Walking Forest Inception
In December 2018 Lucy Neal and Shelley Castle took the train to Poland to gift seeds from the last remaining Suffragette Tree in Batheaston, UK to delegates at the COP24 climate talks. This was followed a week later by a night time Vigil at Rose’s tree back in the UK.
These were the first public events, the moments when we began to invite people to share in the unfolding story of Walking Forest.
In December 2016 Walking Forest emerged through a series of creative sessions in Dartington, Devon, 2017. The collaboration between the four of us began in this space as we sketched, talked, wrote and considered shared meeting points and our range of skills and practices.
We were working together under the umbrella of Encounters Arts with funds from the Arts Council Elevate Programme which gave us some space to explore open-ended collaborative working. This was an important and enriching process and as a result, we began to build and shape a complex multi-layered project involving four diverse collaborators and partners with a ten year vision.
Before Walking Forest came into being we had not collaborated directly together as a four but had worked together in smaller constellations within Encounters Arts, an organisation whose mission and pioneering socially and ecologically engaged practice we had all been part of shaping and delivering. So there was already a shared commitment to a creative practice that involved the participation of others and directly involved climate, ecological and social justice.
Over the next two years we continued to germinate Walking Forest in the studio, visits to forests and woodlands, through shared writing, and co-writing funding bids.
In September 2017 Walking Forest was selected to be the central Art Work of Season For Change a large Scale National project for the arts and culture sector responding to the climate and ecological emergency, conceived by three arts organisations: Arts Admin; Julie’s Bicycle and Battersea Art Centre. The Season For Change was funded in 2019.