This weekend, Walking Forest is calling on women to stand up for nature and the future of the planet in a performance action that will move through the streets of Coventry.
From dawn until dusk on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 October, women activists will carry a felled tree through the city centre in an act of love and endurance, raising awareness of the threat to the natural world and asking urgent questions about how we can bring about change.
Framing this two-day event will be the story of two trees – the first symbolising all that we have already lost, and the second offering hope for the future.
Day One will focus on the story of the birch tree that will be carried by our walkers throughout the day, with at least one person supporting part of the tree at all times. Cut down to make way for a new railway line, this locally sourced tree will serve to represent all the trees and all the green spaces that have been lost to new developments over the decades.
Actions on this day will acknowledge this loss, creating space for people to come together and share their grief and their fears about the future.
Day Two, meanwhile, will invite participants and witnesses to look forward with optimism, reflecting on the future we wish to see and celebrating all those who are already standing up for climate and social justice, both locally and in the wider world.
The tree at the heart of this celebration is an old black pine, originally planted by Suffragette Rose Lamartine Yates. The tree is the sole survivor from Annie’s Wood, an arboretum of 60 trees all planted by Suffragettes to honour their actions. Located in Batheaston, South West England, Annie’s Wood was eventually bulldozed to make way for new housing in the 1960s.
But this story is a hopeful one: from the surviving tree, Walking Forest gathered seeds and propagated saplings, taking them along with the story of the tree to the COP24 climate talks in Poland. This year’s action in Coventry will be the start of a similar journey to COP26 in Glasgow. It will also form part of a wider, 10-year project, culminating in the planting of a new, intentional woodland, inspired by the Suffragette arboretum.
Beginning at Coventry Cathedral – itself a powerful symbol of rebirth, hope and rising from the ashes of destruction, the second day of the journey seeks to inspire people to take positive action for planet and people, finishing in a community allotment just outside the city centre.