By Clive Cobie
8th November 2019
I have recently started a project that I would like to share with you. The school woodland theatre project. The idea came in a breeze of inspiration as do so many. I was pondering how to connect people with nature to help communities grow and work together.
The school woodland theatre project, is going to be a means of achieving this. The nucleus is the desire to learn matched by the desire to teach. Every school has forest school teachers and students, the theatre is a place that is created to encourage the learning experience of all that are involved, the land is offered to a local school by a local landowner, to create their theatre the
Community may like to get involved .
In the first school woodland theatre project a kind elderly couple offered a small area of their land to support the idea, the area chosen was undulating so I started making a circle seventeen meters across into a level surface, the area had a lot of bracken and cut up branches from a fallen tree so after clearing that with my little digger I dug up the bracken roots (bracken is an invasive plant which very greedy for nutrients), after this i turfed the area and wove a loose hazel hurdle around half the area which the children will finish off. The idea is that the children will plant a tree each , which amounts to three hundred and twenty trees around the circle ,each teacher will also plant a tree , then outward a woodland will be planted,there is a certain symbolic and deep meaning connection within this action not only with nature but to the realisation that we are all one big family.
As the project evolves through the infusion of inspiration.The children will learn from forest school teachers, parents and other teachers an abundance of skills that will help them create the props and theatre set from natural materials to put on shows that will inspire action. I believe that the answer to our wake up call is through the children, for they are still connected with nature through their innocence.
I hope schools will become connected with one another, sharing information about the different biodiversity in each school woodland theatre area as each one evolves in its unique environment.
This last week with the primary school in the local village we planted 280 hornbeam trees to surround the theatre, the smaller ones about three feet high surround from the east side around to the south, the west side being much lower as it’s on the original level of the hillside the hornbeam trees are about twelve feet high , this will give the theatre surround an equal level crescent of trees, I chose hornbeam because, one ,they don’t mind growing in close proximity, if they have plenty of light , two I have plenty so I was able to select the size I wanted, the tall ones came from the hazel copse they had stretched for the light, in fact I had to cut a third off of most of the them.
The school children and parents came with their Forrest school teachers and had great fun for an hour before it got dark, it took three days and was very satisfying, the school is going to start using it in the spring, which will give me time to do the brash hedging which I hope will deter deer.
7th April 2020 An article Clive wrote for the ‘Cleft Stick’ the NCFed newsletter
The school woodland theatre
By Clive Cobie (Sussex and Surrey Coppice Group)
The school woodland theatre is a way to give children, adolescents,& young adults a platform to express their concerns about life, through drama. It can act as a hub for a community, as there are many ways to be involved. It has the potential to bring many positive benefits both personally and to your community.It is non profit.
To create a school woodland theatre, all you will need is permission of a friendly land owner. Potential areas must be easily accessible, an ideal area may be a derelict copse, this is best described as a woodland that was once cut regularly on a rotation, depending on what size materials were required, for example hazel has a seven to ten year cycle. Many derelict copses have great potential for a school woodland theatre as it wouldn’t take much work to create an area suitable.
The model of the school woodland theatre is open ended, it is a way for people to integrate and express their views on a wide range of topics. At a crucial point in our history, when there seems to be so many issues that seem insurmountable, this can be overwhelming and disheartening, there is a lot of anxiety about the environment and how it is being disrespected. Through drama communities can create plays that are evocative and thought provoking, that have the capability of reaching out to other communities and inspiring them.
One of the only ways to get to grips with the issues facing us is through community integration. The school woodland theatre offers an opportunity for communities to integrate as there are many aspects:-
- The most obvious being working on plays, the concept, the costumes and sets, one idea for costumes was to use natural materials like plants, bark, grass, fixed to old clothes etc, the woodland should produce structural materials for sets .
- As it evolves each community can create inter community networking, maybe even two villages or more working on one play, that would have more of a profound impact on a particular issue. If for example an ancient woodland was threatened with destruction from road works the communities in the area could combine to create a school woodland theatre in the threatened woodland, the theme for the play could be the “ancient woodland swan song “, it could be advertised, tickets sold throughout the summer, the money from the tickets pay for legal fees to help protect the woodland.
The area that the school woodland theatre occupies offers an abundance of opportunities for learning, from forest school lessons, scouts / guides meetings ,to more in depth studies of the biodiversity in the area, records of new species of flora and fauna , these records can be added to neighbouring villages records, thereby getting a biodiversity network plan of large areas.
Village halls, could be utilised for talks about the communities potential, education, plans , group enterprises, Concerns about the climate crisis. Whatever we do we will no doubt see some dramatic changes over the next decade or two, it would be wise to work towards integrating communities so that they have good foundations.
In my minds eye as communities grow I see potential for community gardens, where locals are keen to share the work , as it would be fun , sharing ideas for making the garden more productive, as a group a community could create and inspire neighbouring villages.
In a community there are so many untapped ideas, so much potential.
The school woodland theatre community truck
The truck is a means by which the idea of a community school woodland theatre can be promoted.
The truck will travel to suitable villages and set up.
The aim is to give people the opportunity to experience various crafts, inside the truck there are workstations that will be adequate for four adults or six children to do small crafts, copper beating, leather embossing, wooden jewellery making, etc and any other craft that can be done on a one foot square platform. There is also a full size carpenter bench , jewellery bench.
The ramp is to be used as a stage for the use of the local residents to have a go at drama with their children etc, it will be set up using natural materials, there will be various themes for them to choose from, Little red riding hood ,jack and the beanstalk etc, there will be backdrops depicting various scenes, the side of the truck will have murals, promoting the idea of the community school woodland theatre project. The aim is to encourage community integration, from little acorns grow great woodlands .
Pictures of the Truck under construction:
29th May 2020
Today Clive sent in some new pictures of the continued work on the wonderful theater project: