Lift the Lid: 23 Voices was a 10-week podcasting and journalism course co-hosted by LEEDS 2023 and Creative Lives, providing participants with the skills and confidence to create their own media about the culture that matters to them. In this article, Flynn Greenhalgh reviews 'This is a FOREST' by Invisible Flock. 

This is a FOREST’ is an ongoing project curated by Invisible Flock, a London-based multi-award-winning company that focuses on four main topics: art, research, environment, and change. They also take a large role in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, exploring nature using a variety of art forms and have worked towards many ecological projects throughout the past seventeen years.

On the 6th of October, I visited the town centre to attend the artists talk from a variety of people who helped create the art display (including Vandria Borai, an indigenous artist who has a deep connection to nature given her upbringing within a rainforest, and chaired by Kasia Molga), which was a group collective exhibition that displayed ‘facets of the ecological crisis’ and represented different world views on the topic and a vast range of art forms whilst exploring how every individual may experience landscapes and nature.

Anushka Athique, a practitioner in architecture surrounding landscapes, discussed the benefits of living near a forest, stating her ‘family is an ecosystem’, which the rest of the panel deemed an important insight that could in theory be shared by any family. Anushka gave an explanation on her two pieces that she made for the exhibition; she provided a documentation of a walk through nature, giving impressions of movement and senses that worked to develop a tactile relationship between our own bodies and the natural areas still left on our planet, and a video piece including a small family representing an abstract conversation about how a forest is ‘built’, where one child discusses the logistics, and the other traverses ideas on the more creative side.

Matt Taylor, a forestry consultant who works in managing woodlands, and Victoria Pratt, Invisible Flock’s Creative Director, talked about the difficulty of finding a middle ground between the rights of the land and the rights of the owner of the respective land, and the struggle to find an area to protect given the vast and rapid changes and creations of plans for many reasons including the economy, communication and management. They elaborated by saying that the land requires biodiversity, which is now becoming a more popular view, which has led to the creation of ‘biodiversity net gain’, a scheme determining the lost range of wildlife and replacing it when building on site done through an ecological survey carried out by unbiased professionals.

Victoria went on to explain the difficulty of finding land to work with further, stating one of their most promising sites was denied as it would not economically benefit the public, which the panel agreed to be ‘bizarre’ as there would still be a great benefit to the world as a whole, given the environmental message that would be put through. She and those beside her continued to discuss this, explaining another site they had looked into used to be a school, and it had not been taken down properly, leaving piles of tiles, carpets, sediment and other objects lying on the ground, which has greatly damaged the surrounding area through erosion, blocking areas and materials that could have been used as habitats and in some cases deteriorating and producing toxic chemicals or greenhouse gasses.

The panel proceeded to state this was not just harmful to that local environment, but provides the question of who will live in that area in the future as it is soon to be damaged past recovery. This project does not only look at the current state of our environment, but thinks and plans for the future.

A member of the audience asked about the hope of the legacy of This Is A FOREST, and the panel responded with a few ideas they have in mind: there are empty pockets of Hyde Park that they hope to use as an area of wildlife conservation, they hope to discuss climate justice on local, national and international levels, and bring light to all climate issues in Leeds from every citizen, hoping to spark an active interest and emotional response to the state of the climate. They also clarified the meaning of ‘ecological grief’ in response to this question, elaborating by giving definition to ‘solastalgia’ – a term describing the distress of environmental change. This was continued by the clarification that we must understand what we have lost before we can move forward, and this understanding can come from stories and art, much like the exhibition made by Invisible Flock.

Hi! My name is Flynn, I am 16 and a sixth form student hoping to study environmental science at degree level. I have a strong passion for music, art and nature and I’ve absolutely loved being a part of Leeds Year of Culture with Lift the Lid as it’s given me a fantastic opportunity to discuss those things I’m so passionate about! Flynn Greenhalgh, Lift the Lid: 23 Voices participant