Evolving the Forest

Several projects were developed whilst CCANW was based at Dartington. Evolving the Forest was an international conference in June 2019 involving a collaboration with art.earth, Timber Strategies, the Royal Forestry Society and Dartington Hall Trust which evolved from an earlier proposal by CCANW to mark to centenary of the Forestry Commission.

The idea for CCANW to contribute to the centenary of the creation of the Forestry Commission in 2018 was originally suggested by Clive in conversations and correspondence at Haldon with Sir Harry Studholme and at a meeting together at the Innovation Centre in July 2015. This led to the drafting of a discussion paper Celebrating our Forests in October and the idea of two exhibitions being organised in the South West and North of England.

A meeting then took place in July 2016 with Hayley Skipper, who was leading on the arts contribution to the centenary celebrations. Various options were discussed including an exhibition of sculpture in Dartington’s woodland, accompanied by an indoor exhibition, music, dance and a symposium. Also, a commission in the Eggesford Forest where the Commission had planted its first trees, smaller displays around the South West including photographs of Jamie McCullough’s sculpture trail in the Haldon Forest.

The Forestry Commission was perhaps unsurprisingly focused on public impact and ultimately their celebrations of the centenary were primarily socially-engaged creative activities within their various properties across England.

In the meantime, however, art.earth and Jez Ralph’s Timber Strategies had been approached by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) (the industry’s professional society, distinct from the Forestry Commission) to see if we could dream up a special event to replace their annual conference (usually a one-day event held in London). From this, in April 2018, grew Evolving the Forest a collaboration involving art.earth, CCANW, Timber Strategies, RFS and the Dartington Hall Trust together with a number of sponsors from the timber industries.

This proposal involved a three day international conference, designing an innovative timber pavilion, launching Dartington’s Forestry Strategy and creating a publication. Financial limitations meant that the pavilion was not realised but the conference took place at Dartington from 19-21 June 2019 with nearly 300 participants from across a very wide spectrum of practice from professional foresters to artists, to philosophers and historians. A 440 page book with a foreword by Sir Harry Studholme was published in 2020 as an outgrowth from the event and with an equally wide range of thought and opinion.

Jez Ralph addressing delegates in the Great Hall at Dartington during the Evolving the Forest conference. Photo art.earth

A few print copies remain from this project but an eBook can also be found in the same online bookshop.

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