The Bronze Oak Project aims to create an extraordinary new public artwork by reproducing a life-size 900-year-old oak from Windsor Great Park perfectly in bronze in a key public space in London. This awe-inspiring artefact will use the iconic symbol of this ancient oak tree to catalyse a meaningful and lasting connection between citizens and the natural world.
There is a growing body of evidence that shows that contact with nature is essential for our health, social development and community cohesion. Yet generation by generation, we are spending less and less time with nature, with harmful consequences, both for individuals and for the wider society. It also exacerbates Shifting Baseline Syndrome, whereby each generation accepts the state of the environment in which they are raised as “normal”, leading to a continuous lowering of standards over time. Public disconnection from natural systems means there is no concerted pressure for action to improve the natural environment, even in the face of increased instances of extreme events such as flooding.
Ancient trees are of huge cultural significance, and we propose to create a cultural moment for ancient trees that motivates action to ensure they continue to feature in our landscapes for generations to come. Based on the latest psychological research, the project will use art to drive nature connection, using the cultural importance of ancient trees to build a strong emotional connection that is so important in motivating change.
The tree – an incredible artefact in its own right – will be accompanied by a multimedia arts exhibition, using the symbolism of the tree to connect past, present and future. The experience will be highly interactive, providing something for everyone, and engaging all the senses to help deepen nature connection. Visitors will be invited to share their own stories and experiences, as well as create and add to the exhibition, increasing relevance and deepening emotional engagement.
After a time-limited period in London, the arts exhibition will then separate from the Bronze Oak sculpture and tour Britain with a maquette of the oak, providing an opportunity to reach a far wider audience. At the end of the tour the different parts of the exhibition will be dispersed to a range of partner organisations.
Visitors to the exhibition, both in London and on tour, will be invited to donate to a Bronze Oak Fund. This will be distributed to projects working to create and secure the next generation of ancient trees.
Using the timeline of an ancient tree provides an opportunity to reset the baseline upon which environmental change is judged. We will use the lifetime of an ancient tree to explore past, present and future, helping overcome shifting baseline syndrome and motivating action for a greener future.