Grizedale Forest & Signal Film and Media, with support from Art Fund, have commissioned socially engaged digital artist Jessica El Mal to create a new, online participatory artwork responding to Grizedale Forest in Cumbria in the North West of England.

During lockdown the forest continued to grow, wildlife became more abundant and changed its behaviour, people formed a new sense of value for access to outdoor space and nature.

The Digital Forest will capture a truly unique moment in time as visitors slowly return to the forest and once again become reconnected with nature. This project has been designed so that underrepresented groups are very much part of that reconnection as we open up the forest to become the gallery, studio and playground for all as new relationships are formed through digital media and creativity.

Workshops with the artist Jessica El Mal have now begun, bringing together participants from across Barrow-in-furness, Ambleside and Windermere. The group are exploring how non-western narratives and perspectives on nature can help improve our relationship to it

The first socially distanced workshop took place in Grizedale Forest in late November. Participants were asked to walk individually through the forest and record the sights, smells and sounds of the woodland. Since the first workshop, the group have continued to meet on Zoom to discuss what they recorded and share their memories of forests. During future online workshops, the group will continue to collect these explorations of the forest and collaborate to make a digital artwork which can be used by the public to feel the benefits of the forest without having to travel there.

Meet Artist Jessica El Mal

Jessica El Mal is an English-Moroccan creative dedicated to valuing time, care and human connection in everything she works on. With a particular interest in migration and identity, her work is both deeply personal and yet draws on the universality of the human experience through a balance of digital techniques, aesthetics and interaction. The work tends to address global structures of power through critical research, multidisciplinary projects, and speculative future imaginaries often centred around collaboration, co-curation and collective knowledge systems.

She runs an art and nature group for migrant, asylum seeker and refugee artists called ‘This Garden Group’ which includes workshops in or on the subject of art and nature in a range of natural spaces, a peer support group and a public facing program.

Jessica’s most recent exhibition Grounds for Concern exhibited at MAMA Rotterdam, challenging the authority of man-made borders through a digital installation and workshops, and her FACT Together digital commission has just gone live (see

Previous projects have been with Manchester International Festival, Journey’s Festival International and Signal Film and Media, as well as many collaborations with non-arts organisations such as the Collegium for Language in a Changing Society, Let’s Keep Growing Longsite, Furness Refugee Support and many more. 

Find out more on Jessica’s website:


For further information on this project please contact Signal Film & Media Programme Director (Adults) Charlie Booth via email:


Grizedale Forest is the UK’s first forest for sculpture, first welcoming artists to the forest in 1977. The arts programme is led by Forestry England and is re-establishing Grizedale Forest as a centre of international excellence for art and sculpture in the environment. The forest is 10 square miles of woodland in the Lake District which is managed and maintained by Forestry England. We are proud to have acquired the We’re Good to Go industry standard, awarded by Visit England. This is independent verification that we have followed government and industry COVID-19 guidelines, have a Risk Assessment in place and have implemented processes to maintain cleanliness and aid social distancing. For more information on visitor safety please contact Visitors Services on 0300 067 4495 /


Signal Film & Media is an award-winning film and digital media company based in Barrow-in-Furness with a reputation for both high-quality, professional short film production and a wide range of community engagement media projects. Our artist-led company has delivered innovative film and digital media projects since 2001, providing access to opportunities and inspiration through film and digital media, creating award-winning works for exhibition and supporting the development of a vibrant film and arts culture in the area.


AWAZ Cumbria is a social enterprise and community development organisation which: 

  •  Works with people to improve their quality of life;
  • Supports community development initiatives and partnerships;
  •  Delivers training, engagement and enterprise solutions for all sectors;
  •  Provides public policy advocacy.   

AWAZ Cumbria also provides information, advocacy and support to BME people in complex and difficult situations by making referrals to appropriate organisations and connecting people and community networks.

(AWAZ—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages)


Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. It provides millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes. Art Fund is independently funded, supported by the 159,000 members who buy the National Art Pass, who enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places, 50% off major exhibitions, and receive Art Quarterly magazine. Art Fund also supports museums through its annual prize, Art Fund Museum of the Year, which was won by St Fagans National Museum of History, Cardiff, in 2019, and through a range of digital platforms