How does the Forest of Imagination project harness research to foster creativity, engagement and play?
“Creativity and imagination can enhance wellbeing and transform lives. Forest of Imagination offers an immersive experience that is inspired by nature and encourages adults and children to enjoy their own imagination and creativity. The event is a showcase for Bath as a hotbed of innovation and artistic exploration” - Penny Hay, Research Fellow CCCI
It is an unfortunate truth that we live in a political climate that consistently denies the importance of creativity and the arts across all levels of education - children’s education in particular. Research evidence shows a sharp drop in the numbers of students taking arts subjects at GCSE and A Level.
As a creative University, it is obvious that these trends go against our ethos here at Bath Spa - we place a firm belief and value on cultural awareness and creativity in our teaching - even if you’re studying a subject not traditionally placed as a creative arts subject - biology or business, for example. Outside of our cultivation of these values in our undergraduate and postgraduate teaching, Bath Spa academics are also working hard to nourish this instinct from the ground up - and this is where our innovation in children’s and young people’s education and teaching really shines.
About the project
One key project which is pushing back in this current climate is Forest of Imagination, a yearly event in the city of Bath that sees central sites transformed into ethereal spaces of imagination and sensory play - where workshops, dance parties and installations encourage children to let their creativity run free.
Forest of Imagination is a five-day participatory, contemporary arts event and creative learning programme delivered by a collaborative team of local creative organisations, businesses and individuals in the city of Bath. Begun in 2013, the project was founded by Penny Hay (IfE and CCCI) and Andrew Grant, Landscape Architect, Founding Director of Grant Associates alongside educational charity 5x5x5=creativity (soon to be renamed House of Imagination).
Forest of Imagination reimagines a familiar space to inspire everyone’s creativity and heighten a sense of nature in an urban environment. Now it its sixth year, Forest has attracted nearly 40,000 people over the last 5 years (Sion Hill School of Art and Design, Queen Square, Bushey Norwood and Edge Arts, Kingsmead Square and Bath Quays).
In keeping with its title, each year’s theme engages with the intersection of art and nature - in 2018, for example, the theme was ‘Future Forest’, imagining a way in which creativity can aid in urban and natural regeneration by challenging our concepts of familiarity and space. This year, the theme is ‘Life Line’ - what inspires us as children can influence our entire creative life. A series of playful indoor and outdoor immersive and interactive experiences will transform the Holburne Museum and Sydney Gardens into a space for contemporary creativity and intuitive play. The event is free and open to all.
Key partners this year are Bath Spa University, Holburne Museum, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and WOMAD Foundation. FCB Studios have designed an eco-pavilion, a veritable House of Imagination for workshops, debates and performances. Headline artists include Richard Long, Bob and Roberta Smith, Lauren Child and musicians Ballet Nimba and Fofoulah from WOMAD.
Forest focuses on how creativity can help support social and civic innovation and environmental regeneration, by testing how public space is used and engaging the local community. It aims to offer an inclusive and participatory contemporary arts and design project and to illustrate the future potential of Bath as a City of Imagination. The project works to show the collaborative, creative ecology of Bath in a new and engaging way.
Key themes are nature, sustainability, creativity, engagement, wellbeing and transformation. The Forest of Imagination also seeks to address these key questions:
- How can we reconnect children to their sense of creativity?
- How can we foster and encourage children’s engagement with the environment?
- How can we return children to their natural appetite and curiosity for learning - one which seems stymied by the current emphasis on testing, results and analysis?
Bath Spa's involvement
A key aspect of the project is the interdisciplinary involvement from Bath Spa students and staff across our research centres and schools of study. Forest of Imagination also offers student placements in collaboration with our postgraduate programmes in Heritage Management, Arts Management, and Children’s Publishing and Primary Arts Education. The project incorporates consultancy and themes that are central to many of our research groups and centres.
This year 20 schools and 50 organisations are involved including universities, creative and cultural industries - large and small gather together because they see the benefit for everyone. Forest of Imagination is a grassroots revolution - branching out and taking root.
Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.
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