Annual celebration of the landscape at Box Hill
WonderDusk is a community event celebrating the Surrey Hills landscape through the arts. Hundreds of people gather on Box Hill at dusk to experience site-specific responses by artists across the art forms featuring art installation, performance, sound, singing and poetry. The project and event aims to connect communities with each other and nature.
Working in partnership with the National Trust we strive to give visitors a deeper understanding of nature and this specific Surrey Hills landscape.
The 2023 event had the theme of woodland. For the first time, the focus was a woodland wander to experience creative ‘happenings’ showcasing the majesty of the trees. A soundscape by Graham Dowdall ran throughout the journey from the opening dance on Donkey Green through the woodland.
Our creative partners Freewheelers Theatre & Media Company took inspiration from the woodland, the tree species and wildlife. They created a narrative led by a young girl playing music on a gramophone referencing the area’s musical heritage. Lead birds guided her into the woodland past Freewheelers musicians playing atmospheric sounds from the iPads on their wheelchairs. These sound tracks were created as part of the many workshops leading up to the event.
The girl passes local poets who had created poetry on the theme of trees and on to the Wild Choir singing amongst the woodland. The attendees journeyed on along the accessible path as the light grew dimmer.
“It was such a privilege to be part of such a beautiful, connecting, inclusive and moving event”The Wild Choir
Young dancers illuminated by hundreds of tiny lights performed their piece inspired by the mycorrhizal fungal networks that connect the trees beneath our feet. Performed by Zambesi Dance this was a stunning, moving performance choreographed by Nicky Norton.
An area of the woodland was purely illuminated to experience ‘Woodscape’ by sound artist Graham Dowdall who had worked with disadvantaged young people from the Amber Foundation and Linden Bridge Special School collecting outdoor sounds and layering them creatively.
“Enchanting, atmospheric and immersive, ‘WonderDusk’ was a fully inclusive sunset event on Box Hill”Attendee
Freewheelers gave a breathtaking performance featuring projections, a movement piece depicting fireflies and a poem written and narrated by Terri Winchester from the company.
The lead girl then led everyone out of the woods where they were given simple bird puppets made over many months with community groups such as the Leatherhead Community Group, The Grange and Akhawat – Women’s Muslim group. At this point, everyone became a participant as they came together in the centre of Donkey Green to join in the round especially written by Anna Tabbush ‘We Gather Now Beneath the Boughs’. After the mass choir had sung their tree themed songs, everyone joined in a mass murmuration as the birds were illuminated against the darkening sky.
“I was really touched by the gentle showing of nature in each piece, I loved the mycelium at the end I really had a sense of how delicate the eco system of the woods is and how much we as humans effect it”Attendee
The mass murmuration ended at the ‘Mother Tree’ an impressive beech tree at the viewpoint at Box Hill. Artist Helena Doyle had created a stunning installation of giant cocoons to symbolise the change in season. These had been created with the help from community groups and were illuminated in red. Beneath the tree, poet Matt Grayson recited his poem 9000 stars before inviting everyone to turn off all the lights to appreciate the importance of dark skies together in silence.
WonderDusk has evolved from the annual event Harvest. This grew out of a project in September 2018 where Mary Branson explored the relationship of the local farming community to the land, the processes and rituals of harvest time and the impact of the changing climate on their work. Harvest 2018 featured sixty six ‘invisible’ hay bales; illuminated outlines of what should have been in the lower field had we not suffered the drought. The piece highlighted some of the unseen work that goes into shaping the landscape that is often taken for granted.
In 2019, the event was called Harvest – One Moon. We were joined by the I Speak Music Orchestra, young people from a refugee or displaced background who come together to share and learn music skills who provided drumming rhythm to the singers. They also worked with the local choirs to learn a Syrian piece of music which they performed together. We were also joined by UP! Orchestra of Unlimited Potential, young people with special educational needs who joined in the singing and percussion.
Mary Branson returned to the site and created a piece purely with people and lanterns in the lower field at Box Hill farm to be viewed at a great distance from Solomons Memorial. One hundred women marched to the beat of Medau drum forming a perfect circle before dissecting it to represent Equinox.
In 2022, Artist Diana Burch worked with hundreds of people across Surrey to create ‘Seed of Hope’ which was installed as the focal point of the event. The artwork symbolised our connections with each other and with nature and was made of entirely sustainable materials.
Along with the mass choir and local poets we welcomed Ukrainian band Atmasfera, with their soulful, heartfelt singers.
With thanks for additional support from: