This summer immerse yourself in the dynamic stories of nature with a brand new evening event: The Wonder Project. For a select few nights, visitors will have the chance to take part in a multisensory after-hours journey exploring the wild landscape of Wakehurst, Kew's sister garden in the heart of West Sussex.
Curated by arts collective Shrinking Space, who have previously worked with the likes of Somerset House and the Barbican, The Wonder Project will encompass specially commissioned soundscapes, sculptures and artworks from a roster of esteemed UK artists and creative studios. Guests will meander through Wakehurst’s woods, meadows and glades to interact with installations embedded into the landscape. The Wonder Project will encourage people to step out of their comfort zones, step away from their go-to-responses to any given situation, and attempt to wonder about where they find themselves. The experience will culminate with visitors coming together to witness the sunset over the rolling green hills of Sussex; nature’s own finale to an evening of wonder and enchantment.
Each installation is inspired by the stories of the gardens themselves; Wakehurst's 500-acre expanse boasts an incredible collection of plants, wildflower meadows and woodlands. The artists have also worked with scientists from Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, situated at Wakehurst, to bring to life some of the vital science work undertaken there to preserve and conserve the seeds of the world’s plants for future generations.
One such installation comes from renowned British-Ghanaian artist in residence at Somerset House Studios, Larry Achiampong, who has exhibited widely in the UK and abroad. Achiampong's work is inspired by archival research and his Afro-futurist ‘Relic Traveller’ project. He has collaborated with writer Aida Amoako to create a site-specific work will feature four text-based sculptural elements within one of Wakehurst’s wildflower meadows.
Along the journey, Hidden Orchestra’s sonic woodland will reach the ears of visitors. Brighton-based artist Joe Acheson and sound designer Tim Southorn have collaborated to create an entrancing soundscape within one of Wakehurst's woodland glades. The artists have built a sound system to produce a soundscape that emanates from the trees and earth. The installation represents the underground network of fungi that connects trees and allows them to communicate: a natural collaboration which very few people know about. With his solo studio project Hidden Orchestra, Acheson has released four albums and has performed over 250 shows in over 30 countries.
On his work for The Wonder Project, Acheson says: “On visiting Wakehurst we were immediately drawn to a quiet glade in the wilder part of these unique botanic gardens, in which we hope to create a sonic environment which reflects in some small way the intricacy and wonder of the hidden relationships between trees and fungi.”
In another spellbinding feature, creative video-design studio Limbic Cinema have constructed a mesmerising light sculpture to reflect the solar cycle. The twelve illuminated elements of the installation represent each month of the year. Limbic Cinema have previously created works for festivals including Glastonbury, Shambala and Greenman to name a few.
Throughout the journey, visitors will also be able to participate in the creation of Colourfield by artists Eloise Moody and Vicky Long, a new project that will ask audiences to reimagine colour in response to Wakehurst's wild and wondrous environment. Over the course of the eight evenings of The Wonder Project, a ‘People’s Archive of Colour’ will emerge, representing participants’ experience of colour at Wakehurst.
Lorraine Cheesmur, Head of Programmes and Learning at Wakehurst, says: "The Wonder Project will offer a bewitching experience to both first-time and regular guests to Wakehurst, stimulating their curiosity and inviting them to learn more about the importance of plants and our own place in the natural world."
Guests will be able to pick up a glass of wine and a bite to eat before they embark on their journey.
Prices and Times:
Time: 7pm-9.30pm (Gates open 6.30pm. Last entry 7.30pm, and gardens close 10pm).
Price: Adults from £12
Children (4-16) from £6 (Free for under 4s) Recommended age: 7+
Please note that Wakehurst is referred to just as Wakehurst, not Wakehurst Place. It is not a National Trust property.
Wakehurst, Kew’s Wild Botanic Garden in the Sussex High Weald is one of the most beautiful and significant botanic gardens in the country. It is home to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, which houses and protects seed from the world’s most substantial and diverse collection of threatened and useful wild plants, and leads the MSB Partnership, a crucially important global science-based conservation programme which is the largest of its kind in the world. The estate includes a contemporary botanic garden, where ornamental plantings and exotic tree and shrub collections of international importance sit within native woodland. Wakehurst’s natural assets associated with its countryside location renders it complementary to Kew’s West London site, with different growing conditions, and a real emphasis on wild plant collections. Coupled with the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst offers an inspiring, immersive, and educational day out for the whole family, and serves as a vital contribution to UK and global plant conservation.
Kew receives just under half of its funding from Government through the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and research councils. Further funding needed to support Kew’s vital work comes from donors, membership and commercial activity including ticket sales.