After the Storm – A Transient Art Project

26 October 2012 · 4 comments

in Art & Music Outdoors, Community Involvement, Nature Play & Learning

Twenty-five years ago this month, storms ripped through the south of England causing massive disruption, damage and the deaths of a number of people. The town of Sevenoaks was left with one oak still standing. The BBC weather service was heavily criticised for not strongly emphasising the severity of the winds that blasted over the country.

Last January another storm came along causing some lasting damage in various parts of the UK. On the Falkland Estate in Fife, a temporary sculpture trail has been created as a reflection upon these fierce storms and to “invite meditation upon good and bad storm stories.” It was a partnership between the Centre for Stewardship, over two dozen local volunteers and the Dead Good Guides artists who worked for 12 days to create 12 stations. It is a very interesting collaborative community arts project and its transient nature lends itself nicely as inspiration for any class or group who want to undertake similar arts activities outside.

The trail begins at this map. However, all is not what it seems. If you pick up the stick and hit the sign, it makes a fantastic drum! A smooth, low yet powerful sound which echoes through the forest.

This font is carved from Douglas Fir. Now this is the first time I’d seen a bowl carved into a stump and it’s a magnificent feature. Think bird baths and raised puddles!

Each of the volunteers had a go at carving some wood and their efforts make a fine collection depicting various animals and birds. These posts were seen in various parts of the trail.

The trail is marked by simple painted arrow sticks, bright white against the woodland backdrop.

This beech tree is still partially living. It was struck by lightning. I rather liked the addition of red paint, charcoal and split wood. There is a Tim Burton Gothic feel to the area.

The archway is a simple structure. I always think we over look the importance of arches and entrances both literally and metaphorically. For me, it is the meeting of two worlds or places or spaces.

Now this is really quite clever, the beech tree that was struck by lightning has been given “bony fingers”. You really don’t see these at all until you are around the back of the tree.

These uprooted tree remains have been gathered together as a collection of “Gargoyles” – what a lovely idea to get children looking closely for the faces within the stumps.

This sculpture is called “Exodus”. The blurb in the guide asks two very good questions, “Who are these refugees?” and “Is anyone leading them?” I like the way the branches stick up have been used to host the figures.

The climax of the trail has to be the Spire. There is a place to sit and meditate whilst listening to personal stories about the storm to a backdrop of beautiful, evocative music.

High up in the sky above, these colourful weather vanes mark this “eye of the vortex”.

One of my favourite parts of the trail was “Gift”. A collection of branches gathered, stripped and held together by rope. Some of the ends had mini carved bowls. Many had wishes written on them by passers-by. Apparently, the estate has to to top up the tree cookies daily as so many have been used for writing wishes.

In addition to “Gift” a wishing tree was added nearby, all filled with many wishes of every conceivable sort. Each one definitely tells a story!

The trail takes you back to the start and the original view of the damage, but hopefully with a different perspective of its legacy. The damage is interesting. To me, it was reminiscent of seeing the trail of destruction caused by tornadoes ripping through woods in North America. Theoretically we rarely, if ever get real tornadoes in Scotland, just capricious winds!

The aim of the project was to recycle fallen timber with minimal intervention. The work is designed only to remain for a few short months, so this is one reason why I was keen to blog about it. However, the estate and the artists and people involved hope it will be a catalyst to further thoughts and discussions around storms in our lives and the stories we are left with.

One story which particularly touched me, was around one couple who helped fund this project. Dr Bob and Joan Grant sponsored the residency in memory of their daughter, Lorna who died unexpectedly and tragically in 2010. She was a very talented artist who regularly visited the woods which house this trail. A poignant reminder that death and life are forever bound together and a fitting requiem to her memory.

This is the Pit – perhaps the people in the Exodus came out of the hole, up these ladders and went on their way…
Finally, back to the Great Storm of 1987. There is a good post about the impact and benefits of the storm damage on the Woodland Matters blog. The author, Kay Haw, noted that the woodlands which were left to their own devices appeared to make quicker recovery than those which received managed interventions. The storm “reopened woods and encouraged bolder management”. The disturbance often created important ecological niches and allowed other species to flourish in the lighter, open canopy woods, amongst other things. I think there are a lot of parallels or metaphors to be made in terms of the benefits that storms can bring in our lives.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Artchoo! October 29, 2012 at 18:12

Fantastic! This is really wonderful stuff, and it must evoke a really powerful reaction when you’re in the middle of it.


Juliet Robertson October 30, 2012 at 21:14

Absolutely – it was a moving place that really did make you stop and reflect.


Kirsty @ Bowerbird Blue November 5, 2012 at 11:26

That’s incredible, what a remarkable response to a storm, I love the archway.


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