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Tree Charter: connecting trees and people through art

The Tree Charter campaign and Common Ground have curated a series of artist residencies throughout 2017 to mark the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and to support the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

These residencies are taking place in Belfast, Lincoln, Dorset, the Scottish Highlands, Yorkshire, Cornwall, Cumbria and Carmarthenshire. Each artist has been commissioned to create a work that explores the interactions between trees and communities that are particular to each locality, and to tell a story about the utility of wood and its enduring presence in the art and heritage of the British Isles. Alongside educational workshops and various community events, the eight residencies encompass architecture, painting, performance, video, drawing, sculpture and poetry.

Most of the works made during these residencies are site-specific, located in the place they are made, but elements of all the residencies will be gathered together and exhibited at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from May to September 2018, as part of a show celebrating the work of Common Ground, which will also include the work of artists such as Andy Goldsworthy, John Hubbard, David Nash, Posy Simmonds, Ellie Davies, Peter Randall-Page, Clifford Harper and James Ravilious.

Treefolds in Cumbria

Trees matter, and that means every tree, including outliers and the craggy loners.”

Harriet and Rob Fraser are building a series of drystone ‘folds’ in Cumbria that will embrace new trees, offering a space for people to sit and pause, and revisit the trees over the years. Each ‘treefold’ will contain some stones carved with Harriet’s poetry – the poem can be read individually or as one long poem threading its way across the landscape. The drystone treefolds are being made with local stone by a master waller, using vernacular techniques that date back more than a thousand years.

A treefold looking east (Rob Fraser)
A treefold looking east (Rob Fraser)

Assemble at Lincoln Cathedral

For 10 days during the Frequency Festival, art collective Assemble directed a group of skilled woodworkers to work in concert within the Chapter House of Lincoln Cathedral. In doing so, they celebrated the skill and technique required to work with wood in its raw form, and the role trees play in human life. A pile of logs was processed from the round felled form into regular sections of timber, each one squared by a process of marking, scoring, joggling and finally hewing.  Now that the installation is complete, the prepared timber is fit for future use in timber frame construction.

Assemble also told stories of the skills and lives that have become displaced in the 21st century as many people have become detached from trees and woods. In appropriating the Chapter House as both a stage and work space, the art group brought into focus issues around the way we understand, employ and enjoy woodlands in the UK today. There was also a series of informal parallel events that reflected on the historic and contemporary roles of Britain’s woodland as a cultural and economic resource. Read more about the other artists and their projects on Common Ground’s website.

Assemble celebrated the connection between trees and people, past and present. (Colin Varndell/WTML)
Assemble celebrated the connection between trees and people, past and present. (Colin Varndell/WTML)

A new beginning

The launch of the Tree Charter on the 6th November 2017 is a beginning, rather than the end. Although it will not be adopted into law as a whole, it will exist in the public domain with a significant mandate from the huge number of organisations who contributed to it, and the thousands of people across the UK who have signed it. It will become a benchmark for policy and practice to do with trees, ensuring that everyone in society knows what is needed to ensure trees and people benefit each other. This will be a powerful tool in campaigning, and a useful and easy way for businesses, institutions, communities and individuals to make decisions that are good for trees and people

Show your support for the Tree Charter and help give it strength.

Sign the Tree Charter