The Forest Ridge Project
In 2019, my sons and I decided we wanted to get some land for growing, camping, rewilding, maybe future communal living… and started looking at land in Wales and Scotland. We finally found the perfect 16 acres just outside the little town of Thornhill in Dumfries & Galloway. Mostly pasture, fringed by woodland, remote and unobserved yet only 3 miles from the nearest shops, pubs, health centres etc – and only one mile from a fabulous rural gallery – it was love at first sight. In September 2019 it was ours! That autumn and winter we made a few trips to the land, from Yorkshire where we then lived, to get some basics in place (on our first visit we got one of our vehicles spectacularly enmired in the deep clay mud and the first thing we had to do was get a hardstanding track laid down by the field entrance). Then in Spring 2020 a pandemic was upon us and travel restricted for several months. By late summer and autumn 2020 we were able to travel to Scotland and invite others to join us for permitted voluntary forestry work and we managed to get about 400 trees planted that season, and a further 200 the following season.
In 2021 I moved from Hebden Bridge, where I had lived for 33 years, to Dumfries & Galloway. By Spring 2022 both my sons had joined me, to be part of what we have called The Forest Ridge Project. With five other people from Yorkshire and Liverpool, we have formed a co-operative to take it forward working to nine principles of sustainable and community living, which together form our manifesto for re-growing a living culture (a phrase borrowed from A School Called Home).
So why and how is this project central to my practice? As I wrote in 2020 in a blog about tree planting, the growing focus of my creative work on climate change had taken me to some dark and compelling places. To have spaces for difficult and creative conversations, to ‘sit with the trouble’, to connect with the land and nature, to form quiet ‘pockets of resistance’ to the dominant narrative of western modernity, had become a fundamental need not only for myself, but, it turns out, for others as well.
Of course, art and creativity will have a big presence at The Forest Ridge. We are starting to have conversations with other artists in the region, make connections, offer the land as a creative space and develop a vision for site specific performances, films, choreography, visual art and words as a response to what The Ridge is whispering to us. Watch this space!