The Forest of Imagination came alive again this summer in Bath. Supported by a host of creative partners including the RSA through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the second manifestation of Forest took over the historic Queen Square, right in the centre of Bath.
While last year’s Forest was amazing to witness especially with the transformation of the gardens of Bath Spa University, this years’ event extended our reach across the city for local and international visitors with more than 7,000 in total. The concept of the Forest of Imagination is a free 4-day contemporary arts event in the heart of Bath, as a place of ingenuity and creativity for all ages. This focus links clearly with the RSA’s key theme of creative learning and development and the local Fellowship has been involved in the Forest since early conversations in 2012.
Queen’s Square was transformed into a magical Forest, put together by a team of landscape architects, designers, architects and renowned artists. It was free to attend, with something for everyone. As described by the landscape architect and RDI behind the concept, Andrew Grant, Grant Associates:
‘We wanted to create a mini ‘Universe of Play’ with four distinctly different worlds and an atmosphere of fun.'
Over the weekend the Forest of Imagination exploded into an entire galaxy of delight. Ingredients of enormous and tiny, light and dark, living and dead, old and young, sun and cloud, colour and sound all contributed to the special ambience. Queen Square was the perfect venue at the heart of the city.
The central obelisk, pinned there by Beau Nash in the 18C, has witnessed another chapter in the evolution of the city. For myself and Grant Associates, this has given us a chance to plug ourselves into the life and creativity of Bath and it has been both humbling and exciting to witness the latent capacity for play and community coming alive in the spaces we helped shape. In particular it was fantastic to witness the ingenuity of children. Who would have thought a set of different sized plant pots could be translated into a seat, stepping stones, a shell, a house, an outfit, hats, armour and an outer space escape pod?’
Visitors were invited to immerse themselves in their own creativity in a series of imaginative workshops and talks with contemporary artists, designers and architects. Local schools were invited to visit the Forest and take part in workshops with artists. A series of talks exploring the science and magic of play were held at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square, in partnership with the Save Childhood Movement for National Children’s Day.
Even though the Forest was temporary, the impact of the installation will live on, the bamboo enclosure was dismantled post-event and the bamboo collected and taken to Somaliland to be re-used to build a greenhouse by the charity Seawater Greenhouse. The key organisations involved are in discussion to create annual Forests and also a more permanent space – a studio for children and young people to work alongside creative professionals, a House of Imagination.
A lot of my work is inspired by my friend and mentor Professor Anna Craft, who sadly passed away last year. In conjunction with the RSA there is a celebration of Anna’s life and work taking place on Saturday 10 October, at the University of Exeter. Entitled “What next for creativity?” there will be a series of interactive workshops and debates across the day. All are invited, if you are interested in attending please contact email@example.com with the email title ‘Anna Craft Celebration event’.
I will also be discussing the Forest and House of Imagination in a RSA event in Bath on Thursday 10 September, please come along to find out more about this truly collaborative project and get involved! Sign up here.
Get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org, @PenAHay