“Our successful Aerocene launch was a wonderful highlight for 2017. As a multi-disciplinary artist, drawing from nature, architecture, engineering, the visual arts, science and astronomy, Tomas Saraceno demonstrates how learning transcends any one subject – a key theme for Forest of Imagination.”
Looking ahead to next year, the organisers commented, “Our aspiration is for Forest of Imagination to become a well-established annual event. Each year it depends on the available funding, the venue and the continued goodwill of collaborators.”