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Future Forest celebration in the East of England

As part of its centenary celebrations, the Forestry Commission is working with artists Tom Piper MBE and Lisa Wright on a series of life size sculptures to be displayed in Thetford Forest on the Norfolk-Suffolk border from October 4 2019 until May 30 2020.

Taking the form of characters from Classical literature, the figures are presented as custodians of the forest, tasked with protecting it for the benefit of future generations. They highlight the role that trees and woodlands play in safeguarding the future of our planet, their youthful forms aligning them with the next generation who must take responsibility for protecting the future of our forests.

Future Forest Thetford

Future Forest art installation at Thetford Forest






PK Khaira Creswell, Director of the Forestry Commission’s centenary programme, says , “This sculpture trail will stop visitors to Thetford Forest in their tracks, both for the beauty of the figures and the drama the installations bring to the landscape. Amid the climate crisis, England’s trees and woodlands have never been so important for people and nature. As our centenary year draws to a close, we want people to pause and consider their role as custodians of our forests, protecting and enhancing them for the next 100 years.”

Wright’s custodians are made from bio resins, a greener alternative to traditional plastics due to their high level of plant-based content and the lower level of toxic emissions generated during their production. Taking the form of characters from Classical literature, the custodians embody the spirit of endurance. Something that is classical was created in the past, has survived into the present, and has enough value to endure into the future. This spirit of endurance is something that the forest shares. It too was created in the past, yet is still relevant today. This relevance will only increase as we move into the future: with each day that passes, the role that trees and woodlands play in safeguarding the future of our planet becomes ever more vital.”

The custodians will be displayed in a series of structures designed by Tom Piper, who is best known for his installation of almost a million ceramic poppies at the Tower of London in 2014.

Each structure will grow out of a different forest landscape – a majestic natural avenue, a ghostly clearing amidst a swathe of dead trees and a forest edge looking out onto a dramatic expanse of open land… Selecting the different landscapes was a difficult process.

Tom Piper says, “Our initial site visit to Thetford, on a stunning snowy day, showed the vast range of possible locations in which we could work and the great variety of atmospheres within the forest…. Each location has a very different feel but I hope as a whole they will create a coherent journey. Sometimes they are quoting the more formal relationship of statuary seen at the end of long avenues, and at other moments allowing the surprise encounter at close quarters with a figure in a clearing.”

Each individual element of this project is designed to raise awareness of the fact that resilient though they are, the forests of the future will not be able to survive and prosper unless they are sustainably managed: the responsibility for ensuring that this happens will be carried forward by future generations.

In the one hundred years since the founding of the Forestry Commission after the First World War, the UK’s forests have grown and prospered. Today the Commission manages over 1,500 woodlands and forests spread over approximately 250,000 hectares – these range from Northumberland to Cornwall, Shropshire to Norfolk.

In recognition of this centenary milestone in the Forestry Commission’s history, Future Forest is both a celebration and a call to action, using drama and the age-old power of storytelling to instill within the public a desire to protect the forests of the future.

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