W I D E O P E N

A new collective gathering for Christian creatives, visionaries and makers designed to encourage and equip people to live out their creativity in a way that glorifies God and builds the Kingdom.

Wide Open began with a desire to gather a group of like-minded passionate people in a beautiful green space to share their stories, affirm one another and to focus on Jesus. As creatives there are many things we wrestle with on our journeys to make and create and perform. How do we do self-promotion and humility at the same time? How do we straddle the gap between secular culture and the kingdom of God? How do we keep our gaze fixed on Jesus and not on others?  How do we hold on lightly to our achievements and disappointments?

I knew that I wanted Wide Open to be an expression of my desire for authentic connection, truth-based content and practical skills-sharing. I’m so happy with the amazing team I have gathered to share their stories and practice and so excited to be bringing together a group of people who want to help grow a thriving creative network in the North.

Wide Open sets itself apart in fostering that authentic connection by bringing a small group of people outside to spend time under the canopy of trees, around a campfire and surrounded by God's creation. Bringing people into the wild naturally strips away any guards we may hold up and we invite each person to bring their own offering, to be affirmed and encouraged and to leave reminded that above all else Jesus is our most precious gift.

There will be plenty of practical input by our speakers and time to network and chat about new projects, ideas and collaborations but it will all be infused with the constant reminder that all that we have is a gift from the Lord and that in everything we should seek Him first.

I also want people to have plenty of time just soaking up creation and filling their lungs with fresh air. We’ll have resting time in hammocks, some fun in the wild and good feasting underneath the stars.

This is God’s project and I’m just his hands, with all my limitations and weaknesses, but I’m really excited to see how he uses this weekend to realign our focus and draw us closer to him and how new relationships will offer long-term support and encouragement for every individual who joins us.

See you in the woods!

Beth (Forest Found-event organiser).


F I N D T H E F O R E S T

Find the Forest was the first of our secret outdoor events put on as part of the Leeds Indie Food Festival. This is an annual event that sees some of Leeds finest foodies putting on an exciting programme of eating, drinking and social gatherings. It gave Forest Found the opportunity to join in as we love creating beautiful spaces for people to relax, play and feast in.

For this event we teamed up with local boys Fiction and Balcombe & Smith and the wonderful folk at Skelton Grange Environmental Centre to curate an immersive, sensory and delicious evening of campfire food in a stunning natural setting. The guys created an exciting menu full of stripped back flavours, simple but creative cooking using organic, foraged and carefully sourced ingredients.

The reclaimed oak tables and long benches were hired from the wonderful team at All Things Borrowed and table decor was inspired by rustic continental dining, with simplistic settings and large vases filled with lush green foliage, elderflower and cow parsley cut from the bordering hedgerows and woodland. The lighting was kept soft and low with lanterns, candles and overhead hung a ceiling of twinkling lights.

As the guests arrived, (having only received the location information the day before), they were lead down a small pathway through an elegant willow archway to a large seating area by a pond. Elderflower and prosecco cocktails were well received and the early evening sun created a warm glow for diners to bathe in.

As the first course was finished and prepped on large charcoal filled fire pits, the guests were ushered down a further path opening out into a magical dining space in-between the trees. The smell of fire smoke wafted gently in the breeze and diners settled into to their first sharing platters of the evening which were complimented with cold glasses of white wine and local craft beers.

The guys cooked up a storm as plate after plate of hanger stake, fire pit onions, smokey potatoes and whole mackerel on beds of samphire spilled out of the forest onto the plates of the happy diners. As the darkness fell, the space came into its element with the firelight and flickering candles lighting up the faces of contented happy people.

It was a true triumph, a physical feat and a feast to be proud of. Hats off to the Find the Forest team!

All photos by  Tom Joy @tomjoyphoto


P L A Y

Before I gave any time to learning about and exploring the power of play-I had never fully considered it's massive potential for increasing kids' creativity, inquiry and imagination. Since having my own child I now recognise the inherent need for children to have the full freedom to take ownership over their play. Play is serious business and kids need to be given the space and time to do it. As the pressures on schools to produce results increases and as teachers are regularly required to assess and quantify a child's progress-opportunities for play are being squeezed to 15 minutes in the playground.

 

Forest Found Learning

During one of our recent Saturday Sessions  for 11-14year olds,  I observed the tangible desire for play amongst the group. I hadn't expected such a need for them to run around wild and free. We had planned more tool based tasks with some games scattered in and amongst but all they wanted to do was to play Capture the Flag. We played it every week for 2 hours straight for 5 sessions. They loved the excitement, the physical movement, the competitiveness, the chase, the thrill, the camaraderie, the team work, the natural environment, the exhaustion and the chance to just be a kid. It was wonderful to watch and fascinating to consider the need for children to have freedom to be and to do and to take charge.

Forest Found Learning

Play is  a scientific process that engages a variety of cognitive and physical elements. Through play children problem-solve, experiment, take risks, create, make and work stuff out on their own. The outdoor environment is not created or planned by adults in the way the playground or the classroom is carefully designed. We have no say in how children play in it or with it. They can make the space their own play environment and delight and thrive in the fact that it can be whatever they want it to be. Our job as practitioners in those spaces is to step back, facilitate, observe and interact when invited.

I'm really excited to see the kind of play I have studied taking place in the sessions we run. We are made to play because that is how we learn and if we want our kids to learn in fresh, creative and real ways then we must LET THEM PLAY!

 

 


R O O T E D

Today was the first day of piloting a new programme that has taken months to create, plan and devise. We were pretty apprehensive about how it would go and unsure of whether it could work. We’d had the vision a long time ago but it was only recently that we were given the chance to give it go. That’s all you need sometimes isn’t it? The chance to take what you think is a great idea and turn it into something tangible and real.

Forest Found is totally committed to facilitating outdoor learning experiences that have a long term impact on the learners that take part and are passionate about getting stuck in with tackling and unpacking some of the challenges that young people face. We all know the stats about the rise in mental health issues in teenagers, there is no blanket cure or easy solution. We don’t profess to have the answers but we do know about the undeniable power of spending time in the natural world. Breathing deep and taking notice of the world around us. But we haven’t just created a mindfulness course or eco-therapy programme, both of which may indeed help people in some way.

‘Rooted’ is all about combining the life-giving resources offered by the outdoor environment and the deep therapeutic practice of CBT and other counselling pedagogy to support and equip young girls in their attempts to become confident, resilient and emotionally intelligent people. It’s not a quick fix and it may not even achieve those aims but the deep need and desire for those kids today to have conversations and relationships with other adults that encourage them and build them up was palpable.

We're not sure how the next 10 weeks are going to go but we know what we hope for and hearing the hopes of the girls today, our determination for them to hold on to those puts fire in our bellies. These girls are precious, beautiful, strong and valuable and have a right to be excited about what the future holds for them. The fight is on!