Branching Out: collaborations with trees

a residential short course with Camilla Nelson and Alex Metcalf

Branching Out: collaborative ways to work with trees

an™ residential short course

with Camilla Nelson and Alex Metcalf

Friday June 21 @ 18.00 to Monday 24 @ 16.00 2019

Dartington Hall, Devon, UK

Branching Out explores sound, movement, mark- and language-making exercises with trees to open new dimensions in your creative practice. We will expand your awareness of what human and tree bodies are and do – in and of themselves and in relation to each other – in order to develop new ideas and forms of creative expression with trees. After introducing you to a range of tree-listening, language, mark-making, sound, installation and performance techniques we will invite you to combine two or three methods to trial solo/collaborative works and ideas for sharing and discussion. The aim of these three days is to support you to deepen and broaden your understanding of how trees work and your relationship with them through a creative being-with-trees.

The first evening will be largely introductory, getting to know each other and giving a sense of context. Saturday and Sunday will be intensive workshop days with time to share and reflect in the evenings. Monday offers time to draw on new techniques, experiment and play in a supported environment with the opportunity for one-to-one sessions and a final sharing and feedback before we part ways. Our aim is to offer a range of new approaches and to create a supportive community that will be of continuing benefit to you beyond the three days of this course.

Exercises will encourage participants to think with and through their bodies (and other supportive technologies) to explore the relationship between physical form and gesture, mark-making and writing, sound and speech – between humans and trees. We will use prompts inspired by Tim Knowles and Andy Goldsworthy, the embodied work of Open Spaces and TWIG dances of Malaika Sarco-Thomas, alongside imaginative work with root systems and tree communication networks. All experiments are grounded in Alex Metcalf’s extended Tree Listening research and Camilla Nelson’s in depth study of human language and its relationship with the gesture, sound and mark-making capacity of trees. Join us for a rich three days of working creatively with trees!


Camilla Nelson is a British language artist whose practice is founded in 3 years working with a single apple tree (Reading & Writing with a Tree: Practising “Nature Writing” as Enquiry – Falmouth, 2012). Her work explores the materiality of language in page-based poetry, soundwork, installation and performance. Over the last 5 years she has published, exhibited and performed her work in Palestine, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the US. Apples & Other Languages (Knives Forks and Spoons), her first full poetry collection, was long-listed for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize in 2015. Her second collection, A Yarn Er Narrative, has just been released by Contraband Books. Camilla is founding editor of Singing Apple Press, a small independent press that produces hand-crafted, limited edition poem-prints, books and other objects. Her language art has been long-listed for The Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers (2016) and a World-First Art Commission in association with Cape Farewell (2014). Her creative work has been funded by Arts Council England, British Council and the European Cultural Foundation. She has lectured at Dartington College of Arts, Falmouth, Cardiff Metropolitan, Bath Spa, Nitra and Nottingham University.

Alex Metcalf is an installation artist with a long history of working intimately with trees. His work has been commissioned and exhibited across Europe, US, Canada and the UK he is perhaps best known for his work with ‘The Tree Listening Project’ which allows us to listen to the inner life of the tree as water rises up through the xylem, and the vibrations of the surrounding environment are absorbed into the tree’s body. Exhibitions include art venues such as MoMa (NY), Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Fermynwoods Contemporary Arts, Tate Britain, and CCANW. Much of his work is shown in non-art venues however. These include the John Innes Centre, the Natural History Museum (Los Angeles), Woburn Abbey, WWF Nature Reserves, Alnwick Castle, Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, and RHS Harlow. His work has featured widely in print and media, including BBC1 Judi Dench ‘My Passion for Trees’, Countryfile, BBC2 Autumnwatch, BBC Radio 2, 4, and World Service, and in The Observer, The Irish Times, The Times, and The Guardian newspapers.

The shape of a day

Every course is different, but read this for more information about the working schedule during an short course. This course is bound to be a little different, given that we will be spending plenty of time in the water, and therefore likely less time in the classroom.

Feedback from earlier ‘Branching Out’ courses

I had hoped that I would discover new practices, ideas, ways of listening/perceiving, and engage with trees/language/sound in new ways, and I really did.


I normally spend working indoors, indoors, indoors, with ‘a walk’ as a ‘break’ from the ‘serious work.’ Making is much more informed by its environment than I had been allowing for– this is a major discovery I will take with me.


After a week of collaborating with trees…the final day of working with humans was one beautiful surprise after another!


I learned so much from seeing how everyone worked; breathing recording with Rocky the horse; Badger and Lula’s presence and responses; dinnertimes together; listening enhancement through headphones; collaborating with each person in the workshop (it felt important that every possible combination happened).

This course is for those who…

  • would like to explore their own practice (whatever that might be) particularly in relations to woods and trees
  • want to develop practical project-development skills, learning more about how to work with ideas and places
  • are seeking ways to express their deep love for trees
  • wish to (re)discover their own embedded place in nature
  • are happy to be in a shared-learning environment, teaching as well as learning


Like all residential courses, the course is for anyone in need of an opportunity to engage with new approaches to creative practice or a rediscovery/refreshment of their creative selves, It allows for a condition of radical permeability – between senses, processes and materials. The course is for those who wish to engage in an unpredictable, shared process of practical enquiry with all the uncertainty and curiosity of a complete beginner, irrespective of their prior accomplishments.

All that’s a way of saying that you can bring along a lifetime of creative experience, or none at all. Either way, you will be open to change and to rediscovery, and be happy to share and exchange knowledge and ideas.

About short courses residential short courses are designed as intensive periods of work, reflection, quietude, and creative energy. They are not just designed for artists, although creative expression forms an important part of the activity and learning.

We take an inclusive and transformative approach to learning: this is not a hierarchical structure but one of genuine knowledge sharing and with the assumption that everyone in the room has much to learn and much to offer.

Day 1 will be in the wonderful Ship Studio in Dartington Hall’s medieval courtyard; the main workshop space will be in Studio 1, a large blackbox adaptable space in which you can make a mess if you choose. This space becomes yours for the duration of the course and how it is laid out and how it feels is very much a product of the course and those engaged in it.

Dartington is in itself an extraordinary venue. In addition to its medieval courtyard and other buildings, it is situated in a 900-acre rural estate wrapped by the River Dart in one of the UK’s most beautiful areas – the South Hams of Devon. The estate is a varied ecological site, with the river and riverside, open field and woodland including some ancient woodland, managed and farmed areas, in addition to the Grade II* listed formal gardens boasting an astonishing array of native and non-native species. For almost a century the modern Dartington has been a place of societal change, of creative exploration, and of social experiment. For more information visit

All of this is surrounded by the extraordinary landscapes and seascapes of the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. We are just a few miles from the sea, and will be spending much of our time either along the River Dart as it wraps its way round the Dartington estate, or in nearby Start Bay, stretching between Dartmouth and the Start Point Lighthouse.

What previous participants have said

…I just want to say thank you for organising the short course for In Other Tongues. The course leaders were excellent; well organised, inspirational, caring and encouraging.  The evening with Alice Oswald will stay with me as a very special event. The Ship studio was a lovely venue too; and it was a privilege to be able to work in it and the surrounding gardens/grounds. I learnt a great deal, and it is still percolating.

Overall I thought the course was fabulous, not least [because of] the tighter focus on writing (with support from drawing/illustrating) which produced a very intense programme of practical work which was about delivering creative work.


Non-residential (includes lunches and dinner) £495

Full residence with all meals, in student-style accommodation (shared bathrooms) £633

Full residence with all meals, in hotel accommodation (private bathroom) £780


There is a maximum registration of 15 people.

If you need to pay in instalments this is possible (at no charge). Please contact us. The majority of the fee must be paid prior to commencement of the course.