From Grizedale Sculpture Trail to Grasmere and the Castlerigg Stone Circle, every escapade on our recent mini-break in the Lake District National Park would have made Bo Peep proud.
There are over 50 pieces of sculpture dotted around the Grizedale Sculpture Trail. Some are musical sculptures, others slightly bizarre and there is also the famous ‘wall for a walk’ by Andy Goldsworthy. Of even greater importance to the youngest member of the petite Piction posse were the animal sculptures, particularly the sheep, although this wasp also held up our walk for quite some time.
This isn’t a novelty attraction, however. It’s actually a doorway into the mind of Grizedale Arts, an Arts Council funded visual arts organization that has gone from being a “radical sculpture park to wannabe radical social mechanics institute, with particular reference to engaged practice.” And that’s according to its own Director, Adam Sutherland, after recently taking over the galleries and grounds of Tate Britain one summer evening (2010) as part of Late at Tate Britain. It was a celebration of a decade of experimental and complex projects by artists such as Jeremy Deller, Olaf Breuning, Juneau Projects, Marcus Coates, Emily Wardill and many more.
Grizedale Arts itself is based in Coniston and works with its local context to address global cultural change. It is a residency and commissions agency for visual arts in a rural setting. Ground control is a farm that dates back to the 14th century and was once owned and experimentally farmed by John Ruskin – Oooooh. The historian in me is coming over all lily-like. Lawson Park is HQ as well as housing four live/work spaces, various communal areas and a warden’s cottage.
Those of you feeling tempted might also consider the remote and isolated, off-grid farmhouse that is also managed by Grizedale Arts. A residential project space and retreat for artists and small groups, Parkamoor is located 2km to the south of Lawson Park and 200m above the east shore of Coniston Water. This picturesque, 16th century grade II listed house was recently restored as a collaboration with its owners, the National Trust. It provides a unique resource; to accommodate artists, writers and creative collectives in need of the traditional facilities of the idealised artist retreat – tranquillity and seclusion. Parkamoor has no mains services and is only accessible by foot.
I bet you’re now daydreaming about being in such a peaceful haven, aren’t you. Getting back to Grizedale, rather than aiming to create a finished art product, Grizedale Arts place an emphasis on process and the dissemination of ideas to a wider audience. Over the last decade their innovative approach has acquired them a reputation for pioneering new approaches to artistic production and exhibition. And this is all part of the grand plan because Grizedale Arts has a mission to create:“A model for a new kind of art institution, which works beyond the established structures of the art world and aims to rework the idea of culture against the backdrop of emerging issues.”
For the 2006 Liverpool Biennial, Grizedale Arts produced a weekend of live activity, describing its weekend as: “a cultural car crash; a living enactment of a website, all these projects from around the world, come to life and slogging it out in the streets of the Liverpool’s regeneration zone.” It addressed the issue of regeneration and cultural change in places of heightened sensitivity: the Lake District; Egremont, Cumbria; Nanling, China; Echigo-Tsumari, Japan; Lausanne, Switzerland and Liverpool itself.
Liverpool Biennial is taking over the streets again this year. It is among the most successful art commissioning agencies in the UK, best known for presenting the UK’s largest festival of contemporary visual art. Established in 1998, 2010 will see the 6th festival take place between 18th September and 28th November. It is one of the best-attended contemporary art festivals in the world, attracting a smidgen short of a million visitors.
But I digress from our Lakeland sheep tale. Moving on from Grizedale, we thought we’d visit the Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick. Our daughter was so excited she bolted through the turn-style and straight for the heart of the standing stones, only to keep running through this prehistoric sculptural display and out the other side. She didn’t stop until she reached the fence at the far side. Now this is quite some distance for a one year old. What had she spotted? Aliens perhaps or a druid holding a chocolate biscuit? Nope, a field of sheep. Clearly she has the eye-site of fighter pilot and the sprinting potential to participate in 2012. Once wrestled away from these new objects of her affection, she did appreciate the later Neolithic monuments, well trying to scale them anyway. Matt and I were left to appreciate the 48 standing stones (30 in the outer circle). Apparently this is one of the most popular stone circles and unlike at Stonehenge you can get right up close and let your imagination run riot. What on earth were these things for? The stone circle is on land owned by the National Trust but is maintained by English Heritage. Thank you English Heritage. I’ve pinched this aerial photo by Simon Ledingham because in the absence of a Piction Media Towers helicopter, hand glider or such like, he can convey far better than me, both the scale and structure of the circle and the distance our youngest sprinted for the love of sheep.
Finally, on the way back to YHA Ambleside (yes they do cater for families), we stopped at Grasmere for a pretty walk and visit to the less pretty public toilets. Emerging into the light from the gloom, our junior sprinter did another sheep-dash, this time to the rather lovely new Herdy shop. If you haven’t heard, Herdy is a very cute brand with the Herdwick at its heart – A breed of sheep that thrives against all odds on the high fells of the Lake District. Recently winning a Business in the Community ‘big tick’ award for responsible business practice, Herdy have also gone on to win the Business in the Community (BITC) ‘Small Company of the Year Award’. Baa Baaa! Setting a good example to us all, they’ve recently established the herdyfund, providing grants and funding to enterprises and organisations promoting the conservation of the Herdwick sheep and rural lifestyle associated with upland fell farming in Cumbria and The Lakes. Looking after the Lakeland landscape is part of their business manifesto. If you can’t get to Grasmere, Herdy does have a virtual shop supplying its mugs, throws, home furnishings and herdybanks (and no we’re not affiliate sellers).
Ali Kay, 2010
Find out more about BITC http://www.bitc.org.uk/
Read the Grizedale Arts blog http://www.grizedale.org/blog
Connect with Liverpool Biennial on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/liverpoolbiennial?ref=ts
Tags: Andy Goldsworthy, Arts council funding, BITC, Castlerigg Stone Circle, Grasmere, Grizedale Arts, Grizedale Sculpture Trail, Herdwick, Herdy, Keswick, Late at the Tate, Lawson Park, Liverpool Biennial, Parkamoor, Tate Britain, YHA Ambleside