Diane E Hall

An important area of inspiration for my research and practice concerns the imperatives of conservation and the associated political issues of the natural environment. For the past 6 years I have been working on different aspects within The National Forest Area in Leicestershire and Derbyshire. This 200 square mile swathe of land in the middle of England has been mined for coal and minerals, leaving industrial scars on the landscape. Ten years ago the Government set up The National Forest Company, established to transform the land back into a natural environment with forests and open areas for public access. My earlier work, in 2008, looked at the remaining remnants of ancient woods in this identified area.

Journeying through The National Forest area of Leicestershire today, the transformation and renewal from opencast mining to forest cannot fail to intrigue. The open caste coal mine, which has recently been filled in and re-established with a lake and fields, is now being planted with 300,000 trees. My current practice is a response to those changes, through a detailed investigation into the specific Site of Long Moor and its layered history.

The Long Moor’s spoil heap of gravel, plastic netting, wire, pipes and matting from the mining site is like a sore on the natural landscape. Yet I am fascinated by the detritus. Muddy lumps of matting, chewed by the bulldozers during the reclamation of the land, had serrated edges and were dyed a rainbow of browns by the soil. This was inspirational debris for my practice. From this I’ve created a long textile piece of work in subtle earth colours in the form of a landscape.

Further inspiration came from a farm next to the site, where UK Coal had left 1000’s of core samples in boxes from the area. I have used a number of these for an installation. Much of my work is made of multiple pieces or in series. Again the Site was a motivation. The earth diggers left a watery unstable, unsteady grid across the surface of the land.

As the area is replanted the cyclic nature of forest, coal and trees is re-established and provides further creative ideas and thoughts for my future practice.