Calling Tree

Rosemary Lee & Simon Whitehead

Calling Tree by Rosemary Lee & Simon Whitehead. Photo by Ray Jacobs.

Since 2014 Rosemary Lee and Simon Whitehead have been developing their collaboration on Calling Tree. Located in and around a mature tree in a significant site, and working with a team of aerialists, singers and performers they have created a durational performance made up of cycles of songs, movement and messages.

Bird-like calls, songs and messages echo out from the trees’ canopy and surroundings as performers continually appear and disappear fluctuating between restful perching to passionate vocal and physical activity.

Rosemary and Simon have to date presented three manifestations of the project. Originally commissioned by Migrations, they created the first Calling Tree in 2014 for a mature oak tree in the heart Betws y Coed, North Wales. Four performers animated the oak for six hours. Differing cycles of songs, movement, messages and greetings in Welsh and English were created especially for morning, afternoon and evening. They then went on to develop the project further for two London locations, presenting Calling Tree in Tottenham during LIFT 2016. In the huge boughs of the 500 year old Great Oak in Bruce Castle Park the 4 performers danced, sang, called and whispered to the audience, under the” canopy a group of young singers gathered to sing a newly commissioned song. Calling Tree in Bloomsbury, presented by The Place & Bloomsbury Festival, took place in and around the elegant London Plane trees of St George’s Gardens. In the autumnal dusk, the performers created a sonic field that flooded through the garden, whilst the dancers slowly ascended and descended the tall trees. A further iteration was made for DNA Festival in Pamplona in 2018.

Each was a bespoke response to the trees themselves, their unique site and to the communities – human and otherwise which share the trees’ environment. Reaching out to the surrounding neighbourhoods, an associated programme of activities was also developed with the local people and woven into the daily performances. Using the tree as a gathering point, these ranged from performances by a community choir; spoken word and dance events; local history & nature walks; talks with artists, ecologists and bird specialists.

Calling Tree is an on-going project that Rosemary and Simon can adapt and develop according to new contexts and locations. Whilst always keeping its distinctive quality and features, new manifestations can range in scale and focus from one itinerant lone performer and ladder calling from the trees across a city, a sound installation whispering from the branches to a performance involving several performers inhabiting a sentinel tree and surroundings.

A gentle yet powerful act of reclamation and activism Calling Tree is designed to encourage us to look up and be attentive to ourselves and our environment; reframing our relationship with the natural world. The tree acts as a catalyst to bring people together, celebrating the rich diversity of the area. 

Spectator Quotes

“Left me with a sense of hope. I had the feeling of being washed through, and at the end was on the brink of tears, not of sadness, but of joy and delight.”        

“This beautiful, moving, human and so much more than human happening. Beauty, connection, soul, song and silence what a feast!”

“The performance was a beautiful evocation of the community…”

“It touched a need to share and return to a notion of connection to nature that seems to be retrograde in this ever so sophisticated urban 21st century.”

“I experienced Calling Tree as an oasis of calm, purposeful creative endeavour in the city.”

“I left calm, reinforced and uplifted.”

“What I loved most about this work was the subtlety of the choreography and how that term embraced not just a tree, but a whole park and community.”

For more information on this project download the touring pack or contact Nicky Childs at nicky@artsadmin.co.uk.

Co Directors and creators: Rosemary Lee & Simon Whitehead

Choreography: Rosemary Lee & Simon Whithead in collaboration with the performers
Performers: Gisele Edwards (all), Alex Harvey (Wales), Sianed Jones (Wales, Bloomsbury), Milton Lopes (Tottenham, Bloomsbury), Alesandra Seutin (Tottenham), Ben Stammers (all),
Rigger:  Joe White, David Bernstein
Vocal Coach: Sianed Jones
Original music composition: Barnaby Oliver, Isaac Lee-Konick, Terry Mann (Tottenham, Bloomsbury), Ceri Rhys Matthews (Wales)

Choir Tottenham
Divine Linde, Abena Dankwa, Susan Araromi, Sheena Marfe, Dominique Florent-Lee & Rebecca Gyasi
Flock Bloomsbury: Grace Bowen, Claire Hackson, Despoina Patsika, Daniel Persson, Marcell Proske, Erena Reilent, Amy Toner, Katarzyna Witek

Additional activities
Walks and Talks With Bob Gilbert and David Cotteridge
Traditional dancing with Kerry Fletcher

Beneath the Boughs Tottenham
Abraham Gibson; Kerry Fletcher with Ravi Sawney and Lucky Moyo; Deanna Rodger; Jess Hardie; Sianed Jones; Isaac Lee-Kronick; Sam Lee; Jenny Minton, Helen Chadwick & Rebecca Thorn; Phil Minton; Rebecca Gyasi & Divine Linde, Abena Dankwa, Susan Araromi, Sheena Marfe, Dominique Florent-Lee

Beneath the Boughs Bloomsbury
Kerry Fletcher with Chris Walshaw, Abraham Gibson, Kay Grant, Remi Graves,, Sianed Jones, Gisele Edwards, and Isaac Lee-Kronick, Dessislava Stefanova, Francesca Weekes, Amy Wolstenholme and members of the London Youth Folk Ensemble (Aaron Cuthbertson, Elye Cuthbertson, Alice Duncan, Alice Beadle, Juliet Beadle, Noah Wolton & Alex Duncalf.  Tutor -Esbjörn Wettermark)

Poetry Tottenham by local school children working with poets Deanna Rodger and Abraham Gibson & from entrants of the international poetry competition Ways to be Wilder – Poetry Society Young Poets Network.

Supported By

Wales: Commissioned by Migrations and supported by the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project, with funds from The Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Akademi, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Dance Initiative Greater Manchester, DanceEast, DanceXchange, Fierce Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, Independent Dance, Royal Shakespeare Company and South East Dance. Additional support from public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Made at The Place.

Tottenham: Co-produced by LIFT and Artsadmin, presented in association with The Place.

Bloomsbury: Co-produced by The Place and Artsadmin, presented in association with Bloomsbury Festival.

Imagine 2020 (2.0) and Create to Connect projects, supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union. Supported with public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Additional support from the Adobe Foundation Fund, and the London Boroughs of Haringey and Camden.

Date Title Venue City
12–13 May 2018 Calling Tree DNA Festival Pamplona
21–23 October 2016 Calling Tree St George's Gardens London
30 June – 2 July 2016 Calling Tree LIFT Festival, Bruce Castle Park, Tottenham London
23–25 August 2014 Calling Tree | Rosemary Lee & Simon Whitehead Cae Llan
Calling Tree by Rosemary Lee & Simon Whitehead. Photo by Ray Jacobs.