A visit to Windermere Jetty Museum

Leaving Blackwell we decided to drive over to, another Lakeland Arts site, the Windermere Jetty Museum, a short drive away on the other side of Bowness. We’d visited before, just before the first lockdown, but though we could spend a little time there revisiting the exhibits and enjoying a brew on the lakeside.

As it turned out we spent longer there than we expected as there were a couple of art exhibitions – normally they would probably have been shown at Abbot Hall but with that still be shut for refurbishment I guess Lakeland Arts were taking advantage of the facilities here.

First, though, we had a look around the main displays

One of the exhibitions, shown in the main building in a room with a view over the lake, featured large scale abstract watercolours by Barbara Nicholls, an artist from Cheshire.

Her technique used to create these works involved laying out large sheets of heavy weight
paper on the studio floor, which were then wetted before applying the pigments which would then begin to spread out by capillary action – just like ink dropped onto wet blotting paper. The skill of the artist is then to manipulate and control the pigment. The finished works being made up of sections from several of these sheets cut and then collated to form a whole.

These monumental watercolours emerge from a process of manipulating coloured pigment in large quantities of water. The pigments behave in a variety of ways; some gather in dark, opaque pools, others are translucent, lapping at the paper to form gentle tidal marks.

Lakeland Arts Website

It was quite appropriate for paintings created by the movement of water to be displayed in a room with a view over the Lake.

The second exhibition was in the old fire station that had been relocated from Bowness village to the grounds of the museum

Dovetailing is an immersive installation by Sculptor Juliet Gutch in collaboration with composer and viola player Sally Beamish and filmmaker Clare Dearnaley inspired by luthiery (the making of stringed musical instruments). 

Entering the small building we encountered a darkened room with wooden mobiles suspended from the ceiling with a film being projected onto a screen.

The mobiles were made up of wooden shapes resembling shavings produced during the planing of the wood used in the construction of a violin or viola. The film, with the soundtrack by Sally Beamish, included natural sounds, the workshop process during the manufacture of a violin and the movement of the mobile forms.

Then it was time for a brew. It was a pleasant day so we sat outside looking over the water (there are good views from inside the cafe too)

I liked the wooden shelters that had been built by the museum staff using boat building techniques

Leaving the museum we weren’t ready to set off for home so we drove into the village centre, parked up and went for a walk along the lake.

There is very little of the east side of Windermere where it’s possible to walk along the lakeside. Most of the land is privately owned and access isn’t possible for the hoi poloi – reflecting the theme of the exhibition we’d visited at Blackwell that morning. The main exceptions are Fell Foot, at the south end of the lake, and Cockshott Point, a stretch of parkland where we were walking at Bowness. Both of these are owned by the National Trust. Cockshott Point was bought by the Trust with the help of a certain Mrs Heelis (better known as Beatrix Potter) who sold some paintings to raise funds for the purchase. Without this intervention it would have been likely that the land would be sold to a private buyer who would have prevented access.

There’s more of a “right to roam” on the west side of the Lake (formerly in Lancashire!), but, again this is due to the intervention of the National Trust. I think a lot of people think the NT is all about preserving manor houses, but their original vision was about opening up the countryside and without them large area of the lake District and other parts of the country wouldn’t be readily accessible.

So our say in the Lakes ended as it started, with us reflecting on how access to the countryside and the lake shores is still limited and how we need to continue to campaign for the “Right to Roam”.

“Something in Common” at Blackwell

A couple of weeks ago we decided to drive up to the Lake District to visit one of our favourite places – Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts style house near Bowness. We hadn’t been there for over two years (yes, you know why) but we were keen to see the latest exhibition there – Something in Common – featuring the works of James Fox, a textile artist from Glasgow, now living in Lancaster. His recent work delves into the history of land rights and land ownership, posing the question – Who Owns England? – and the Blackwell exhibition takes up this theme, exploring the “right to roam” and is part of their ‘Year of Protest’ programme, featuring artists who use craft as a form of tool for social change and revolt.

I spend quite a lot of my leisure time out walking on the moors and mountains and kind of take it for granted that I can do that. But that wouldn’t always have been possible. In many areas landlords forbid the hoi poloi accessing their estates on the moors that they used for hunting and shooting. But as working people started to have more leisure time walking and hiking became more popular, leading to frustration where they couldn’t gain access to what they saw as open land. This led to protests and mass trespasses, the most well known being that on Kinder but there were others, two examples being the trespasses on Winter Hill in 1896 and Latrigg, near Keswick, in 1887. We’re free to walk on all of those hills now, but despite the  Countryside & Rights of Way (CRoW) Act of 2000 the Right to Roam only applies to “open access land”, which comprises about 8% of the mountains, moors, heath, and coastlines in England and Wales. (Scotland has a different legal system and the The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 allows everyone access to most land and inland water in Scotland for “certain purposes”.) People campaigning and fighting for the Right to Roam have never gone away, including veteran campaigner John Bainbridge, who sometimes comments on this blog 🙂 – his book is worth a read.

Of course, there’s a balance between access and respecting people’s property and in Scotland exempts land where there are buildings, private gardens, land where crops are growing, schools and school grounds sports grounds.  The legislation also requires the right to roam to be exercised “reasonably and responsibly” and I’m sure that the vast majority of people would respect this. I can’t see any reason why the same approach shouldn’t be applied to England and Wales. Yet many wealthy landowners think otherwise and resist any extension of the Right to Roam.

During lockdown, where travel was restricted, James Fox started going out exploring the countryside close to his home in Lancaster. In particular, the Abbeystead Estate in the Forest of Bowland. the estate is owned by the Duke of Westminster and before the CRoW Act access to many parts of the wild moorland was restricted. I experienced this 20 or so years ago I used to go walking in Bowland regularly and know that I strayed off the permitted track more than once.

The works on display were created by a combination of hand stitching, machine embroidery and digital media. A small number of works from the Lakeland Trust’s collection, including paintings by Lowry, Ben Nicholson and Sheila Fell were included in the exhibition and there were two “soundscapes” playing

the Political Soundscape

a series of speeches by protesters and politicians who thought for the Right to Roam, Political Soundscape reflects the deeply emotional relationship between people and the land throughout history. Together, the readings are a testament to the ability of everyday people to affect positive social change when their voices rise as one.

and the Bucollic Soundscape

Featuring a series of poems by writers who were inspired by the landscape, Bucolic Soundscape reflects the enduring and affectionate relationship that people have with the land.

A two sided quilt A Patchwork Quilt (2021) illustrates the two different sides to the gouse shooting on the Abbeystead estate,

the front displaying images associated with grouse shooting

while the reverse highlands the “hidden” aspects of the use of the land for this leisure pursuit – restricted access, eradication of predators and “unwanted” wildlife and vegetation, burning of the land and other environmental issues.

One of three videos running on a loop showed how this banner had been created

The Rewilding Plinth (2022) raised questions about how the grouse moors impact on the ecology of the moors. He also raises the question of what impact “rewilding” – returning the land to it’s natural environment – could have on tenant farmers

and how, depending how it’s done, could have other adverse effects on the land.

The frieze running along the wall is part of the exhibition and symbolises how the land is “fenced in” to prevent access. The frieze design reminds me of some of the wallpaper designs by Morris and Co., particularly “trellis
Sheila Fell – “Cumbrian landscape” (1967)

It’s a small exhibition, but inspiring and thought provoking, and we felt it was definitely worth the visit. Of course, we also took the opportunity to revisit the house and have a light meal in the cafe, after which we took another look around the exhibition.

And I never tire of the view from the gardens over Windermere towards the Coniston fells.

It was still early afternoon as we left the house, but we felt that we weren’t ready to return home. So what to do next?

The Dark Horse – Belfast

A couple of weeks ago I was in Belfast attending a conference – the first one for a few years. Being good, sitting through the conference sessions and catching up with people I hadn’t seen face to face for some time, I didn’t have much time for exploring the city. However, on the second night of the conference one of the major equipment suppliers traditionally hosts a free shin dig and this year was no different, so with just about everyone one else attending the event I made my way to the Cathedral Quarter and the Dark Horse.

Inside it’s a very traditional Irish pub with lots of glass and polished brass.

But one of the main attractions is the courtyard behind the pub where all the walls are a gallery of street art depicting scenes of Irish history and culture – with a good helping of Irish humour too.

Art and Shadows

Mesh sculpture (1961) – Katsuhiro Yamaguchi

It’s a while since I’ve been to see an art exhibition. Covid resulted in galleries being closed and since they reopened a reluctance to be in an enclosed space with a large number of people meant that I lost the habit. But during May I’ve started to make more of an effort to get back into the habit and I’ve visited both the Manchester City and Tate Liverpool galleries.

Something I’ve always found interesting is how some sculptural works cast shadows which add another aspect to the experience. While I was visiting the Tate there were a number of works where the interplay of light and shadows were part of the artist’s intention. The sculptures were suspended from above, creating effects that changed as they turned and moved due to the air movement. In some cases, the materials used were translucent, allowing some light to pass through projecting an image made of light and shadow light on nearby surfaces.

Linear Construction No. 2 (1970-71) – Naum Gabo
Spatial Relief (red) REL 036 (1959) – Hélio Oiticica 
Lekythos (1962) – Lenore Tawney 
I didn’t note the details of this work – doh!

If you go down in the woods….

A few days after my return from the Peak District I took advantage of a break in the miserable weather to get out for a walk through the Plantations. Following one of my regular routes I was surprised to see a large photograph printed on waterproof material hanging from a couple of the beech trees. As I continued along the path I spotted several more,

including a photo of someone I often see walking his little dog when I’m out annd about along the Dougie and in the Plantations.

It transpired that the photographs were an exhibition, displayed as part of the Wigan Arts Festival.

Commissioned by Wigan Council and Open Eye Gallery, the photographs by Mario Popham, a photographer of Japanese and English descent, based in Manchester, are of people he encountered in the Woodland Park. In most cases the protraits are paired with trees, palnts and “found objects”, in some cases the images being blended and merged.

I enjoyed viewing the photographs which added some interest to a familiar walk. And it was good to seesome art, too. It’s been a while.

The Wigan Mining Monument

WordPress blogger Wednesday’s Child has been very quiet in recent months. Not suprising given that she’s a doctor working in a hospital in Manchester. I hope she’s keeping safe and healthy.

I enjoy reading her posts and particularly like one of her themes – statues and monuments in Manchester, Glasgow and other locations. Wigan, being a bit of a cultural backwater, has rather a dearth of public art works, but in recent years the local council and other organisations have made some effort to install some sculpture and monuments in and around the town centre. The most recent, installed last year celebrates the mining heritage of Wiagn.

Despite Wigan once being the “capital” of the Lancashire coalfield, there was nothing to mark that and celebrate the heritage of an industry that used to dominate the town. It took a group of volunteers -the Wigan Heritage and Mining Monument group, WHAMM – a registered charity formed by two local women Anne Catterall and Sheila Ramsdale, which raised the funds to provide a statue in a prominent location in Wigan town centre.

The project came to fruition last year but, unfortunately, the planned unveiling ceremony couldn’t go ahead due to you know what.

The statue, created by sculptor Steve Winterburn, depicts a man, woman and child, probably a family, all of who worked in the pits. They’re wearing the traditional footwear – wooden clogs with clog irons and as the sculpture doesn’t have base or plinth so that they appear to be walking on the cobbled street.

The woman, carrying a sieve or screen, would have been a “Pit Brow Lass“, one of the women who worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.

Coal has been mined in Wigan from at least the 16th century, and the industry grew to dominate the town, peaking around the end of the nineteenth century. According to local history records, in the 1840’s there were over 1000 pit shafts within a 5 mile radius of Wigan town centre. 

Source: Wigan World

The Northern Mining Research Society has compiled a list of colleries in the area that were opened in the 19 Century. There aren’t any left now – the last pits in the Borough and Lancashire coalfield closed after the big strike of 1984.

Over three centuries, more than 750 million tons of coal were mined from the vast Wigan coalfields, which over time had over 1000 pits, large and small. It would be difficult to overestimate the contribution of the town to the industrial revolution and the wealth it brought to Britain. However, this was achieved at great cost to local people. Hundreds of people died in accidents, and countless thousands were maimed or left with diseases caused by the working conditions. Two huge mining disasters are still remembered and commemorated more than a century after they occurred. In 1908, 75 men lost their lives in the Maypole pit near Abram.

WHAMM Crowdfunder website
Unemployed Wigan miner in the 1930’s Source: Wigan World

There are few traces of the industry around the town these days. So the monument is a very welcome addition to the town to remind us of a proud heritage and tradition, and, more importantly as a tribute to the thousands of local people – men women and children – who laboured in awful conditions in the pits

Cemaes

After our walk around Parys Mountain we decided we’d drive a little further along the north coast of the island to the small resort of Cemaes – the most northerly village in Wales. Originally a fishing village, particularly for herring, and a port for the export of bricks, today it very much relies on tourism with it’s sandy beaches and pretty little harbour.

We drove into the village, missing the turn for the car park down by the beach but managed to find a large car park up the behind the main shopping street. I was amazed to find that parking there was free. Makes a change!

It’s quite a small place and it didn’t take long to look round. We walked along the main street, which had a only a few shops (some of them shut down, sadly), and then down towards the picturesque harbour. the tide was out so the fishing and pleasure boats were all stranded in the mud.

There was still some evidence of fishing and we saw a couple of men loading up crates of lobsters into their van. None for sale locally, though.

P9294325

Then on to the beach

P9294337

There were signs up making it clear that dogs were only allowed on a resticted section of the beach during the main season (which hadn’t finished). But what did we see. Yes, several dog walkers ignoring the instruction. It illustrates the problem that if you implement meaures people are required to follow the message must be clear (it was in this case), reinforced and enforced. Just the same with masks and social distancing at the moment. (Rant over!) Having said that, there were very few people on the beach and the promenade. It was very quiet and peaceful.

We were intrigued by this structure standing on the beach

A little research revealled it to be “St Patricks bell“. It’s one of several bells located at coastal locations around the UK by the Time and Tide project to celebrate the connection of local communities between themselves, the land, the sea and the environment. In Cemaes the bell celebrates the local legend that St Patrick was shipwrecked on the nearby island,Ynys Badrig, where he founded a church in 440 AD, introducing Christianity to Britain.

The bell is rung by the high tide, and is meant as a reminder of rising sea levels caused by global warming. Gillian Clark, a favourite poet of mine, composed a poem for the dedication of the bell and read it at the installation ceremony

Mewn gwynt a glaw,
gwyll neu oleuni,
heulwen, lloergan,
pan fo’r tonnau’n taro
ar y traeth dan dynfa’r lleuad,
bob dydd, adeg y penllanw,
swn y tonnau,
sain y gloch yn canu.

And in English:

At the turn of the earth,
heartbeat of the deep
under the wind’s breath,
as the sea stirs in sleep
under the moon’s gravitational pull,
when the tide’s at the full,
at the twelfth hour
the bell will toll.

Cast in bronze, the colour of the metal changes due to the action of the environment – air, water and salt.

I notice that one of the bells was installed last year on the Stone Jetty in Morecambe. I’ll have to go and have a look some time.

We didn’t stay very long but after strolling along the beach set back off to our accommodation, stopping at the sizeable Co-op in Amlych to pick up a few supplies. We then finished off the afternoon by walking down to Lligwy beach. Unfortunately the little cafe was closed 😦

Mungrisdale sheepfold

One of the main impacts on my lifestyle due to this damn virus (besides working from home) has been that we’ve been unable to get out and about visiting galleries and exhibitions. So this blog has become a little more one dimensional than usual focusing almost exclusively on my walking. However, during my walk from Mungrisdale a couple of weeks ago I remembered reading somewhere that there was one of Andy Goldsworthy’s Cumbrian sheepfolds near the village. Luckily I had 4G reception on top of Souther Fell and a quick internet search took me to a site that revealed that there was indeed not just one, but two, in fields near Redmire Farm. So, as I expected to get back down to the village mid afternoon and was in no hurry to drive home on a fine day, I decided to see if I could find them. As it transpired, I wasn’t entirely successful.

Reaching the car I decided to dump my walking poles in the boot as I didn’t think I’d need them crossing the expected flat terrain. Following the directions on the website I walked about half mile walk down the road and then turned off down a farm track, and climbed over a stile to take a path across a field. Looking ahead I could see that there was a small herd of cows with their claves standing halfway across the field right on the route of the path. Well, cows might seem fairly docile most of the time but can get aggressive if they think their calves could be threatened and there have been some incidents where people have been injured when charged by the beasties. I decided to be cautious and veered off the route of the path to maintain my distance from them. They looked at me suspiciously as I crossed the field and as I drew level with them they all suddenly started to charge in my direction. Now I was wishing I’d kept hold of my walking poles! As it happened they ran past me stopping at the other side of the field.

Reaching the drystone wall I climber over the stile and there was the sheepfold.

Unlike the others from the project that I’d seen, it was relatively plain – a perfectly round structure, built using traditional dry stone walling techniques, with a narrow entrance.

The instructions to reach the second sheepfold were not so clear but I carried on across the fields to look for it. I’d read that this work appears to be just a heap of gathered stones but that it contains a finished sheepfold concealed among them.

I saw this pile of stones in the next field, overgrown with vegetation. It looked a little underwhelming.

But when I checked the project website on returning home I discovered that I hadn’t gone quite far enough – it was a little further on in the next field. Ah well, at least I managed to find one of them and enjoy the opportunity to get a “fix” of sculpture and tick off another one of Goldsworthy’s structures. I’ll be up that way again, and hopefully there won’t be cows in the fields next time I decide to try and find it!

(I had to cross the field of cows again retracing my steps. They kept their eyes on me again, but this time they stayed put)

Saad Qureshi: “Something About Paradise” at the YSP

P3124114

During our recent trip over the Pennines to the YSP (hard to believe it’s only just over 3 weeks ago) we called into the Chapel to take a look at the exhibition by the British artist Saad Qureshi, which was due to close a few days after our visit.

The old Georgian chapel has been converted into a really simple, beautiful and contemplative exhibition space and the YSP have programmed exhibitions that are really suited to it’s ambiance. During this visit, the strong sunlight was streaming in through the windows creating contrasting patterns of light and shadows.

P3124117

In this exhibition the artist was exploring “what paradise means in a contemporary context” and the exhibition website tells us that

Qureshi is an avid gatherer of stories. In developing Something About Paradise he travelled around the country asking those with and without faith what paradise means for them. Speaking directly to people allowed the artist space to interpret the descriptions of indistinct and imagined places, as seen in memories and dreams, into physical installations that he refers to as ‘mindscapes’.

The result is a series of fantastic imaginary landscapes of hills, trees and miniature buildings of different architectural styles from around the world.

P3124116
P3124115
P3124107

One thing that struck me about this “paradise” – there was a distinct lack of colour! I’m not sure what that was meant to say.

Besides the landscapes other works included this building on the moon

P3124111
P3124112

a number of large, ornate Gates of Paradise

P3124119

and this ladder (cue Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven“!) , which the artist had very cleverly shaded to make it look as if was disappearing into the ether.

P3124109

Joana Vasconcelos: Beyond at the YSP

It seems forever since I took a week off work but it was only 3 weeks ago. Such a lot has happened since then. The weather at the beginning of that week hadn’t been so great but by the Thursday things had brightened up and we decided we’d drive over to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, A new exhibition had just started and we wanted to see how J’s name had weathered on the new “Walk of Art”.

It was bright and sunny when we arrived, but very windy. It continued like that for most of the day, and it was very muddy underfoot, so we didn’t spend as much time as we’d have liked walking around the grounds (in fact, the paths around the lake were closed off due to the strong wind). However, there was plenty to see in the Underground Gallery and the more sheltered areas close to it.

We parked up by the new Weston Gallery, Restaurant and Shop so we could take a look at the Walk of Art. The plates installed last summer had weathered and oxidised, blending in with the ones that had been installed earlier that year.

We set off battling against the wind across the muddy fields of the parkland over towards the old chapel and the Underground Gallery.

P3124103
P3124104

We called in to the Chapel to look at the exhibition Something About Paradise by Saad Qureshi, that was due to close a few days after our visit. More about that in another post

The new main exhibition, which had only opened a few days before our visit, features works by the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos. As has been the case several times during visits to the major exhibitions at the YSP, I hadn’t heard of this feminist artist. The exhibition website tells us that she

creates vibrant, often monumental sculpture, using fabric, needlework and crochet alongside everyday objects from saucepans to wheel hubs. She frequently uses items associated with domestic work and craft to comment from a feminist perspective on national and collective identity, cultural tradition and women’s roles in society.

I think that sums up what we saw very well.

The first of her works that we saw as we walked across towards the main visitor centre was this giant ceramic cockerel Pop Galo [Pop Rooster] (2016) which was inspired by the image of the Portuguese rooster.

The sculpture is over nine-metres-high and is covered by 17,000 glazed tiles. It also includes 15,000 LED lights which are illuminated at dusk while a composition by musician Jonas Runa is played. As we’d left well before dusk we weren’t able to see and hear that – perhaps we’ll have the opportunity towards the back end of the year – assuming we’re let out by then!

The large scale nature of this, and many other of her works, means that they’re necessarily a collaborative effort. The role of the artist is more of a designer than craftsperson – rather like that of an architect during the construction of a landmark building.

Moving inside the Underground Gallery the first works we saw this statue of the godess Diana covered by a cotton crotchet

and three ceramic animal heads, similarly adorned.

Moving into the first gallery there were several large works including this giant pistol made of 168 old style telephone handsets with the sound of a modern electro-acoustic composition by Jonas Runa playing. A number of the works in the exhibition incorporate music.

P3124124
Call Center (2014-16)

In the next gallery you couldn’t miss these gigantic high heel shoes made of stainless steel saucepans. The work was created for the Milan fashion show

Marilyn (2011)

and hanging from the ceiling was this massive work, inspired by the Valkyries of Norse legend, made from fabric and crocheted panels

P3124129
Valkyrie Marina Rinaldi (2014)

Another large crocheted work in the 3rd gallery

P3124137
Finisterrra (2018)

Moving outside, there were a number of large scale works on display.

This massive mask, constructed from Baroque style mirrors, was on the lawn facing the Underground Gallery.

P3124123
I’ll be Your Mirror ~1/7 (2018-20)

I wouldn’t mind a tea pot as big as this one! Although being made of wrought iron “lace work” it wouldn’t be so good for holding the tea.

P3124147
Pavilion de The (2012)

and, similarly, this jug wouldn’t be so good for storing your wine

P3124148
Pavilion de Vin (2016)

This gigantic ring, perched at the top of the lawn above the Underground Gallery, is made of hubcaps with a diamond made of whiskey glasses is a statement on consumerism and the greed for material possessions and wealth.

Solitario (2018)

The final work outdoors, sited near to Barbara Hepworth’s Family of Man, was this oversized ice cream cone constructed of plastic sand moulds of apples, pears, strawberries and croissants.

P3124156
Tutti Frutti (2019)

As is usually the case with exhibitions at the YSP, this one merits another visit. Unfortunately the park is closed now for the foreseeable future.