Hansel and Gretel

Tree bark

ArtScapers are delighted to be working with Cambridge Youth Opera, co-creating a ‘Forest of Imagination’ for their new production of Hansel and Gretel. Artist Caroline Wendling will be working with two classes of 8/9 year olds from Girton Primary School and Mayfield Primary School during February and March thinking about forests and fear and freedom. They will be spending time in the grounds of Girton College and Murray Edwards College as part of their research, as well as working together in the Storey’s Field Centre.The children will also be introduced to some of the extraordinary New Hall Art Collection at Murray Edwards College.

Speaking about the project, Jo Cobb, Head Gardener at Murray Edwards College, said: “This will be the first time we’ve welcomed primary school aged children to the College and I’m really intrigued as to how it will spark their imaginations. This project is such an exciting one for the College to be involved with and I hope they will enjoy exploring all the sights, smells and textures the garden has to offer.”

The children’s creative work will be installed as the forest in the foyer area to create an atmosphere for audiences as soon as they arrive for the performances at Storey's Field Centre on March 28th and 29th

ArtScapers is the education programme for Eddington, a new area of Cambridge. Begun in 2016, it has worked with children and their communities in innovative ways, including professional development days, resources, events, exhibitions and an interactive website. The creation of the forest is the first commission of this sort for ArtScapers and CYO and is an exciting development for how children’s creativity can be celebrated and shared as widely as possible. It was inspired by a short film made by CCI of a creative residency by the whole of Mayfield Primary School in Storey’s Field Centre. The space was transformed by enormous paper sculptures, in response to the work of Cambridge scientist Hertha Marks Ayrton and artist Yelena Popova.

Many thanks to Harriet Loffler (New Hall Art Collection), Jo Cobb (Head Gardener at Murray Edwards College), Steve Whiting (Head Groundsman at Girton College) and Gladys Jones (CCI volunteer) for their brilliant support.

This project is made possible by the support of the North West Cambridge Development and the Girton Town Charity.

Hansel and Gretel Strip

Starting with a story


 (by Caroline Wendling)

Forest of trees

I wasn’t sure if 8 and 9 year olds would want to hear a fairy story as a way of starting our day together. We were all meeting for the first time to begin to think how to create a forest of imagination for the new production of Hansel and Gretel. I noticed that the children were engrossed – I felt as though their eyes were totally fixed on me and that they had ears wide open; 51 children were listening and enjoying being told the story. We talked later that day with parents and helpers about remembering the pleasure of being told stories when we were younger.

Caroline Wendling

I invited the children to create their own opera score making the sounds of specific forest noises you might hear deep, deep down in Hansel and Gretel’s forest. They performed their chosen sounds: the crackling of the witches’ oven fire, the rustling of leaves, muted footsteps, a dragon, …and rabbits. Every child contributed. No props were given; they made use of their bodies only. A group of boys not only made the sounds of rabbits but even mimicked their gestures – everybody loved this. 

Boys rabbits

Then the children imagined and drew trees, first on their own and then together on extremely large pieces of paper. Different materials were offered through the process. Energy and collaboration became necessary. Special attention was given to the texture of the bark.  As I went round the room asking children about them I noticed that most trees were carriers of fruit, birds and small mammals. One child said that their tree was a house for all the animals of the wood. One had a beehive, another had willow leaves drawn and coloured with great detail, a girl thought of what you might find in the ground around the tree and she collaged a bone. Some had a night sky above, others bright sun. I was as always impressed by the efficiency of the group work and diversity of the outcomes. Mrs Taylor summed it up by saying: ‘I can’t imagine 6 adults working as well as you all have together’.

Our tree has magic powers – it will listen to you and produce any fruit you ask.

Children drawing


Children drawing

Children drawing

Children drawing


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