Walking Forest Performance Action – Glasgow

Glasgow and COP26, our plan started with our intention to bring the Felled silver birch tree from HS2 to the COP climate talks along with women from Walking Forest Coventry and building on a relationship with Glasgow School of Art (GSA), Environmental Arts students who we had been connecting with over the previous few months in the build up to COP. 

There were plenty of women prepared to support the performative action in the streets of Glasgow – including the women who had co-created the original event in Coventry.  We had support from Dave who managed to get the tree from an underground car park in Coventry over the Clyde to our starting point at The Briggate where the tree was the focal point for a Council of All Beings. 

Rotten Row, at Strathcylde University became a base camp for us – a small living Silver Birch grove built on the site of an old maternity hospital, initiated when some menfolk from Galgael arrived bearing the Silver Birch tree on top of a van and carried it, singing, into Rotten Row. We led a workshop that included students from Glasgow School of Art and some of the women from Coventry and other participants from Scotland including the Walking Forest online camp. The GSA students also created a temporary installation and some costumes from recycled materials and natural dyed materials inspired by Walking Forest stories.

The main event took place on the streets of Glasgow during the COP talks.

Walking through City:

We are Walking Forest. 

We carry a felled tree and grief for our world

And we carry seeds of courage to face the future

We honour women from the past who were held in this place, standing up for change

We honour our female ancestors who stood up for change. May we pass through this place? May we enter this palace? 

We declare ourselves welcome

Women walk with us

Rotten Row: As we were getting ready to leave, two policemen approached. One, Scott, recognised us and turned out to be from Coventry. He tells the Scottish one, Stewart, all about us and they stay with us all day and help us cross roads and negotiate the congested city.

Before we set off, Jean Cameron – an international cultural leader from Glasgow – welcomed us to the city, The Dear Green Place. A place of women’s activism, historic and mythical.

We stop by the Library of Olifactory Materials and collect our own Walking Forest scent: pine essence mixed with other woodland fragrances, crafted for us by Clara Wheale. From the heart of Glasgow we closed our eyes to smell the forest.  

At Duke St Prison and Law Courts: We are met by a historian from Glasgow Women’s Library. Who tells us stories of Scottish Suffragettes and their courage and creativity.

We visit Glasgow Green: site of largest historic social protests. Feel the relief of no roads, stillness, colour of the trees, the sight of the river. We are greeted by those protesting loss of birds – and hear bird song. Louise Romain speaks to us here. She speaks of Stop Ecocide and Jojo Mehta 

Banks of the Clyde River we stop by La Passionata statue of Dolores Ibarriou Gomez with upward stretched arms, ‘better to die standing than live on your knees’.  Out of the blue an activist called Jane appears and sings ‘Somos Todos.’ Each of us takes a turn standing in front of the statue, throwing up our arms and sharing what we are standing up for. 

We settle into walking alongside the Clyde and  stop for a rest.  Becky reads a poem, animated and glad and Leah leads a workshop where we work to create small clay figures. 

St Enoch’s the Mother of Glasgow. 6th C. and mother of St Mungo. She was the first recorded rape victim and an unmarried mother. We reflect on our mothers and we walk up Buchanan St, shopping thoroughfare. No traffic, and Mira Calix’s soundscape rings out. 

Gehan and Dorothy from Galgael meet up with us in George Sq, a historic gathering place for protest. The Square is rammed. We find three trees to gather under. We blow our horn, they blow theirs. We gift a seed, echoing and amplifying our declarations.

We walk down a bus lane behind a bus, carrying a tree, onto The Briggait, as we approach, we hear Zena Edwards sing from inside the building ‘I am an artist and I know where I belong’. We wait our turn whilst she finishes. 

The Silver Lady is laid down, beside the Clyde then loaded up onto a truck and taken to Galgael for the Opening Ceremony of Govan Free State which we’ve been invited to attend.  

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At Galgael, we collect the felled tree from woodyard where big Alan says ‘oooh we could chop this up with an axe for firewood (joke)’. That evening, we carry Silver Lady down Fairley St and into building. 

Alistair McIntosh, recounts history of Galgael, Colin McCloud’s dream about fighting a bull and gaining strength from the people ‘Hold Fast’, the Pollokshield Protest v motorway 1994 and Free State Declaration ‘we the people of a new state….there is no one coming, there is only us’.  

We feast together, and feel warmth – we declare ourselves welcome. 

Seeding in different spaces

We spent some time at The Hidden Gardens Tramway which was a central point for indigenous community actions and rituals at COP. visitors were invited to sew the Walking Forest tablecloth while sharing stories around Walking Forest themes. 

We give a presentation later at Strathclyde Uni of Walking Forest. The Coventry women step up to mark. Someone from Glasgow who joined us says, ‘I’ve found my activism’. We show the film and the Hall fills up with school children. 

Seeds were gifted with Farhana Yamin to climate funders and global earth activists including those attending a Climate Justice and Trust Transition Donor Collaborative as well as to Scottish activists and Little Amal (link to Seed page)

With great thanks to: Galgael, Farhana Yamin Jean Cameron, Glasgow School of Art, Strathclyde University, Walking Forest Coventry and Dave.