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Location: Cinderford, Gloucestershire, UK

Artists: Mark Anderson of Blissbody and Robin Blackledge (lead artists), David Gibbons of Urban Projects, Lulu Quinn and Julie Westerman, Tony Sinden, Jim Webb


Lightshift was a temporary artists’ illumination event run by the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust (FDST) which took place in the Forest of Dean for seven nights between 26 October and 3 November 2001. The project’s partners with FDST were the Forestry Commission, Forest of Dean District Council and the Forest Regeneration Partnership. They wanted an event with wide appeal that would to raise local confidence and attract people back to the Forest after the devastation to the local economy and community left by the Foot and Mouth epidemic in spring/summer 2001.

Two lead artists were appointed, Mark Anderson from Blissbody which specialises in multi-disciplinary performance-based work, and Robin Blackledge. Together with the event’s coordinator, Sam Wilkinson, they selected 25 projects in total. The commissioned artists, David Gibbons of Urban Projects, Lulu Quinn and Julie Westerman, Tony Sinden and Jim Webb produced an array of video, light and sound works, whilst Blissbody’s team including pyrotechnist Nick Sales, performed four-hour drumming and fire sessions with search lights ‘communicating’ across the Forest.


The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail was started in 1986 and the Trust was set up in 1991 to manage the art works and care for the trail. Permanent art works were commissioned along a route within the heart of the Forest near Cinderford, managed by the Forestry Commission. Sixteen artists have made works including Bruce Allan, Kevin Atherton, Reinhild Beuther, Miles Davies, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Neville Gabie, Magdalena Jetelova, David Nash, Cornelia Parker, Peter Randall-Page, Sophie Ryder and Keir Smith.

The Trust had already begun a process of re-evaluation of its work when the Foot and Mouth epidemic struck. The Trust’s new direction outlined a need to seek out new partners and new ways of presenting artists’ work in the Forest, coinciding with the District Council’s recovery plans to deal with the effects of Foot and Mouth. Thus the idea was hatched for a large-scale and imaginative event in the Forest to raise people’s spirits and start the process of renewal.


LightShift was conceived as a way of raising morale amongst the Forest community, as a pre-requisite for economic regeneration. The problems created by Foot and Mouth warranted long-term strategies rather than ‘quick-fix’ solutions. It was agreed that the event needed to bring a ‘feel-good’ factor into the Forest and help to uplift local confidence, sending a signal that the Forest was now open and extending the badly damaged tourist season.

As an artists’ initiative, the original and innovative use of light, linked with the special excitement of the Forest being opened up at night, engaged and inspired people. No event quite like this had been staged in the Forest previously, and it was a privilege for local people to do something that was unique, distinctive and special.

Following the existing Sculpture Trail, the Forest was animated with light, sounds, fire and video, accompanied by drumming and train horns, and with searchlights picking out the trees on the horizon. The event proved more successful than any of the partners, organisers or artists could possibly have imagined. Over 40,000 people attended, 75 per cent of whom lived or worked locally. There were many requests for the event to be extended or repeated as a regular feature of the Forest calendar.

The Commissions

In addition to the following commissions, 25 student artists from Sheffield University also gave support.

Send and Over by Mark Anderson.

Assisted by pyrotechnist Nick Sales, with Helen Ingham and the Forest Enterprise team, Blissbody performed for four hours each night from the Giant’s Chair (Place by Magdalena Jetelova) using drums and train horns emitting flames, in answer to huge searchlights animating the tree lines in the distance.

Insects by Mark Anderson

A very simple but effective light installation in which eight ‘insects’, moving lights turning randomly on and off and making cricket-like sounds, were located along a dark route through the Forest.

Vital Signs by Robin Blackledge assisted by Gerrard Martin

24 installations, including mirrors and flames creating optical illusions. Paraffin lamps, LED lights, sounds, and mirror balls illuminated by miners lamps were used as waymarkers.

Jean Sequencing by Robin Blackledge

A video projection onto the trunk of a large tree inferred the movement of blood and human genes, accompanied by a sound installation.

Pyrophones by Blissbody

Eight train horns secreted in a large, natural pool were ignited with gas. The whooshing gas combined with the train horns created a mysterious, muffled envelope of sound accompanied by dramatic flares from the water.

Consawlations by Blissbody

Ten saw blades of varying sizes suspended high up amongst the trees, moved by a vibrating arm and illuminated by an LED created a play of shadows and metallic tapping in an intimate sound and light experience.

Radio Galaxies by Blissbody

A mass of clicks and sparks hidden in the trees above viewers’ heads, like the clicks of a gas oven sparking up, was echoed by tiny LED lights turning on and off.

Light Rain by David Gibbons of Urban Projects

Over 50 blue LED lights in a grid-like structure combined with a constantly flowing water pipe created the illusion of light following the water into the pool beneath, illuminating the rippled surface for a moment.

Where R U? by Lulu Quinn and Julie Westerman

As part of the Countryside Agency’s research into sustainability in the Forest, SMS text messages saying what people felt was special about the Forest were projected onto the trees at the beginning and end of the route, some small scale at visitors’ feet and some on a massive scale across the Forest.

Fountainhead by Tony Sinden

Film footage of a waterfall in Scotland was projected onto split screens to the sound of rushing water. Filmed at different speeds and velocities, at times the water image was white, frothy and violent and at others, blue and crisp.

Key Issues

  • Achievement of objectives

    Evidence of the event’s success in meeting its objective to contribute to the recovery of the Forest after Foot and Mouth came in the form of many enthusiastic letters, phone calls and requests for a similar event to be held again. The positive response has inspired the Trust to set up a ‘friends’ group based on those offering to volunteer for future events or activities. The District Council and Forest Regeneration Partnership were also very pleased with the event.

  • Short timescale

    There was a very limited time-scale to commission and organise the events, with the go-ahead given only six weeks before the opening night. The event relied on the experience of the artists and the event organiser, Sam Wilkinson, who had previously organised a similar event in Birmingham with some of the same artists. A team including the lead artists was rapidly created and was central to the success of the event.

  • Budget

    The total budget was £80,000, with £52,000 awarded by the Partnership and a further £5,000 from South West Arts and the South West Media Development Agency (now South West Screen). Up to £15,000 worth of equipment was loaned to the project and donations from the public raised £2,000. The event slightly overspent by £1,500 - but the original costing proved to be accurate.

  • Insurance

    Insurance became a key issue when the District Council discovered that their insurers could not insure unattended equipment. Eventually, the organiser secured insurance through the NFU. The artists all carried their own personal indemnities and the Trust took out public liability insurance (Forest Enterprise has government indemnity).

  • Health and Safety

    A risk assessment for the event was carried out by Forest Enterprise and the Fire Service together with the artists. Fire fighting equipment was installed along the route and St John’s Ambulance staff were in attendance at all times. The route was marked by night lights and every site was constantly attended by volunteers. Despite unexpectedly large numbers of visitors, there was only one minor accident to a member of the public and one involving an artist installing a work.

  • Help In Kind

    The project would not have happened without the labour, materials and support of the Forestry Commission, nor without a large number of volunteers who were rallied to warden the event because of the unexpectedly high visitor numbers.

  • One-Off Event

    Despite calls from the public, the initial response of FDST was that LightShift could only be a one-off event. As artist Robin Blackledge put it, this was an event "which will remain in the folklore of the Forest and its community". However, there is a recognition that an artists' temporary event, after dark and late in the season, can make a valuable contribution to the Forest community and give artists a very different opportunity to make new work in a unique environment. The Trust is therefore beginning to explore the possibility of another 'shift' for the autumn of 2003.


For further information, please visit www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk

Artist’s website: Jim Webb: www.laserdisplays.org

© Copyright Ben Eastop 2002.