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£40,000 awarded to Frome Community College’s ecology art project

The core group of students with principal Gavin Ball and project members in front of the ECOS Tree of Life.

The core group of students with principal Gavin Ball and project members in front of the ECOS Tree of Life.slider,

A group of 20 Frome Community College students has just received an award of £40,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) 

This award will develop and complete work that was piloted by Frome College’s Employability Students in autumn 2014, funded by Henry Hoare, Frome Town Council and Somerset Community Foundation.

This ecologically-based project is led by a core group of young people with the support of Young People Frome, several local artists, Frome Town Council and Steve Macarthur of Green Stand Consulting.

It centres around a 250 year-old oak tree which fell in Turner’s Paddock, Stourhead in January 2013 and featured in JMW Turner’s painting ‘View over the Lake at Stourhead 1798’ when it was 30 years old.

The oak will be carved by students and then re-erected at Frome Community College in 2016 to remind us of the history of our great forests, the typically English art of the formal landscape garden and our grand tradition of landscape painting.

The project is being supported by the National Trust, Stourhead which has donated the tree and will provide expertise enabling the students to learn about the history of the gardens, first laid out in the 1750s, and Turner’s painting, now in Tate Britain.

The students will also have the chance to explore the heritage of Selwood Forest, which at one time would have covered the whole area from Frome to Stourhead and beyond.  Somerset Wildlife Trust through their Selwood Living Landscape Programme have also pledged their support for the project.

Alan Power, garden and estate manager said, “We are delighted and excited by the news that the Last Tree Dreaming HLF application was successful.

“This will be a long lasting, unique, visual and thought provoking project, connecting us at Stourhead and in the National Trust with the local community and inspiring generations of young people.”

Local artist, Barry Cooper, who first discovered the significance of the fallen oak at Stourhead said. “I am overjoyed that this project is going ahead.  Oak trees are the bearers of dreams – lovers carve their names into them, swings are suspended from them, their branches reach out towards the sky. They outlive us, yet we can see in them many aspects of the human condition: growth, renewal, ageing & disease.

“Frome Community College along with many other state-funded schools has suffered significant cuts to its budget. This award will offer those students areas of knowledge outside the standard curriculum, providing a broader context to the valuable process of education.”

Nerys Watts, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West said, “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re pleased to announce our support for this project through our Young Roots programme. Young people are the future custodians of our natural heritage, so it’s wonderful to see them have the opportunity to connect the oak tree and its own historic significance with the personal skills and stories it has helped to inspire.”

The project aims to engage over 600 young people and will encompass learning in a wide range of subjects, including: ecology, local history, landscape gardening, civil and timber engineering, painting, drawing, sculpture, poetry and film-making.  The young people involved will also get the opportunity to develop skills in woodcarving, bushcraft, curating an art exhibition, collecting oral histories, conservation and archiving. There will also be an opportunity to visit the Turner Collection in Tate Modern, London.

Matthew Marshall, Somerset Wildlife Trust Selwood Living Landscape officer said, “We are trying to develop a lasting legacy for the landscape and the people that live and work in it, which includes positive benefits for wildlife in the longer term. A landscape-scale programme gives those who live there an opportunity to look back at the past and from that inspiring legacy, think about what they would like to take into the future, which fits perfectly with the Last Tree Dreaming heritage project.”

The project will be coordinated by Azeema Caffoor from the charity Young People Frome and Barry Cooper. The students will work with Barry, with wood sculptor Anthony Rogers, and eco-poet and Forest Schools’ leader, Helen Moore, as well as other local people with specific skills and expertise in National Trust Stourhead, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Tate Modern, Frome Museum, Bath University, and Frome’s multi-talented community.

Last Tree Dreaming will be running a workshop at the Children’s Festival on Sunday 12th July in Victoria Park when there will be an opportunity for young people to get involved in woodcarving, learn more about trees and find out about getting involved in the project.  

There will also be opportunities for adult volunteers, especially those with an interest in the history of Selwood Forest, to support the project.

Anyone interested in getting involved should contact Azeema  at: azeema@fromeactive.org.uk. There is also information for young people at kidblog.org/LastTreeDreaming