Science, art and a sprinkling of fairy dust

Latitude Rocks

It’s taken a while to  float down to earth after Stone Circles at Latitude Festival.


We decorated the trees with a Green Man and Green Lady, made by the talented Leila Nihill.


She added cut outs of people on grass to encourage people to take a break and relax.


We put 300 stones in the circles, leaving a sign with the simple message, ‘Add a stone, share a stone, take a stone.’


And people did. Over 300 people took stones and 600+ painted them.


There were family groups and people meditating alone; people exchanged phone numbers (and I witnessed others calling or texting them).


Some people spent ages perfecting their designs.



Others showed their love with, ‘EG 4 JS’ style messages.


Thanks to Simone Nihill and Jason Hamilton Smith for helping Leila and I create the Stone Circles; and Tania and the Latitude production team who made the event a joy to work. And if you added a stone to the Stone Circles, thanks for being part of the art.


Join the Stone Circle at Latitude

We’ve long been huge fans of Latitude Festival at the Forest of Thoughts, and were excited to be asked to take part in the festival again this year.

The theme for the Faraway Forest this year is, ‘Tomorrow’s World: It Takes a Village’. We interpreted this to mean the future will be more collaborative. We have no idea if tech will still exist in the future – who knows what will happen as we run out of resources? – but stones have been used to communicate since the earliest times and will be around long after humans are extinct – so we decided to create a stone circle (albeit one with rather smaller stones than some of the more permanent stone circles).

After growing the love last year at Latitude, we wanted to continue to involve festival-goers in the art that we make. We also wanted to make a piece of art that allowed people to take parts of it away, as well as adding to it.


In part, this was inspired by having our Love sign stolen last year. We figured that if people were going to take our art, we may as well make that part of the point. (NB: If you took it, we would love it if you could return our love – we won’t tell you off and we’ll even give you a thank-you present for returning it. )


We’d love it back as it forms part of a larger sign that is now rather more open ended… It had survived several years at festivals and we’d love to keep reusing it at future events (we don’t judge you for taking it – everyone needs love sometimes and we’d rather it brought someone joy than sitting in a cupboard between festivals).

Add a Stone…

Our piece, Stone Circles, encourages people to, ‘Add a stone, take a stone, share a stone’. It comprises circles of painted stones, as the name suggests, and anyone can add their stone, or take a stone as they wish.

We particularly want Stone Circles to help artists with invisible (and not so invisible) illnesses have an opportunity to take part in the art, as we’re all about creating inclusive art. If you want to go to Latitude but are unable to due to health (or for any other reason), please send a stone to Latitude with a friend and we will add it to the stone circle.

Stones can be any size, from pebbles to around 10cm, (but please don’t send boulders as it’s a tad mean to your friends who will have to lug it over a festival site.) We will be taking photos of the stone circles over the course of the weekend so you can see your stone in place at Latitude – and see whether someone takes it from the circle.

If there’s a quote or poem that means something to you, you can include that on your stone. Or maybe there’s a word you want to spread wider (I love the word Petrichor: the glorious smell that can follow the rain)? Perhaps there’s a message you want people to know. If it will fit on a rock, include it. You could even include a short musical score or piece of code on your stone: it really is up to you how you communicate through the stone.

You can also paint a stone to memorialise someone who is no longer alive. Help their name live on with a stone: as the late and missed Terry Pratchett said, “Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?” and “No-one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”   (RIP, Terry – we’ll be speaking your name for a long time yet…)

Tag a Stone

You can include whatever hashtag or website address you want on your stone, or use #LatitudeRocks if you don’t have a rockpainting tag you already use. Some popular rock-painting groups include Love on the Rocks UKLove Rocks and Kindness Rocks – all sentiments we agree with, and there are also numerous local groups to join on Facebook, or you can create/promote your own hashtag.  You can promote your business too but please don’t be tacky about it.  We don’t want corporate-looking stones that make it feel as if the circle is a piece of advertising. We’re happy for performers at Latitude to use stones to promote their shows too.

Some people don’t use hashtags on their stones at all, and that’s fine: it’s entirely up to you to decide what and how to communicate using your stone. However, please don’t use any swearing (there are children at the festival), and don’t stick anything such as googly eyes or any other plastic to your rock: it could fall off and harm wildlife. Use paint that isn’t going to flake off easily, and seal your stone with varnish to make your image last (or leave it unsealed if you like the idea of your art fading with time.) If you want to use glitter, please only use biodegradable glitter as we no longer use micro-plastic glitter in our work (aside from the glitter on props we are still using from years ago, before we realised what a problem glitter can be for the environment.)

Take a Stone…

As well as adding stones, you can take any stones that you feel drawn to. We believe art is for all – as William Morris said, “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.” You can take more than one stone if you feel drawn to several of them.

We do ask that you don’t sell stones you take without giving a percentage to a charity that matters to you, unless you really need to. If you are skint and think a stone will sell, that’s fine but we’d rather the stones are used to help people rather than simply line someone’s pockets out of greed – and ideally, we’d love the stones to keep getting hidden and re-hidden (though we couldn’t help but feel sorry for this woman who wanted some love.)

Share a Stone…

If you do take a stone, it would be great if you could hide it in your home town on your return, to keep the stone circle going, though you can just keep it as a memory, of course. Please share photos of any rocks you hide/find on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram with @GrowEatGift, #LatitudeRocks, so we can see how far they travel (if you’re going travelling, we’d love it if you take a stone with you to hide so we can see how far the stone circle can expand.).

Connect Through the Stones at Latitude

You don’t have to be Van Gogh to join in – even writing a word on a stone, or painting it a single colour are welcome, as are stones painted by people of any age: it’s your art, and we don’t judge (as William Morris also said, “It is the childlike part of us that produces works of the imagination. When we were children time passed so slow with us that we seemed to have time for everything.” As you may be able to tell, Morris – and his daughter, May Morris – are both huge inspirations for our work.) You can sign your rock with a Sharpie, include a website address with your artist’s portfolio on it, or draw an anonymous image. You could even carve it if you want

Stone Circles is about connecting with each other, and nature in general. How far can we make the stone circle ripple? It depends on how many people get involved… So, if you’re going to Latitude, ask people you love to paint a stone to take with you (maybe your gran or baby sister would like her art at a festival?). If you have a friend who’s said they can’t come due to illness, offer to take a stone for them. If you want to send a stone but don’t know anyone going to the festival, contact us on Twitter through @GrowEatGift.

We’re really looking forward to Latitude. If you’d love to go but are skint, there are still volunteer opportunities available. We’d love to see you at Latitude – but for now, we have stones to paint…

Upcycle Your Life: Self-Care and Wellbeing

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Upcycling is an easy way to save money. Swapping clothes can save a fortune when you want to update your wardrobe – as can upcycling clothes you already have.

Making your own toiletries can reduce waste by cutting back on packaging. You can also save a fortune by using common store cupboard ingredients such as oats, bicarbonate of soda and lemon juice to make cleansers, face masks and bath balm.

If you’re based in Loughborough, add Upcycle Your Life to your diary. Taking place at Fearon Hall on Saturday 28th April, 10am- noon, you can bring clothes to swap, learn more about toiletry making and meet other upcycling fans. Save money and reduce waste to feel good in more ways than one.

Growing the Love at Latitude Festival

This year, the Forest of Thoughts were invited to join the faerie folk of the Faraway Forest at Latitude Festival to help them grow nature love.

We took along crafting materials, Magic Dust (kindly provided by The Crop Club as fairyland stocks weren’t enough to give to the Latitude crowds) and lots of ideas from Go Wild! Over 200 Ways to Connect With Nature.


Wood Elf, Prickles Nettlethorn, shared his knowledge of the forest, and shared the sad news that the Tree of Life was under the weather thanks to a moth. However, it’s luckily not terminal.


Fairy Daisy and Prickles asked the humans to wish it ‘get well soon’ with some tree hugging. The humans were impressively heartfelt and the faerie folk are hopeful it will help the tree.


Fairy Clover modelled her wings, which Fairy Daisy had made for her from a cardboard box.


Both fairies were excited to discover pizza boxes galore on site as these also make a great base for fairy wings (contrary to popular belief, fairy wings don’t last forever, and as fairies age they may need to replace thinning wings with a home-made replacement.)


Fairy Clover shared rainbow magic with the humans, and grew the love by handing out Magic Dust .

The elves and fairies also gave out magical creations made from human rubbish, and bird seeds so the humans could show love to birds as well as butterflies and bees.

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The faerie folk learned that human children love climbing trees – though the Tree of Life is old so the small humans had to be reminded that sadly, not all trees are well enough to be climbed. It was perhaps the biggest challenge for the faerie folk as the spirit of tree elf was clearly high in the children.

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Prickles was ably assisted in this mission by Hops Burdock – a tree elf who could empathise with the small ones’ desire to climb trees.


After sharing their woodland wisdom, the faerie folk headed back to camp.


Prickles had a well-deserved rest, changing into human clothes ‘to see what the fuss was all about’.


He soon returned to elf clothes, deeming them more practical as human clothes had nowhere to store his goblet.


As the sun set, we toasted the day with fairy fizz and looked forward to Sunday’s session.


We were excited when the Arbonauts serenaded us with birdsong in a magical sound installation upon our arrival at the Tree of Life.

After revelling in beautiful music, we continued growing the love, distributing enough magic dust to plant over 60,000 wildflowers, and telling tales of shrinking trees and the wood wide web.


We were pleased to see other faerie folk at the Tree of Life.


We told people about #LoveNotLitter: a simple way to grow the love. Just litter pick then craft LOVE with natural finds to encourage people to love the world rather than littering it with rubbish.

We’d love to see your photos if you do this: share them with @groweatgift using #LoveNotLitter and we’ll share your art.


And then, it was time to return to camp, to watch the fire and see the stories of the flames unfold – in this case, the story of the griffin.


All too soon, It was time to leave the fairyland of Latitude behind. We hope we grew the love – and that the humans who took magic dust will use it to grow the love even further; and spread #LoveNotLitter wherever they go.


The faerie folk of the Faraway Forest had a wonderful time, and will be saving their magic dust in the hope that they will be able to grow to human size again for Latitude next year. It was much more fun than avoiding getting trampled by the humans – and they have a lot more love to spread.



The Forest is Growing…

Welcome to the Forest of Thoughts: a world where you can separate the wood from the trees, ponder whether a tree really falls down if no one hears it and see your ideas grow from tiny acorns into mighty oak trees.

Illustration: Kate Shields

Illustration by Kate Shields

The Forest of Thoughts was created in 2011, to stimulate scientific thought and creative play. So far, we’ve run arts, crafts and science events in Brighton, Suffolk and Tunbridge Wells, including jelly baby wave machines, lost-glove teddy-bear making, fairytale peg doll making, dinosaur towel origami, seedbomb making and a lot more besides.

Last year, the Forest of Thoughts created the Garden of Love at Latitude Festival: a crafting garden encouraging people to create their own utopia, using recycled materials (and the occasional sprinkling of glitter).

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This year, we will be at Latitude again. We’ve got lots of ideas for new and magical gardens too: and we’re always looking  the perfect places for them to grow… Contact us through @Groweatgift on Twitter if you’re running an event that could benefit from nature-themed art and science fun.

Artists and scientists; talkers and thinkers; skeptics and magicians, all are welcome in the Forest of Thoughts. And maybe we can all help each other grow…

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Step into the Garden…

It’s been a busy year for Forest of Thoughts. After a fantastic White Night, it was on to Brighton Science Festival where our events included such delights as calorie-free cakes in balloons, dinosaur towel origami, the science of illusion and the ever-popular miracle berries (that turn your tastebuds upside-down making sour things taste sweet). Over 2,000 people have experienced the joys of the Forest of Thoughts so far – and if you haven’t already entered the Forest, now’s your chance…

We’ve been asked to take part in the Latitude Festival, with burlesque doll making out of vintage gloves and old tights (on Saturday night as part of the Alternative Village Fete.) And even more excitingly, we have a series of events planned at the Blind Tiger, the first of which are only a month away. By day it’s for kids, by night it all gets a little more adult. Tickets are now available from Eventbrite – our science festival shows all sold out so get your tickets now to avoid disappointment.

The Garden of Delights

10th June 12pm-6pm

Grow your horizons and taste the fruits of wisdom in the Garden of Delights. Make seedbombs, plant seedlings and learn plant magic in the Sorcerer’s Shed, with Josie Jeffreys of (author of SeedBombs) Stitch butterflies and rosebuds, fold origami flowers, make wool bees and let your crafty side blossom in the Fairy Circle. Share a teddy bear’s picnic and make your own toys with Crafternoon. Meet the Gastrognome and learn fairyland cooking secrets, with magical food to confound your senses. With grow-your-own and foraging tips, local produce and magical surprises, see how you grow in the Garden of Delights.

Tickets £2 adults, £1 children (7+) plus pay as you play for selected activities. Children must be accompanied by an adult and supervised at all times. Buggy park available but space limited so avoid bringing buggies unless essential.

The Garden of Desires

10th June 8pm-late

You’ve never known temptation like it until you step inside the Garden of Desires. Professor Elemental will take you by the hand and lead you through a multitude of sins. Lust over the twinkling stars of the burlesque and boylesque scene, including Coco De Ville, Mick Wunderlich and Luxury Values.Show off your vanity by dressing as your favourite deadly sin: display your sartorial elegance with pride and who knows, your dreams of avarice may be rewarded with a fabulous prize. Indulge your gluttony with a feast of the senses including experimental food, stage magic from Damian Jennings and close up magic from Leon Simmonds plus adult crafting with Charlie Bear. A spellbinding night full of fantastical surprises.

Strictly 18+ Tickets £10/£8 concs. 

Utopia is the Alternative Village Fete

October 29th sees the return of White Night, an all-night free arts festival to mark the clocks going back, this year themed around Utopias. More than 70 separate events from the fanciful to the factual aim to inspire you to reach for perfection. As part of White Night, creative producers Home Live Art are curating The Alternative Village Fete, which runs from 6pm-1am at Old Steine Gardens.

Engaging the most exciting artists and creatives from the city and beyond, visitors to The Alternative Village Fete’s stage and stalls will encounter experiences that take them from deco tea rooms, swing dancing and vintage glamour makeovers to pop video routines, food flinging olympics, dark midnight rituals and everything in between.

The Forest of Thoughts will be offering doll and jewellery making workshops using reclaimed objects, from laddered stockings to vintage gloves that have lost their partner, fabric scraps to packs of cards. Bring along any of these plus broken jewellery to re-fashion it into something new; sentimental items that can be turned into brooches and rings; and any small items that you love but aren’t entirely sure what to do with.

Prepare to be entertained by Forest of Thoughts partners, Brighton Science Festival, building marble runs and spaghetti towers, and of course there will be the usual sprinkling of magic. Best of all, it’s free – all you need to pay for are the materials you use, all of which can be bought at pocket money prices.

Other artists include  Cut a Shine Collective, Paul L Martin, 815agency, The Basement, Boogaloo Stu, Lone Twin, Copper Dollar, Ragroof Theatre, Made in China, Victoria Melody, Tom Marshman, Baby Warhol, Brighton Belles WI, Dollydagger, Anna Hunt, Lou McCurdy, Tanya Gangar, Livelovehoop, Fitbitch Bootcamp, Snoopers Attic, Candy Queens, Katie Magic, The Community Chef, Chilli Pepper Pete, Metrodeco and more…

The Alternative Village Fete is a fete re-imagined for the hours of darkness – expect ghouls, vamps (of both the blood favouring and 40s starlet variety), kitsch popstars, rocka-hillbillies, retro hepkats and kittens. Visitors to the Fete are invited to express their twilight alter egos by dressing fancy for the occasion. Come out and play!

At a glance summary: The Alternative Village Fete, Sat 29th October, Brighton & Hove White Night, 6pm – 1am, Old Steine Gardens, Brighton East Sussex, BN1 1EL, FREE. Follow the Alternative Village Fete on Facebook

Makes you laugh and makes you think

At the Forest of Thoughts we’ve long been fans of The Ignobel Awards – indeed, we were fans before the Forest of Thoughts even existed (though the Ignobels certainly planted a few seeds). If you’re new to the awards, as a brief summary, they were created to reward scientific discoveries that, ‘First make you laugh, then make you think.’

Here’s a trailer for the awards:

And we’re very excited to report that we’ll be streaming the awards ceremony live at 12.30am GMT (if you’re elsewhere, see the world clock) on 29th September.

OK, it’s a bit of a late night but it’s well worth it. As a taster, last year’s Engineering Prize went to Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse and Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico, for perfecting a method to collect whale snot, using a remote-control helicopter; the Peace Prize went to Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK, for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain; and the Biology Prize went to Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol, UK, for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats (and demonstrating it prolongs copulation time). Oh, and the prizes are presented by Nobel Prize Winners. This makes our inner geek go mushy.

Tickets to the event are sold out so the only way to see the show is to watch it online. So make a date and get watching! We hope you enjoy the Igs as much as we do.

NB:  if you play the live stream before about 12.10am tomorrow, the video will appear to buffer indefinitely until the video stream goes live, so don’t waste your time trying to watch until then. You won’t get access to any exciting behind-the-scenes footage.