Future Machine in the memorial gardens in Finsbury Park with the procession in the background and trees behind
News Rachel Jacobs

When The Future Came in 2021

In 2021 I finally had the opportunity to begin the journey across England with Future Machine.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, floods and storms of 2021 the Future Machine appeared in Christ Church Gardens (Nottingham), by the River Leven (Cumbria) and in Finsbury Park (London).

These first visits to Nottingham and Cumbria and third visit to London marked the start of ‘When The Future Comes’ a project planned for 30 years to witness change in five places across England, every year as the seasons change.

In Nottingham I collaborated with artist Frank Abbott, conservation manager Iain Brookes and Miss Bird’s class at Mellers Primary School. Seven of us met with the Future Machine under the cherry blossom tree in Christ Church Gardens, socially distanced, when this tree blossomed, due to Covid-19 the amount of people who could attend was restricted. We hung light boxes of birds, made by the school children and lit them up as Future Machine sung the sounds of the weather (windy, dry and cold). Each person there left a message for the future with the Future Machine.

In Cumbria, seven people met with my collaborator artist and writer Wallace Heim, me and Future Machine at the school hall at Backbarrow next to the River Leven. Each person had been invited to sit by water, along the River Leven-Windermere watershed over the summer before we met with prompts created by Wallace. When we met each person was invited to talk through their experience. We then walked with Future Machine down to the river, where the Windermere watershed flows out towards the sea. Future Machine was a witness to this moment and sung the sounds of the weather (wet, windy and mild). We then returned for food, conversation and for people to leave messages for the future with the Future Machine.

In October, as the Autumn leaves fell, the Future Machine appeared in Finsbury Park, London. In collaboration with artist Esi Eshun, poet Jo Roach and park ranger Ricard Zanoli we went on a procession around the park stopping at seven different trees along the way, people joined the procession and helped push and pull Future Machine across the park. We stopped at the memorial gardens for people to leave messages for the future with the Future Machine.  The procession ended with a live performance of the weather (windy, mild and dry) sung by Future Machine and performed live by the musicians who have made the sounds of the Future Machine – Alexandre Yemaoua Dayo, David Kemp with Miles Ncube, Indira Lemouchi and Terese.

Due to the pressures caused by Covid-19, the Future Machine didn’t make it as planned in 20201 to Somerset, but I visited the village of Cannington with my collaborator Caroline Locke. We took photos and messages from Future Machine to meet the school children at Cannington Primary School (and the wonderful head teacher Claire Nurse), to begin conversations ready to return with the Future Machine in 2022. We also visited Mike the lead bell ringer at Cannington Church and took a walk along the cliffs from Kilve to the view of Hinckly Point. We also went to the playing fields where Caroline planted a tree as a child and Caroline captured the frequency of the tree, to create a bell to ring in Cannington in 2022 when we return to plant a tree, ring the bells and the Future Machine will appear.

The next step of the journey, as the first sunny days mark the end of winter will be to Rotherfield Peppard in Oxfordshire. Future Machine will appear, if the wave of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has receeded.