EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Earth Arcade’s The Forest: Scenographic engagement spaces

Christopher Skinner1, Amy Skinner2, and Cat Fergusson Baugh2
Christopher Skinner et al.
  • 1Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, Hull, UK
  • 2School of the Arts, University of Hull, Hull, UK

As researchers we attempt to engage the public with our work in many different spaces yet we hardly ever seriously consider how we might manipulate, or control, that space in order to enhance that engagement. The theatrical research discipline of Scenography concerns itself with understanding how space can be used, through mediums such as stage design and performer/audience interaction, to control engagements and help maximize the impact of the activities within that space.

The Earth Arcade is a series of public engagement activities within an exhibit space that can be tailored for different events, depending on scale and audience. It uses games and game-like activities to share environmental research and inspire people to take actions to address environmental issues. The Forest project was established to explore how scenographic techniques could transform the spaces in which Earth Arcade exhibits are deployed.

Inspiration for The Forest was drawn from a visit to the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space 2019, where several of the exhibits were themselves inspired by environmental concerns. The space was debuted as a distinct part of an Earth Arcade exhibit at the 2019 Freedom Festival in Hull, UK, an annual arts and culture festival with over 130,000 visitors, and included elements like mindfulness, conversation circles, craftivism, and interactive soundscapes. These elements have subsequently been incorporated into further Earth Arcade exhibits.

The Forest demonstrates a successful, inter-disciplinary approach, where environmental researchers and theatrical researchers combine their work for mutual benefit and engage the public with vital environmental issues.

How to cite: Skinner, C., Skinner, A., and Fergusson Baugh, C.: Earth Arcade’s The Forest: Scenographic engagement spaces, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13264,, 2020

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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-13264, Sam Illingworth, 05 May 2020

    Thank you for sharing this interesting work in an accessible and easy-to-digest format! What challanges do you face in creating spaces that both encouarge playfullness and also quiet reflection? Are they complemntary or antagonistic? 

    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Christopher Skinner, 05 May 2020

      Thanks for the question Sam. In the main the space was non-mediated so people could choose to engage with it how they wished. The environmental library circle obviously lends itself to more refelective experiences, and we saw parents reading books to their children in there. Den building is more playful, yet we also saw people using the dens they built to read books from the library.

      We see them as complimentary. Many events we have exhibited at or visited include a lot of mediated and stimulant activities, yet very few mediative and refelective spaces. The problem with this is that it could lead to over-stimulation and only shallow engagements. The Forest at Freedom was embedded within a wider Earth Arcade that was full of the mediated and stimulant activities - we hoped that the mediative space along side it would encourage a deeper engagement. It definitely gave people somewhere to eat their picnics... 

      • CC2: Reply to AC1, Sam Illingworth, 05 May 2020

        Thanks Chris - this makes a lot of sense. I can imagine particpants getting a lot out of the combined experience. :-)

  • CC3: Comment on EGU2020-13264, Rhian Meara, 07 May 2020

    This is really wonderful! I like the way you've taken an approach to engage while also giving more of a chill-out space!