artful eco workings that cycle through: Close-to-Nature continuous cover forestry, experimental film-making, the eco-humanities field (deep ecology, ecocriticism, ecosophy, ecofeminism), writing & forest policy development; by cathy fitzgerald, visual culture, ncad, ireland

Featured video: hollywood diaries screen reel: 2008-2012... SD & HD 8:54
notes on a small conifer plantation being transformed to a mixed species, permanent forest

The light was just fading but I was so delighted to hold a conversation about

Gathering under the trees at Hollywood, South Carlow, Ireland, during the 1st Rural Blackstairs Film festival. I was delighted to hold a space for conversation about why transforming conifer plantations is such a rich and valuable means to relate and act more sustainably to our environments. Photo: Gwen Wilkinson.

I was really delighted and surprised to have my talk in Hollywood so enthusiastically received last Saturday during the 1st Blackstairs Rural Film Festival. I was expecting 15 but we were a group of 24 in the end!

What made the event special was the diversity of interests and experience in the people attending: a forester, a local forest owner, a 4th generation woodworker, arts officers, artists, curators, gardeners, a teacher, a former local councillor and just the very curious. This mirrors the cross-disciplinary aim of my project, that we need to hold spaces for many perspectives, other than just science, to advance learnings for eco-social change.

However, it was a real challenge for me to plan a talk through Hollywood as this project has been developing along many different strands since 2008 and I knew my audience would be varied. I decided to stop in several places in Hollywood (it has several distinct areas of forest transformation) to discuss some of the insights from ‘chapters’ in my draft audiovisual ebook and I shared a couple of the short films too. Martin gave a lot of wonderful support as always and “Kiwi Sean” Hoskins (our forest contractor) also gave practical insights about how he transforms conifer plantations such as Hollywood. All in all, it was a lot of fun and great to begin to share the Hollywood ‘story’ with my local community, right in Hollywood (with Holly in charge of course!).

Many thanks again to Orla Ryan for seeing the potential of my sharing my short films (embedded in my ebook) during the Blackstairs Rural film festival (which was a great success). Its truly been the most meaningful presentation I have made of the Hollywood project so far. Hope you like the photos below – my special thanks to local photographer Gwen Wilkinson who took them at short notice.

Any comments welcome!

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Some of the local film ‘stars’ at Hollywood: Robin, Sitka Spruce, Alder

brochure-cover-Rural-film-festival-2014-Blackstairs-449x1024UPDATE: NOW FULLY BOOKED!

I’m delighted to announce I will be sharing the Hollywood artful forest transformation project in a couple of weeks in the new Blackstairs Rural Film Festival.

I will be taking a small group around Hollywood (near Borris, South Co. Carlow) and opening a conversation around eco art practices and how I have applied them to changing a small monoculture conifer plantation into a forest.

During the walk I will share my draft audiovisual ebook – the ‘journey’ of this forest transformation of this small woodland that I’m preparing for the practice part of my art practice PhD studies. Bringing visitors around our forest with my ebook has evolved as over the last 6 months when I’ve found a number of visitors are coming to Hollywood, local people yet some from far away as Australia, Northern Ireland, just to learn about the project (I have to thank Green Sod Ireland for asking me to do a walk and talk back in April for helping me develop this idea).

So depending on who turns up we may very well discuss the practicalities of forest tending, the challenges of creating artworks, writings in an age of catastrophic biodiversity loss, the idea that local activities may help influence national land policies or contribute to science or we may very well get distracted by Holly, our dog, who lent her name to this project and the project being put on the local map.

The places are limited. Bookings are to be made directly through me at

Date: Saturday 8 November 2014 at 4pm. Ticket price €5.
Please wear warm clothing. Tea and coffee will be available afterwards.

See the full festival programme here


One of the gates to the 'Original Garden' at Findhorn

One of the gates to the ‘Original Garden’ at Findhorn, Scotland, from which, over 50 years ago, came messages to remind humanity that life is sustained by conscious attending to others: that life is a sensitive co-creation between human-non-human, the seen-unseen.

Its been a couple of weeks since I returned from Findhorn. I’ve had to work on other things yet also felt the need to let time pass a little before reflecting on the week-long, rich, and intense meeting that was the ‘New Story’ Summit (‘new stories’ being those that might help create a vision of a more sustaining, ecological and equitable age). Others have given reflections that are very detailed and well worth reading; Richard Olivier’s review, as one of the co-organsing team, presents some of the ambitions and constraints, the successes and failures of hosting such a large summit that operated with emergent themes and processes. He also signposts three areas that may assist people going forward in sharing, growing their New Stories. It was an significant achievement to bring together over 330 people from across the world, to hold a space for diversity and common purpose, with all the challenges that this brings and I was very grateful to have taken part.

So there was a myriad of experiences and stories I heard; sustainable actions and works from across the world and detailed discussion about the idea of ‘story’ itself.  There was sharing, laughter, tensions, patience, impatience, creativity and confusion. There were unmet expectations when there wasn’t enough time for everyone to tell their ‘story’, even a mystery ‘provocative’ attack on the Summit process ‘offered’ by a few in the audience as a challenge to ‘old’ administrative frameworks, although this seemed ill-timed; causing upset and confusion to groups that were already self-organising and it contrasted the cooperative, participatory processes that were forming. Somehow though, the social facilitation skills that Findhorn has accumulated over the years meant all this variety could be accommodated.

The old meta-stories: industrialism, capitalism, human supremacism were well known to many attendees, but could the ‘seeds’ of ‘new story’ be formed from those present? If you are interested, the Findhorn Foundation has video recordings of some sessions of the Summit, on the continuing Summit Hub website here. For a small fee  you can view the  discussions, creative presentations of what a ‘new story’ may be composed of. I know I will be returning to the recordings to reflect more. (more…)


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