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Thursday, 2 September 2010

Into the forest...

This is one of those times I desperately wish I had a mossycoat I could put on to travel across country in an instant. Deloitte Ignite 2010 is an amazing looking three day festival of contemporary arts taking place at the Royal Opera House in London this weekend. It is being curated by Joanna MacGregor and the theme is forests. Here are a few snippets from their website to tempt you (or torment you—I'm sorry about that):
For the 2010 festival Joanna has taken her inspiration from forests: forests as a place of quiet, reflective beauty, mystery and discovery, as places of fairytale narrative, as well as metaphorical spaces. She has invited artists to create forests all over the Royal Opera House in different materials: recycled and reclaimed wood, organic materials, old costumes and mannequins, shimmering projections and reflecting pools. There are films, music and dance performances, soundscapes and installations.
Fairy tale highlights include:

Into the Woods: a cinema – unlike any you have visited – will occupy the Clore Studio Upstairs, as distinguished writer and cultural historian Marina Warner introduces and discusses a programme of fairytale-inspired films. The delicious little Russian-language animations Kuygorozh and Little Vasilisa (2007) partner the darker worlds of Joan Ashworth’s How Mermaids Breed (2002) and Alice Anderson’s The Night I Became a Doll (2009).
The German silhouette animator and film director Lotte Reiniger’s magnificently opulent and imaginative The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) was only discovered and reconstructed in the last few years, and is considered the world’s oldest-surviving feature length animation. Over the weekend it receives four screenings, with a wonderful contemporary score composed and performed live by WARP artist Mira Calix. Reiniger’s better known Fairytales – brief, endearing animations from 1922 – form the basis and backdrop of scorching performances from the Rumanian violinist Alexander Balanescu and Russian accordionist and singer Evelina Petrova, combining the brilliant virtuosity of improvisation with raw, aching qualities of Russian folk music and singing.
There are many more intriguing and tantalising descriptions of events and installations to explore on the website. I'd really recommend clicking though. And if you can get there, book and go and come back and tell us what it was like—the daytime events are free!

Because I will, unfortunately, be nowhere near London, or even a forest, this weekend I thought I would take solace in a couple of my favourite forest links. They are both from the treasure chest that is the JOMA archives: Into the Woods: On British Forests, Myth and Now is an interesting exploration of forests by poet Ruth Padel. The Green Man & the Green Woman: Art Inspired by Forest Myths features a fascinating essay by Terri Windling and is accompanied by beautiful artwork from Windling, Charles Vess, Alan Lee, the Frouds and others.

Photo by Graham Dean, used with permission.


  1. Sounds wonderful! Wish I lived near London . . .

  2. Loved the mossycoat retelling! I would like to see it with gorgeous illustrations (though the front illustration for it was quite nice).

    I liked the illustration at the front of the British forests essay to.

  3. (make that "too" at the end of my comment)

  4. Janet, me too!

    Oooh, yes an illustrated mossycoat retelling would be wonderful. Actually, I think this Pullman retelling was once available as a little paperback from Scholastic, but I'm not sure whether it was illustrated or not and it now seems to be out of print.

    Mossycoat is one of my favourite tales, I have it in Katherine Briggs' Folktales of England and in Angela Carter's Virago Book of Fairy Tales. I always think it's ridiculous the original can't be put online because it's still in copyright (even though it was actually collected in 1915!).

    Yes, the illustration on the Padel essay is lovely. The artist's website is well worth a visit too, it's beautiful! Link here:

  5. I managed to make a flying visit to Ignite on Sunday afternoon.

    I loved Ghosts and Mirrors, the living tableaux from opera (going to blog about that soon at Books and Adventures), but I think the most ‘fairy-tale’ bit was actually the Reclaimed Forest in the Linbury Studio Theatre, with telegraph poles recycled as enchanted trees, pieces of tyre made into undergrowth (and giving a weird rubbery smell!), and a smoky haze suffusing the space as a gamelan orchestra performed.

    It was great just to wander the ROH…truly like being lost in a fairytale forest, with magic and the everyday overlapping: crossing the restaurant terrace to find a clutch of metronomes ticking away in a dance studio….or heading down into the basements to be surprised by mad scientists who dragged you into their bizarre Hansel and Gretel exhibition!

    Thanks for pointing this event out, Claire. Wouldn’t have spotted it without the Fairytale Cupboard!

  6. I'm so glad you got there, Matt. And thank you so much for posting a comment about what it was like, I'm very jealous!