Calling Tree

Lead Author:

Rosemary Lee


Simon Whitehead



Unit of Assessment

33: Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies

Output Category:

I - Performance

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Calling Tree (performance)

This performance is documented through video and photography.


The video documentation is of two iterations of Calling Tree in London: Tottenham (2016) and then Bloomsbury (2016). The video does not document any of the additional activities or include the audience. Images of participatory events in Tottenham plus images of audience reaction in Betws y Coed, North Wales and Bloomsbury are in the photo gallery below.



Summary Statement (300 words)

Calling Tree is an iterative, durational performance work, uniquely sited in and around significant urban trees. Co-conceived by artistic directors Rosemary Lee and Simon Whitehead it is realised through collaboration with riggers, performers, and naturalists and is responsive to the local communities: human and non-human.

The core performance component uses repeating 2 to 4 hour long performance scores. Additionally activities that respond to the geographic and socio-political landscape of each site have included working with local school children, walks with naturalists, participatory dance events under the trees, curated night time gatherings – Beneath the Boughs – with emerging and established poets and musicians.

Calling Tree is practiced as a human installation – humans dwelling in trees – and invites the unsuspecting passer-by and spectator to sense their belonging to, interrelationship with, and co-dependency on the ecological system around them.

Research Aims:

Calling Tree builds on and develops key concerns in Lee’s work as seen in Square Dances,1 and Under the Vaulted Sky,2 notably to reach and engage with local audiences and communities through unusual, performance events in green urban settings. Whereas these previous works subtly and non-verbally highlighted our relationship to nature, in Calling Tree Lee experimented with a more outspoken approach (speaking to other artistic practices, for example Bobby Baker’s Pull Yourself Together3) in drawing attention to our vital and precious dependency on the natural world.


  1. Lee, Rosemary (2011). Square Dances. London: Dance Umbrella [performance].
  2. Lee, Rosemary (2014). Under the Vaulted Sky. Milton Keynes: IF Milton Keynes [performance].
  3. Baker, Bobby (2000). Pull Yourself Together. London: Mental Health Foundation [“act”].


Contextual Information

Role of Rosemary Lee as co-creator of Calling Tree:

Calling Tree is co-conceived, co-created and co-directed by Lee and Wales based movement-artist Simon Whitehead, as such they are co- authors of the work. In Tottenham and Bloomsbury they developed and directed the work together. Due to Lee’s proximity to the sites she undertook more extensive research of the site and the communities around it, finding performers and leaders for the additional curated events, such as Beneath the Boughs and she also worked with local children, poets and an ecologist, reaching approximately 150 children in Tottenham and 60 in Bloomsbury.  She undertook more organizational project management.

For future commissions they will research and identify the site together to create the overarching structure and concept of the work in response to the new context.  One of them will then develop the work alone, as in the small-scale version presented in Pamplona, Spain as part of the DNA Festival 12-13 May 2018 directed by Simon Whitehead after initial research visits together.

Production Credits:
Commissions and funding:

Betws y Coed, North Wales:
Commissioned by Migrations and supported by the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project, with funds from The Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Akademi, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Dance Initiative Greater Manchester, DanceEast, DanceXchange, Fierce Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, Independent Dance, Royal Shakespeare Company and South East Dance. Additional support from public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Made at The Place.

Tottenham and Bloomsbury, London:
Imagine 2020 (2.0) and Create to Connect projects, supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union. Supported with public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Additional support from the Adobe Foundation Fund and the London Boroughs of Haringey and Camden

Pamplona, Spain:
Commissioned and funded by DNA Festival, Pamplona, Spain

Samples of audience feedback:

A sample of feedback from audience members from emails, and recorded interviews, revealing the affect of Calling Tree on their senses, thoughts and perceptions of the wider environment.

Related publications and presentations:

1. Lee, R. (2018) Preferring the Blur: Connections between Choreographer, Audience and Tree in Calling Tree. In Ellis, Waelde & Blades (Eds.), A World of Muscle, Bone and Organs: Research and Scholarship in Dance (pp.185 -213). C-DaRE.

This chapter explores Lee’s relationship to the local people she encountered whilst working on Calling Tree in Tottenham, reflecting Lee’s research into working responsively in situ to human and non human local communities.

2. Welton, M. (2018) Making Sense of Air. Choreography and Climate in Calling Tree. Performance Research, 23:3, pp.80-90.

This chapter reveals how the author experienced Calling Tree in Bloomsbury and how it affected his attentiveness to the wider environment. Welton speaks of the work’s relationship to ecological and climatic concerns of our time.

3. Rosemary Lee’s contribution to PhD candidate Cathy Washbrooke’s presentation, The Dance of Animacy in Lee and Whitehead’s Calling Tree (2016) presented at: Dance Fields: staking a Claim for Dance Studies, Roehampton University April 2017; and Dance and Somatic Practices Conference 2017: Moving the Sensate: Questions of Affect and Embodiment for the 21st Century.

This writing reveals Lee’s relationships and responses to the environment around her, the questions she asked herself and the challenges she faced in the research.  It particularly speaks of the interconnectedness she sought to find ways of encouraging the audience to feel.


Lee’s 4 hour score for Calling Tree Tottenham (opens in new browser tab)

Project website:


The team were in residence on site daily for two to three weeks before the performances following a year of regular visits and research.

Image credit:

Header image: Calling Tree. Rosemary Lee and Simon Whitehead: Tottenham. Photograph Oliver Rudkin (2016)