South Bank Centre Animated Trail, London


The education of your dreams

“There is nothing new about using the visual  arts in environmental education, but what is much more unusual is using a combination of art forms; choreographed movement, improvised and group-composed music, sculpture, three-dimensional construction, masks, costumes, puppets and creative writing.

This is precisely what an East Anglian based organisation does all the time. Since 1984 they have been pioneering environmental arts work and have developed a unique art form – the Animated Trail. The general public are guided along a pre-ordained route and encounter unexpected sights and sounds which encourage them to take note of their surroundings with closer attention. If this sounds dry and academic the actual results are anything but – funny, sinister, startling, moving, they powerfully evoke the spirit of each place.

The Company’s core team of Director/performer, sculptor and mask-costume-set maker was augmented by a music worker (Gail Thompson), Indian dancer/choreographer and an architect for the four week project and worked entirely on site.

Divided into small groups the children adopted a particular site and worked with each of the specialists exploring its acoustics, appropriate types of sound and rhythm and its musical character; the textures, shapes, patterns, relationship between objects and surfaces; the flow of people and movement engendered by the site; its function, effectiveness and attractiveness as a place to be in or pass through; its atmosphere and the type of characters that might inhabit such a place.

Using a variety of materials and techniques the children created elaborate costumes and masks, contributed to the choreography of a movement piece, experimented with and invented instruments to create a group-originated music accompaniment, and designed and made banners, sculptures and performance props. They performed the Trail, in dismal weather conditions, with huge enthusiasm and conviction.”

The Bulletin of Environmental Education, 1988