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An Update from the Festival’s Artist in Residence, Roma Patel

At the 2020 Festival of Science and Curiosity in February, we announced that Roma Patel was going to be the first ever Artist in Residence to the Festival over the coming year, supported by a grant from Arts Council England.

Roma is a scenographer and digital artist. She has designed interactive and site-specific performance, theatre and digital installations in the UK and Europe since 2000. Her recent PhD research at the University of Nottingham focused on the points of intersection between scenography and interactive technologies in Theatre for Early Years. She is interested in how current electronic and wearable tech can be developed for performative installation. Roma’s piece The Coral Garden, supported by Small Steps Big Changes, was installed at St Ann’s Library during the Festival of Science and Curiosity in February 2020.

We caught up with Roma about how the residency is going and what she’s working on for the Festival in February 2021.

My journey during this Artist residency with FOSAC has taken me to many places and one that we can all explore at our doorstep. The installation I am developing is call The Garden of Just Because, inspired by the micro view of a garden and the hidden world underneath the soil.

My journey started some time ago when I found out about the hidden network that lives under the soil through my young daughter. She found out about it through Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, read to her by her father. The communication network that lies in the soil beneath our feet fascinated me; the more I found out, I realised how widespread this network connection and patterns are. It is only relatively recently that scientists have found out how fundamental this underground network is to our life and future survival. The communication between trees and their relationship with the mycorrhizal network that can create fairy rings is where I began this residency a few months ago. This microscopic fungi world’s secret story is only revealed in microscopes and when it bears fruit, the mushroom. Do you know mushrooms are more closely related to animals than plants? They have their own kingdom and evolutionary history. They started in the water and evolved as land-dwelling fungi. So many facts…

After a fascinating period of researching, listening and watching all things fungi, I became a detective; the next step of my journey took me into the wild world of mushrooms in my garden, to my local town centre, and for the greatest treasure, Wollaton Park. When you find wild mushrooms it is a bit like a live performance. If you’re not there, you miss it. Here today, gone tomorrow, so I learned I need to be quick. It’s now a little over halfway through my residency, and I am currently experimenting with 360 videos. I want to find out what we can experience if we view the world from a mushroom’s height.

You can see one of Roma’s experimental 360 videos here.


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