Forest of Imagination has bloomed to enjoy its most successful year to date after attracting an estimated 10,000+ visitors to its fantastical forests, outdoor galleries and creative workshops.
The free, pop-up contemporary arts event took place 3-6 June 2016 and saw the World Heritage City’s Abbey and nearby Abbey Green and Kingston Parade transformed by a playful programme of sensory installations, artworks and participatory creative activities for visitors of all ages.
A celebration of creativity and nature, Forest of Imagination 2016 included sound installations composed by Martyn Ware, founder of Heaven 17 and Human League, as well as artworks by local artists. Exhibitions featured illustrations by Perry Harris in portals dotted around the site, and a swarm of giant, colourful paper butterflies created by Anthony Head, which appeared to flutter inside Bath Abbey.
With a strong focus on conservation, especially the plight of wildlife in Madagascar, the event featured giant inflatable Baobab trees outside the abbey, while Bristol Zoo presented talks, and led workshops for local school children, about its lemur conservation project in Madagascar and around the globe.
Children’s arts charity The House of Fairy Tales organised playful activities across the site, including a ‘spy’ game, and theatrical performances.
For the first time the event made use of Augmented Reality (AR) to offer an additional, virtual world for visitors to explore. Bath-based technology firm Media Grand specially designed the ‘Forest Eyes’ app for 2016’s Forest of Imagination.
Other attractions included a ‘Creative Forest’ where artists, schools and visitors were invited to create ‘a thousand trees’ by mixing fantastical, made trees with living specimens. The outdoor making space was created by Grant Associates, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and Carpenter Oak and Woodland with the support of event sponsor Herman Miller Cares and Wyevales Nursery.
Forest of Imagination is the brainchild of a collaborative team of Bath-based businesses and organisations, including landscape architects Grant Associates, arts-based charity 5x5x5=creativity, creative consultancy Imaginnovation, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Herman Miller and Bath Spa University. It aims to highlight the inherent creativity of Bath and connect people with nature by reinventing spaces in the city to inspire intuitive play, unleash imagination and encourage exploration.
Andrew Grant, Director, Grant Associates, said: “Each Forest of Imagination has been special, but 2016 has surpassed our expectations on every level. The general public’s support has been exceptional, while the commitment and energy lent to the event by creative businesses and artists from the local area (and beyond) is hard to overstate. As a result, the event was able to offer an even greater range of sensory and magical experiences.
“We’d like to thank everyone for their participation. We invite you all to keep exploring your own imaginations, and learn more about the fantastic but fragile forests across the globe that need our protection.”
Penny Hay, Director, 5x5x5=creativity and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University, said: “It’s been wonderful to witness such a mix of people playing and creating together, enjoying and participating in the Forest of Imagination.
This initiative is an invitation to explore our individual and collective imagination. Being immersed in creative experiences can enhance well-being for both children and adults. The Forest of Imagination shows that as well as being a beautiful historic city, Bath has much to celebrate as a beacon of innovation through contemporary art and design.”