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The Rootless Forest existed as a mobile artwork recording and playing aloud, the voices of those caught in the war and associated violence in Afghanistan; that is, those who made their complex and often dangerous journey to  Birmingham and the Black Country.  The forest broadcast stories of home and relocation from homeless veterans and the Syrian refugee community.  It was a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted on a boat that travelled along the Birmingham and Black Country Canals.

Since the region to which their communities became embedded were amongst the very communities of the British military who had fought on  Afghanistan soil, the project sought to find ways of reconciling this haunting and until now, invisible relocation.  The project connected families and communities that otherwise may have only encountered one  

another through conflict,  empowering individuals to speak, with a focus on the domestic, everyday and sometimes overlooked viewpoint of the  enduring issues of conflict. The project used the testament and voice of those at society’s margins, recognising that the platform of oral history is a process that fills in the gaps and can provide a more inclusive sense of history..


Statistical data collected from news reports, the British Journal of Psychiatry as well as points of law were intersected the participants personal memories of conflict to reflect upon how we tell our history. This project dealt with recent history and current affairs in a live way allowing people to talk about personal lived experiences. This act allowed and encouraged other  groups who are perhaps marginalised to come an explore their own sense of immediate history.

The Rootless Forest connected its themes of memory, voice and landscape via an intersection of nature’s constants; soil, woodland and water.

The canal tow-paths are public, open access land where everyone has a right of way, however these channels that permeate to the perimeters of the city are liminal. The development and role of an artwork or intervention in these spaces enable us to find our own subjectivity them.

The forest fused contradictions: stasis and motion, containment and  liberation, rootlessness and growth, air and water, arriving and leaving, war and peace. All these elements were rooted in meaning, drawing deeply on the local landscape and its human and historic connections, but also  moving on quietly.  

Offshoots was a free engagement activity programme for young people and adults. I curated Beyond the Pale, a series of talks and symposia that ran  alongside the Forest which was an important opportunity to bring focus to the range of spaces and that exist within the West Midlands. The project had a spectrum of over twenty partners across arts, governance,  health, housing, educational and  theatrical sectors. I worked with over forty people across faculties to deliver The Rootless Forest, resulting in twenty one outputs. 

Please click on the below link to The Rootless Forest  introductory film:

Please click on the below link to The Rootless Forest  Maiden Voyage:

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