Commissioned by Kent Downs AONB, in partnership with Whitstable Biennial (Cement Fields), Creative Folkestone, Turner Contemporary, Forest Research, Imperial College London, University of Kent and Woodland Trust
There are over 200 million ash trees in England, Scotland and Wales and they are all impacted by the arrival of hymenoscyphus fraxineus, Ash dieback. Which is widely accepted to be untreatable and could see the demise of 90-98% of these trees over the next decade. The Ash Project is an urgent nature/culture response to the effects of ash dieback in the Kent Downs. In 2012 when ash dieback, (caused by the fungal pathogen Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), was first discovered in the UK, the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was one of the first areas to notice the rapid spread of the disease. The Ash Project formed as a coalition of organisations in response to this devastating loss of one of the UK’s most important species of tree. The scale of the ecological impact caused by the disease is as yet unmeasured. Ash trees provide valuable ecological flood defence and contribute to air quality. Almost 1000 species use ash trees as habitat, food and life support.
The Ash Project (2016-2019) combined a new public art commission by internationally recognised artists Ackroyd and Harvey The commission was complimented by a two year programme of public engagement which ran from February 2017 – October 2018, including artists’ walks, schools programme, a publicly generated Ash Archive exhibition at galleries in Canterbury, Margate, Chatham, Folkestone and Sevenoaks, green wood working and public programmes at University of Kent, Salt Festival, Folkestone Triennial and Whitstable Biennale. The programme involved communities in actively documenting the contemporary and historic importance of the ash tree in Kent. The project was delivered in active collaboration with all of our partners, the research and scientific community of the Kent Downs and over 50 artists who contributed their amazing work, time and thinking.
The Ash Project asks how we might mark and celebrate ash trees before it is too late. The project combines a major new commission by internationally recognised artists Ackroyd & Harvey with a wide ranging walks, talks and workshops programme, an online archive and a Kent wide plan for landscape restoration. We are collaborating across conservation and scientific research work to develop a cultural approach that will preserve memories of the tree in extraordinary and enduring ways for the generations who will live with the loss.
The project was generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England and Kent County Council. It was commissioned by the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. With additional funding from Woodland Trust and North Downs Way.
The Ash Project was supported by an active partnership with the following organisations.
Launch Event September 2018. Photo: Manuel Vason
Ash to Ash Public Art Work, 2018. Photo: Manuel Vason
Molecular view of ash dieback
Adam Chodzko, Ash Walks, 2018. Photo: Rosie Lonsdale