UK (Bath Spa University) Forest of Imagination pop-up arts festival shortlisted for national award

A contemporary arts and architecture project for all ages, co-curated by a leading academic at Bath Spa University, has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award.

The annual Bath-based pop-up arts festival, Forest of Imagination, brought ‘Living Tree Mirror Maze’ to the city in 2022, and it is one of just four projects from around the country to be shortlisted in the ‘one off activity – children’ category of the Inspire Future Generations (IFG) Awards.

The IFG Awards, run by the Thornton Education Trust (TET), aim to recognise individuals and initiatives that have been working with children and young people, helping them to engage in, and advocate for, a better built environment. The specific category Forest of Imagination is shortlisted for recognises ‘activities or events for younger children that explore architecture as a creative learning tool in an informal setting’.

Forest of Imagination is led by Dr Penny Hay, Research Fellow, Reader and Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University, and Director of Research at House of Imagination, in collaboration with Andrew Grant from Grant Associates (designer of the Super Trees in Singapore), and Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. On every project, the team aims to reimagine a familiar space, to inspire creativity and heighten a sense of nature in an urban environment.

This year was the ninth incarnation of Forest of Imagination, which pops up in a different form, and at a different location in Bath, each summer. The shortlisted Living Tree Mirror Maze project was designed by Andrew Amondson, Professor Alf Coles, University of Bristol and Marcus Rothnie, Feidlen Clegg Bradley Studios alongside Penny and the Forest of Imagination team.

To create the Living Tree Mirror Maze, the team conducted research in local schools to gather children’s and young people’s ideas to inform the design of the installation, which was open to the public at the Egg Theatre from 17 June to 3 July 2022, with a free family fun forest at the American Museum and Gardens later in July.

Dr Penny Hay said:

“The sense of children coming in to own a space, that it’s theirs, that it’s their living classroom – it was beautiful because it was emotional … but it was also multi-sensory, so we could hear the children’s ideas, and laughter, and joy, and surprise, and also their ingenuity … and it was all through this radical space of imagination.

“It was a manifestation of creativity, our collective imagination and the importance of nature in all of our lives – it’s every day, making creativity visible, and making everyone welcome in this conversation that’s seriously playful.”

IFG Awards Judge and TET Trustee Neil Pinder said:

“Submissions this year were outstanding and show how children and young people are increasingly being given agency in their own built environment. Many projects showed excellent engagement and working with the local community. Project outputs and outcomes have been of a very high standard, and the awards really highlight all of this vital work taking place.”

The winners of the Future Generation Awards will be announced on 28 November at The Building Centre in London.