My thoughts on the recent Forest of Imagination event in Queen Square Bath, which drew nearly 7,000 visitors:
I feel that Forest of Imagination holds an opportunity for deep community engagement, not just during the event but in the planning, design and lead up to it.
The way that staff from Herman Miller, Grant Associates, FCB as well as many individual volunteers have all responded to the openness and collaborative nature of FOI is a resounding testimony to collaboration across (creative) industries and cultures. We (Forest team) will all have enjoyed the Forest experience and our involvement in it, from different angles and for different reasons. Our collective motivations will be diverse yet, I believe, with strong overlaps.
We have experienced and demonstrated how creativity, collaboration and freedom to play and imagine have brought us into a place of refreshment for the soul, mind and our inherently creative and curious bodies.
Most of us are already busy with so many responsibilities, projects and commitments and although for those involved in “delivering” the event FOI added to that list, it seemed also to somehow offer a sense of calm. Forest of Imagination offers a strong, memorable and edifying creative experience, but I think it also offers a contemplative place away from the madding crowd, although within it. We talk about the transformative power of creativity, and its connection to wellbeing… Now we must show, prove that this is the case. Perhaps we can record and share how FOI affected us positively in this way. How we see things, people, our city, perhaps even the world a little or a lot differently.
My wife Andrea suggests including a large scale interactive piece of public art, inspired by this giant paper eco troll.
I think the way that we fundraise for the next event should be primarily focused on the local community (with as much lead time as possible), whether that be Bath, Bristol, Chippenham, Sydney and beyond… We need to be really good at sharing “what’s in it” for the community as well as local businesses. This way we can offer an even earlier sense of ownership and belonging to as wide an audience as possible. The kind of belonging that visitors and participants in Forest so evidently felt.
Finally (for now), I noticed something really special in the Forest. People smiling. Really smiling. Tim captured so much of the joy and awe on people’s faces in his beautiful films. Although mobile phones were being used, they were being used to capture, record and share. Walk around most global cities today and you’ll notice two things when you watch people: Rarity of smiles and an addiction to mobile phone screens. Forest of Imagination offers an opportunity for the muscles in our face to be brought back to life as a result of something we feel deep down inside, and gives us a reason to look up and marvel at the world around us, through different eyes. Perhaps the eyes of a child that we once used to see through. Perhaps the view we adopt when we walk through a portal into a fantastical world where the flame of imagination is fanned into a Forest fire… (but a good one).