Fantastical Forest is an ever growing public art project celebrating creativity, community and the natural world.
Each year, we display artwork created in the course of our projects in an ever-expanding ‘forest’ of beautifully printed hangings to mark the signing of Tree Charter Day by Cambridge City Council. Suspended for all to see in the magnificent setting of Wandlebury County Park, the date for your diary this year is Saturday 25th November, 10.30am - 3pm. With 92 hangings now in the collection, made with 20 communities across our region, this is a spectacle not to be missed. 90 volunteers helped to march the collection recently to Westminster as part of Earth Day 2023 - watch this short film here to get a flavour of the day.
The roots of this project go back to the first lockdown in 2020, when, with schools, workplaces and public spaces closed, we were all reminded of the vital importance of being outdoors and immersed in nature. CCI gathered more than 60 tree stories from people across the city, highlighting favourite trees and locations. Artist Hilary Cox Condron persuaded Cambridge City Council to sign the tree charter, which pledges to protect, nurture and celebrate the power of trees. Later in the year, we held the first Fantastical Forest event at Wandelbury Country Park, displaying hangings featuring artwork created by artscapers from Mayfield and Girton Primary Schools working with CCI artist Caroline Wendling and inspired by the trees at Murray Edwards College.
In 2021 we expanded the Forest to include hangings featuring artwork inspired by the fascinating world of mycorrhizal fungi produced by 9 - 11 year olds from Arbury, St Laurence’s and Stapleford Primary Schools. Visitors could experience an immersive soundscape created for a film by artist Sally Todd. This incorporated the original soundscape created by artist Caroline Wendling working with sound artist Jake Ziegler and children from the 2020 workshops. A ‘found’ poem (included in the Gallery below), stitched together by poet Kaddy Benyon from words and phrases from 33 of the tree stories submitted in 2020, could also be enjoyed. The expanded Forest was displayed once again at Wandlebury Country Park and also on Christ’s Pieces in Cambridge city centre.
A total joy. The most memorable public art installation for me of the last decade.
Lewis Herbert, Leader, Cambridge City Council, 2021
This year I made the commitment to enjoy the nature I see around me even if things aren’t happening at the right time of the year and even if that scares me….this project reminds me of that very much and that is why it is so touching.
In 2022 the Forest expanded further, this time incorporating 24 new hangings from our Chalk Dreams project in Abbey ward. This project involved people of all ages, and honoured the magical but fragile chalk streams that are such a distinct feature of our local landscape.
One of these – Coldham’s Brook – runs through the heart of the Abbey Community and was our focus for visits and conversations.
The Forest will continue to grow year on year, bringing joy and hope to all who encounter it.
The Forest was supported by Software Acumen, South Cambs District Council and Education Services 2010 in 2020, and a City Council S106 Public Art Grant in 2021.