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The Arboretum

The Arboretum

The Department of Drama, Theatre and Dance is fortunate in having the Arboretum situated at the back of the Katharine Worth Building. This is a unique, environmentally rich and theatrical space.

The Arboretum, also originally known as the London University Botanical Gardens, has ‘one of the finest post-1950 tree-plantings in the British Isles’ (Alan Mitchell, internationally distinguished arboriculturalist, 1989) and includes many trees rare in the British Isles. Professor Frank Jane, the head London University Botanical Supply Unit, which supplied all the University of London colleges with plant specimens for undergraduate and research use, was responsible for much of the planting. 

For more information on the Arboretum, including directions, click here.

The summer term workshop in the arboretum offered drama students an opportunity to explore 3.5 acres of land that was originally part of the Botany Department at RHUL with a wide range of trees from around the world planted for study from 1950 into the 1970s. It now stretches back from the Drama, Theatre and Dance Department buildings. Jonathan Howe (Head of External Spaces) led a short tour of the arboretum to explain its history and the significance of the trees, some of which are endangered, together with current approaches to their care and upkeep. See information on the site here.

The workshop focus was on environmental sustainability and the creation of movement and text performances in response to the special qualities of the woods. We created scratch performances on the final day which were filmed rather than offered live to ensure safety given the pandemic restrictions/concerns. See the photos and short film below to gain a glimpse into student responses to the space that generated dance and spoken word poems. The workshop began with the idea of sleep walking into climate change but developed to incorporate many more themes in response to release from lockdown and appreciation of the role that the natural environment has played during recent extended periods of isolation and restriction.

L: Measuring the Oak to gauge its age - at least 150 years old.  Jessica Lingard-Nutt and Brandon Thompson.

R: Looking for tree rot and fungus.  Jonathan Howe (Head Gardener), Jessica Lingard-Nutt, Brandon Thompson and Rebecca McCutcheon.

L-R: Movement with trees.  Hualo and Natasha Richardson.  All images © Libby Worth 2021.

Performers: Silver beech, Sweet Chestnut and Cockspur Hawthorn with Oscar Roemmele and Brandon Thompson.

Filmed by: Julie Brixey-Williams (Guest visual artist and PhD student at University of Reading)

Film editor: Brandon Thompson

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