The Team

Lucy Neal, Anne-Marie Culhane, Ruth Ben-Tovim and Shelley Castle

Walking Forest is led by artists Shelley Castle, Anne-Marie Culhane, Lucy Neal and Ruth Ben-Tovim, with close support from associates and collaborators. 

All four artists have worked together in various combinations, both with Encounters Arts and on other projects. In 2017, Encounters secured Elevate funding via Arts Council England for development work, where Ruth, Lucy, Anne-Marie and Shelley came together for a series of  ‘labs’ – expanded creative days together in the studio – out of which Walking Forest was born.

Although Encounters Arts has now closed, we are all grateful for the rich soil it created that allowed this project to grow from a seed to a sapling. As the Walking Forest project has evolved and continues to grow over the years, we acknowledge the vast inspiration that has come from many sources – human and more-than-human.

Ruth Ben-Tovim

‘I worked as a cross disciplinary theatre maker collaborating with scientists and writers, before focusing my  practice as a socially and ecologically engaged artist, facilitator and designer.

From 2003 – 2020 I was the  co- founder and  Exec Director of Encounters Arts specialising in community involvement and engagement. Working in different sectors and with  diverse collaborators, I delivered  over 60 intimate participatory interventions that invited people from all backgrounds to explore and express creatively their experiences of the past, responses to the present and  hopes and fears about the future.

I was part of the team representing the UK at the Venice Biennale of Architecture and delivered  projects for Liverpool Capital of Culture.  Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects and Jem Bendel’s Deep Adaptation guide me. I have been active in Extinction Rebellion as a local and national coordinator and was one of the instigators of the Culture Declares Emergency movement.’

Ruth Ben-Tovim
Ruth Ben-Tovim
Ruth Ben-Tovim
Fruit Routes Walk
Anne-Marie Culhane - Fruit Routes Launch
Fruit Routes Harvest Event

Anne-Marie Culhane

‘I create events, performances and long-term projects that invite people into active and enquiring relationships with each other, the land and earth’s natural systems framed within the context of a global climate and ecological emergency. I am an artist, activist, project manager and collaborator working across a range of disciplines.

My work takes place in outdoor spaces, community centres, parks, the street and sometimes in galleries and museums. I am constantly learning the arts of collaboration and co-production. I draw inspiration from the cycles of nature and seasons; environmental and ecological concerns or questions and listening and responding to people, landscapes and particular sites. Much of my work focuses on our relationship to trees and orchards including performance such as Running with Tree and planting, harvesting and celebrating trees in common spaces such as FLOW, Fruit Routes and Abundance.’

Lucy Neal

‘I am a theatre maker and writer exploring celebratory events that act as catalysts for change: from the gifting of a small seed in a six-minute ritual to the staging of a theatre of fire for 20,000 in a London Park.  Co-founder Director of the London International Festival of Theatre (1981-2005), I am active in the grassroots Transition movement in Tooting, South London where I live. My handbook Playing for Time – Making Art As If the World Mattered, (Oberon Books 2015) maps collaborative arts practices emerging in response to planetary challenges. I tutor on The Arvon Writing Course Fierce Words and am a Trustee of the Aluna Foundation. I am author of The Great Imagining – how the arts spark cultural change in Zero Carbon Britain’s Making It Happen, and is a founder ‘declarer’ of Culture Declares, a global movement of artists and cultural organisations declaring a climate and ecological emergency.’

Culture Declares Emergency Launch Event 2019
Thumbs Up Rickshaw
Playing for Time Book Cover
Torquay Offering Procession
Erin and Yellow Hammer
Culture Declares

Shelley Castle

‘I am a visual artist with a studio background but have worked for over a decade in South Devon as a community artist, leading collaborative work that researches and celebrates local flora and fauna through textiles, procession, making, song and dance.  My interest is in how we are enabled, by making with our hands, to talk about difficult topics such as climate breakdown and extinction.  Through the projects I bring together folk that don’t normally meet and have worked with, amongst many others,  fishermen, lacemakers, dancers, horologists, mycologists.  I often partner with Museums and am continuing to evolve the Museum of Now, created and delivered twice through Encounters Arts.  All my work revolves around the natural world and our relationships within it, and my most recent projects have involved the sea, seagrass and seahorses as well as fungi and mycelium  in particular.  I also work with Extinction Rebellion and and was one of the instigators of the Culture Declares Emergency movement.’