The Rootless Forest
a moving landscape bearing stories of passage

The Rootless Forest is a mobile artwork, a mini-forest made of real trees and soil planted on a boat that travels at walking pace along the Birmingham and Black Country Canals. From The Rootless Forest we hear recorded stories about adjustment, homecoming and relocation told by two families from the military and UK Afghan communities in Birmingham. The soundscape is a collaboration between artist Beth Derbyshire and voice director Tara McAllister-Viel.  This project asks the question: If the soil beneath our feet shifts, what happens when that foundation shifts and how does our understanding of home alter?


In war, landscapes, people and communities are altered, and families are rearranged and relocated. The Rootless Forest is a literal and metaphorical platform that parallels testimonies about shifting parameters from communities affected by conflict. As both participants and audience bear witness to their neighbours’ histories, they may gain new insights into the experiences of those they share the city with. In relation to the UK’s imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is an artistic act of remembrance, a memento of hope for the living, the British public and newcomers to Britain. The Rootless Forest is conceived as both an image and living sculpture.  From the towpaths,  audiences encountering an arc of young trees through their daily passage against the backdrop of Birmingham’s historic industrial waterways. The Rootless Forest inscribes itself into the audience’s memory, becoming a lasting monument literally planted into the landscape. It is an emblematic place framing memories through its figurative ecology. For generations to come, people can visit this living monument, which will grow alongside the families that helped give it significance.


Alongside The Rootless Forest there is an exciting educational and engagement programme titled Offshoots, which is provided by New Art Gallery, Walsall, Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, and Sampad (South Asian Arts). In addition, a series of symposia and artist’s talks are being developed under the title Beyond the Pale in partnership with Cathy Wade, Lecturer at BIAD. The word pale derives ultimately from the Latin word palus, meaning stake, specifically a stake used to support a fence. From this came the figurative meaning of boundary or the edge or pale of the forest. Beyond the Pale will embrace themes of boundaries and notions of occupation, and will bring artists, curators and galleries together in locations throughout Birmingham and Walsall. A hand-printed newspaper, The Forest Express, will capture and publish themes and ideas associated with the project.



In Conversation at The New Art Gallery Walsall.

Saturday 6 October, 2 pm

The fourth Beyond the Pale session will be held at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Beth Derbyshire, Wheatley Fellow BIAD 2012 and Sue Ball, MAAP, discuss the potentials of landscape and waterways in framing memory and creating monuments to events and human resilience. 


For more information please contact Lizzie at or call 01215541637.