Fantastical Forests

Our annual celebration of creativity, community and the natural world

Fantastical Forests celebrates the natural world at a time when there is mounting evidence about the vital importance of the outdoors to our mental wellbeing. Launched in 2020 as a forest of imagination that bought together 18 individual artworks created with young children in Cambridge, the Forest has continued to grow as we work with new communities. It now contains a collection of several forests and brings together over 50 of these beautiful gauze hangings from work made by nearly 400 children and young people from across our region. Some of these children wrote messages for others about why going out into nature to make art was important which beautifully capture the importance of this work:

I think you should go outside and do nature because it’s fun and you are free. Indianna

Art helps you do what you choose. It shows you what you feel. Felicity

 If you get outside you can concentrate. Millie-Nic

 Working with nature makes everyone happy. Bea

Our Patron Robert Macfarlane wrote these words for the 2021 launch to describe the importance of the work of the Charity and what the work represents:

Wonder and education are two of the essential survival skills. We cannot wish our way out of the ecological crisis, but we might be able to grow our way out of it — and surprisingly fast, too. Things are changing from the ground up: new generations emerging who are holding government to account, calling for us to be better ancestors.

CCI is part of this work of growth. Sometimes I think of what CCI does as a kind of 'practical dreaming': imagining new and fantastical ways of being in the world which root deep in minds and imaginations, and from there grow into reality. Nothing makes me despair as much as resignation: there is always good to be done somewhere, whether it is flourishing a Forest on Christ's Piece, or re-mapping a spinney or copse in a scrap of edgeland so that it becomes a fairy-tale world of impossible extent and adventure. 

Truly, this is the work. Lives are changed by it. The problems we find ourselves in as a planet have been made by many hands working together, and they can only be undone by many hands working together too.
Robert Macfarlane, CCI Patron, November 2021

Our work in 2022 will be focused on residents in Abbey Ward in Cambridge. Thanks to a public art grant from Cambridge City Council we will be co-creating a new Fantastical Forest with people of all ages inspired by the ecology of the area. Workshops are planned with Galfrid School and other groups across the area with public events for everyone to engage in too. Dates tbc.

In 2021 there were two large-scale immersive events or ‘forests’, bookending National Tree Week (27 November – 5 December 2021) and marking Tree Charter Day. Explore the gallery above to see some of our favourite images from the last two years or below to read more about the background, a specially created soundscape and found poem and how some of the work was made.

The events are created in partnership with the Cambridge Canopy Project at the City Council and Cambridge Past Present and Future.

A total joy. The most memorable public art installation for me of the last decade.
Lewis Herbert, Leader of Cambridge City Council, November 2020.

With thanks to Software Acumen, South Cambs District Council and Education Services 2010 for their generous sponsorship of the Forest in 2021. With thanks also to Gerry Weatherhead for some of the images from Wandlebury 2021