Ruth Ben-Tovim, Anne-Marie Culhane, Lucy Neal and Shelley Castle
Walking Forest is a 10-year project culminating in 2028 the planting of an intentional woodland to honour women Earth defenders inspired by Batheaston’s Suffragette Arboretum planted by women activists in the early 20th century.
Walking Forest looks back to the collective actions of the campaigners for women’s suffrage who stood for radical democratic change. Back then Suffragettes and Suffragists took a stand and marched through the streets in their thousands to get votes for women. They showed ordinary people can make extraordinary change. Where they campaigned to change how women were represented in legal and political systems, activists today work to change the way the natural world is represented in legal, political, economic and cultural systems. Walking Forest looks forward to the next 100 years when articulating and standing up together for the well-being of Earth is key to planetary survival.
There are four strands to Walking Forest across 2020-2021:
- TREES – Gathering seeds, saplings and stories to mark the connection between women, activism and trees eg HS2 woodland camps.
- MYCELIUM – Weaving a network of diverse UK and international communities, artists and earth activists of all ages, live and online. Drawing inspiration from mycelium connections under the forest floor (the threads of fungi which pick up, transfer and exchange nutrients and water between trees).
- GIFTING – Gifting of both literal and symbolic ‘radicle daughter’ seeds from the last standing tree in the Suffragette Arboretum.
- PROPAGATION CAMPS – Site-specific residencies and exchanges to offer activist training for women, connections to women activists around the world and an exploration of a regenerative culture based on the natural world, care and co-operation.
Residences are planned to take place mostly in woodlands and outdoor sites and include practical seed propagating and tree planting events combined with creative reflection and making through sewing, writing, drawing, dialogue and personal story sharing.
Each residency involves workshops with women focusing on strengthening marginalised voices and inspiring action. These will include live links with international activists and stories from activists around the world. Connections will be made between place restoration and climate adaptation; the relationship of trees and nature conservation to a ‘regenerative culture’ and wellbeing, the history of women’s leadership in tree protection and rights across the world and our own Suffragette history in the UK.
These will culminate in public celebratory ‘tree’ days in 3 sites – Coventry, South Devon and Dalby including performance, walks or runs and discussion connecting to wider narratives of the carbon cycle, ecosystems, climate justice and international Earth protectors. From these events, we will gather participants and material to stage a mass public performance to coincide with the COP26 climate talks.
About the artists
Walking Forest is created by collaborators and cross disciplinary artists Ruth Ben-Tovim, Anne-Marie Culhane, Lucy Neal and Shelley Castle. They have produced and delivered hundreds of UK/ International arts projects of all scales over 30 years.
We are delighted to be working in partnership with Coventry City of Culture 2021, the Forestry Commission and Moor Trees.