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Tales from the forest;Arts in Scotland

See paper pulp? I really like the texture of it". His hands covered in white sticky gunge, the boy in the Primary 34 class at Borestone school was carefully adding his own moulded forms to the side of a 2ft by 3ft hollow tree stump in the middle of the class.

This was the second of three sessions with sculptor Janie Andrews as part of Schools Sculpture Stories, a project run by the MacRobert Centre in Stirling and funded by the National Heritage Arts Sponsorship Scheme, the Baring Foundation and computer company Exabyte.

Inspiration for the project came from Halifax-based IOU Theatre's Leaves Among Thorns, an "enchanted forest" currently rooted in the MacRobert's Studio Theatre. Resonant of Grimm fairy tales, giant revolving trees invite children to listen to stories from within their hollow trunks.

The multi-layered project taking place in three primary schools - St Margaret's, Cowie; Crianlarich and Borestone, Stirling - involved expressive arts, English language, environmental studies and maths. It also gave children the chance to work with professional artists.

The children started by writing stories which, despite their teacher Mhairi McKie's attempt to focus on "the gentle side of forests", often reverted to darker themes. Witches, little boys in ovens and strange beings all featured alongside descriptions of exploration and animals. These were then illustrated to make a giant storybook.

The class then started work with Janie on a storytelling tree. When I visited, the hollow base of the trunk was being moulded round a cane structure, using paper pulp, papier mache, glue and sackcloth. Crockery was ready to be smashed and used for a ceramic texture.

The tree, like those in Leaves Among Thorns, was to have its own soundscape created by the class and composed during two sessions with musician Dave Trouton using computer synthesisers. The project comes full circle today when the work from all three schools opens in the main foyer of the MacRobert Centre.

Eleanor Caldwell

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