Mar 202017

As the After the Storm exhibition continues to attract a large and appreciative audience in the John Hope Gateway, this week we are launching the much anticipated After the Storm publication. This attractive hardback publication has been designed by Alex Simpkin in collaboration with the exhibition co-ordinator Jenny Salmean. The book features photographs of After the Storm furniture pieces by Pavel Tamm, shot in the Garden on a lovely frosty week in December in the place where the original tree stood.
The book includes essays by Robert Penn (author of The Man Who Made Things Out of Trees) on forest bathing, Jonathan Rose (chair of the Scottish Furniture Makers Association) on his tsunami cabinet and myself, Ian Edwards, on the importance of disturbance in driving change. A photo essay by Patricia Macdonald on regeneration includes an aerial view of the braided river at Glen Feshie that is currently on show in the John Hope Gateway and the National Portrait Gallery.
The book attempts to link the themes of storms, regeneration and resilience with current issues in health and the environment. It argues that cultural and biological diversity are not luxuries but essential elements for restoring systems damaged by trauma of all kinds.
The book concludes with ‘Foremost among the creative crafts that we must protect to future-proof our planet is working with wood … which has the unique ability to capture carbon in perpetuity and thus contribute to establishing a more stable environment to the benefit of all life.’
The After the Storm book is available from the John Hope Gateway or on the RBGE Shopify site ( price £10. The exhibition continues in the Gateway until the 28 May 2017 admission free.

Feb 112016
Dalkeith oak

Dalkeith oak tree felled by Andrea in 2012

The After the Storm journey began on 3 January 2012 when Cyclone Andrea (described as a once in a lifetime event) swept across Scotland with winds reaching 100mph, blowing down thousands of trees in its wake. Some forests were left flattened and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh lost over 40 specimen trees. The vocabulary that was used to describe the aftermath of Andrea was taken directly from the language of war and few people anything positive to say about this traumatic event.

Then in 2014, at the preview of the annual Scottish Furniture Makers Association (SFMA) exhibition at the RBGE a conversation began on how the windblown trees from the storm might be used to make pieces for an exhibition which highlighted the beauty of Scottish-grown timber and the talent and craftsmanship among our Scottish furniture makers and designers. As plans for a joint RBGE/SFMA exhibition developed the focus shifted to other positive outcomes emerging from the great storm. Conversations with ecologists revealed how storms are essential for rejuvenating woodlands, creating gaps for regeneration and encouraging greater diversity of species and structure, building resilience and ultimately a healthier ecosystem.

With new partners the Forestry Commission and Edinburgh College of Art we began to explore ways of celebrating the role of storms which has led us, perhaps inevitably, to consider parallels with the human condition. People respond to traumatic changes in their life in the same was as woods: the pattern of devastation, recovery, regeneration and resilience is a familiar one. Our explorations have also considered the role diversity plays in post-traumatic recovery in both forests and people.

As these ideas evolved the partners, which now also included the Scottish Poetry Library, began to seek ways in which they could engage with artists and audiences to create positive and inspirational outcomes. The original proposal of an exhibition of furniture from storm-salvaged timbers has provided a starting point for creative ideas for community engagement which continue to grow and develop through the outreach of all the partners involved. One tangible outcome is a publication, providing a narrative on which to hang the project and documentation of explorations around the theme.

If you are interested in contributing in any way to this Project as it develops over the next 18 months please contact me at or follow me on twitter @idedwards  This is a good opportunity to get involved in something with a strong, inspirational message relevant to our time.