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FINT protestors block entrance to Hayward Gallery’s ‘Among the Tree’s’ exhibition and stage dramatic performance to highlight the violence and deforestation of HS2.

Stop HS2, HS2 Rebellion, and autonomous anti-HS2 activists who all identify as female, intersex, non-binary and trans, temporarily blocked the entrance to the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Among The Trees’ exhibition in protest as they are frustrated by its failure to prioritise and communicate the climate and ecological emergency and to draw attention to HS2, the largest deforestation project in this country since the First World War. They are working in solidarity with the indigenous people of the world who have been murdered, and subjected to even harsher brutality than us for opposing the destruction of other natural and cultural sites.

A banner in front of the Hayward Gallery building, reads “Exhibit The Truth, #Stop HS2”, and performance art gives the honest feeling of brutality symbolising this catastrophic project, which is destroying or damaging  693 local wildlife sites, 108 Ancient Woodlands and 33 legally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). [1]

Protestors feel the public are being misled and let down by the exhibition as it currently stands. 

Recent visitor to the exhibition Julia Jarret said “I was initially excited to go to this exhibition but found myself struggling to find any meaningful reference to the climate and ecological emergency.

It hardly addressed on any level the mass deforestation issues around the world, let alone on our own doorstep and the plight of our ancient forests due to HS2…” 

Visitors to the gallery are instead invited to an alternative, more truthful, exhibition exposing the current mass destruction of ancient woodlands by HS2 in the UK. 

FINT performers blocking the gallery entrance are dressed in uniforms of the security employed by HS2 and National Eviction Team (NET) [3]. They role play the scenarios that unfold when HS2 compulsory purchase property and enforce injunctions on nature reserves, ancient woodland, protected parks, conservation areas, and sites of special scientific interest which are often violent, oppressive and unlawful. 

As the Hayward Gallery notes in its exhibition guide ‘the destruction of the world’s forests is accelerating at a record pace’. Protesters are taking action as they are disappointed, shocked and outraged by the absence of any reference in the exhibition to HS2 which has been cited as the ‘biggest single development threat to ancient woodland right now’ .  Activists are calling on the curators, artists, our cultural institutions, and to the general public, asking them to take action in light of the existential threat and ecological devastation that’s happening today.

Visitors to the truth telling exhibition enter a soundscape of chainsaws, terrified wildlife and arresting imagery of HS2 deforestation and see up close the brutality inflicted on peaceful protesters. The activists highlight the numerous acts of intimidation, violence, targeted racism [2] sexism, sexual assault, and abuses of power have been committed against environmental protectors worldwide. By FINT people taking on the roles of NET, HS2 security and private security they highlight the gender disparity. These roles are typically taken by men and men make up the vast majority of people working for and with HS2. The protestors believe this should be challenged. 

Beachcomber a performing activist from today said “We don’t need to be shown how beautiful trees are through a screen or representation, their value is obvious. What we need is a call to action so that we can still step outside and into a living woodland ecosystem. If we do not stop projects like HS2 now all we will have left of our British woodland is a pale imitation in art galleries. We should be showing the breadth of destruction being caused on our doorstep and globally. Turning a blind eye to the massive deforestation being caused by HS2 is complicity in violence.” 

“From life to death, from ecosystem to profit, the sound cycle represents our life on the frontline. It begins from birds singing and leaves gently swaying, and as the journey continues on chainsaws begin, trees crash and earth protectors begin receiving physical abuse. I want to bring the current sounds of UK woodlands to the public and institution in hope of awareness and the Hayward Gallery to represent the truth.” – Ashleigh Swain (Soundscape Artist) 

“To me this protest exhibition not only symbolises the acts of state violence witnessed through mass ecocide but to acts of violence committed to peaceful protestors. It is no coincidence that the majority of decision makers behind HS2 are the privileged white male, from the UK Government to HS2 Ltd board members, from NET & security, to the police. As a woman I will no longer let the patriarchy of state violence target myself, my friends, and the Earth in silence. Having been targeted multiple times by HS2 and almost losing my life, due to the police, whilst protesting this issue I have an obligation to tell the truth. Equality is at the heart of this fight, until we address it state violence committed to the planet and most vulnerable people will never end. This is an open call for all artists and creatives to help us address this issue by exposing the corruption that is HS2” – Swan

Activists and artists involved in the performance are making very clear demands to the artistic community of the Southbank Centre and the Curators of the Hayward Gallery:.

“We demand in this open letter that the Hayward Gallery/Southbank Centre, all art institutions, and the entire artistic community, tell the hard truths that the media fails to and inspire people to act with urgency.

We demand that the Hayward Gallery declare a climate and ecological emergency immediately.  We highly recommend they speak with our friends at Culture Declares to find out how they can do this.

Notes to Editors:

[1] 693 local wildlife sites, 108 Ancient Woodlands and 33 legally protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).


[3] National Eviction Team

Stop HS2 is a campaign against the building of the new high speed rail line across the UK. HS2 Rebellion are an affiliate group of this campaign. Members of both and autonomous activists form the FINT Affinity group.  

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