A unique programme of events inspired by the Ghost Forest art installation was launched on Saturday, February 12, 2011 by Lord Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University. The six-month initiative, entitled ‘I Touched the Rainforest’, involved every school child in Oxfordshire – 101,000 – who were each invited to come and literally touch, and smell, the Ghost Forest trees. Such contact with a rainforest tree is an experience few will have in their lives.
During the six-month initiative, schools were encouraged to generate Ghost Forest inspired works through poetry, art, photography, music and theatre. A documentary film of the project was also shown at the launch, tracing the trees’ extraordinary journey from the forest, deep in Western Ghana, to their arrival in Europe at Tilbury Docks, then to Trafalgar Square, Copenhagen and Oxford.
A host of other events were announced including a Grand Banquet of Rainforest Insects amidst the Ghost Forest trees which was held on March 27 2011. Experts in the field of food security discussed whether insects could offer a viable alternative to beef if the predicted worldwide population explosion leads to a world meat shortage. Insects were cooked by the celebrity chef and food writer Thomasina Miers, a noted environmentalist whose Wahaca restaurants are inspired by Mexican street markets. She was joined at the event by Mauricio Rodriguez Munera, the Ambassador of Colombia, who brought his own insects from Colombia. He has these sent regularly to his Ambassadorial residence in London. Mr Rodriguez is also an ‘ambassador’ of the Ghost Forest project (see ‘Ambassadors’ on the website). Among those who joined the Ambassador on an insect tasting panel were Martha Kearney of the BBC; Peter Bennett-Jones, co-founder of Comic Relief and the recent recipient of the BAFTA Lifetime Achievement award; Hector Sants, head of the Financial Services Authority; Professor Fritz Vollrath, a zoologist at Oxford University and a world authority on spiders; Nigel Winser, head of Earthwatch; and Ghost Forest ambassador, Andrew Mitchell.
Other events included a Plant-a-Tree inspired by the Ghost Forest. Every school in Oxfordshire was invited to plant a sapling at a plantation in Cumnor in Oxfordshire owned by the head of Timbmet, Simon Fineman. The first planting took place on March 6, 2011 at Cumnor.