Research and Development

When making our pieces for children, as with all our work, we take a long time….

We take a long time talking, playing, observing and listening to children. We work in schools, and in nurseries and we have a number of schools who regularly help us in our endeavour to make the best work we can. For ‘The Forest’ we asked some schools “would you mind if we took some of your young people to play in a forest?”. Those open-minded schools which agreed to our unusual request provided us with some of our most useful material which informed the piece as you see it today. We ran some workshops with the children first, inside. We wanted to find out what the word ‘forest’ conjured up in their minds, we wanted to see what they imagined and brought to life for themselves with minimal input from us. Its here we discovered the huge range of understanding and experiences of forests; it is clear plenty of children had never been to a forest in the UK; for some it meant lions and monkeys and tigers…for others logs and streams and trees and leaves…for others who were born outside the UK they saw snakes and spiders and exotic birds. What was pleasing though, was that for all of them it meant movement: running, jumping, spinning, climbing, leaping and so from the start we knew that is was right to be making a piece about forests that was a piece of dance.

Then we all got into their minibus and went to a forest and when we arrived this is what happened:

Running off, staying together, walking slowly, worrying about dirt, loving dirt, touching bark, looking up, jumping over muddy puddles, worrying about getting wet, trying to get wet, making leaf piles, jumping into leaf piles, throwing leaves, catching leaves, pointing out strange twisty trees, climbing on fallen dead trees, pretending to be trees swaying, pretending to be trees falling down, lying on the ground looking at the sky, picking things up, collecting pine cones, collecting sticks, collecting twigs, collecting leaves, collecting beetles, making paths, standing still, lying on leaves, poking insects, running away from spiders, chasing people with insects, following insects, watching insects crawl over the ground, over their hands, pointing at spider threads hanging in the sunlight, building fires, looking for bears, looking for werewolves, looking for owls, looking for chipmunks, calling out, chirping, tweeting, howling, hooting, growling…

and if you look carefully you can see most of this in ‘The forest’.

Samantha Butler, Director

Birdsong for Two Voices

A spiral ascending the morning,

climbing by means of a song into the sun,

to be sung reciprocally by two birds at intervals

in the same tree but not quite in time.

A song that assembles the earth

out of nine notes and silence.

out of the unformed gloom before dawn

where every tree is a problem to be solved by birdsong.

Crex Crex Corcorovado,

letting their pieces fall where they may,

every dawn divides into the distinct

misgiving between alternate voices

sung repeatedly by two birds at intervals

out of nine notes and silence.

while the sun, with its fingers to the earth,

as the sun proceeds so it gathers instruments:

it gathers the yard with its echoes and scaffolding sounds,

it gathers the swerving away sound of the road,

it gathers the rever shivering in a wet field,

it gathers the three small bones in the dark of the eardrum;

it gathers the big bass silence of clouds

and the mind whispering in its shell

and all trees, with their ears to the air,

seeking a steady state and singing it over till it settles.

- Alice Oswald

The creators of The Forest explain a little more about the show - who it’s for, what it’s about, and the lovely things you might discover within it.

Two more geocaches are now up on our website and ready to be found! You can find more details on our treasure hunting page - With Spring just around the corner, now’s the perfect time so start planning some outdoor adventures - grab a compass or a GPS device and see what you can discover in the forest.

It’s time for some more exciting news - our Birmingham treasure hunt is now up and running! Using the power of GPS, or the just power of a map and compass, you can go looking for a box of treasure we’ve hidden somewhere in the trees of Birmingham. If you feel up to an afternoon’s adventure, go to our treasure hunt page to find out more - and don’t forget to let us know how you got on by contacting us via Facebook or Twitter.

Happy hunting!


last night at the joint of dawn,

an owl’s call opened the darkness

miles away, more than a world beyond this room

and immediately, I was in the woods again,

poised, seeing my eyes seen,

hearing my listening heard

under a huge tree improvised by fear

dead brush falling then a star

straight through to God

founded and fixed the wood

then out, until it touched the town’s lights,

an owl’s elsewhere swelled and questioned

twice, like you might lean and strike

two matches in the wind

- Alice Oswald

"In the woods, there is a strong sense of immersion in the dancing shadow play of the leafy depths, and the rise and fall of the sap that proclaims the seasons are nothing less than a tide, and no less influenced by the moon."
Roger Deakin, ‘Wildwood’