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Lakeside sculpture tour that ends in a mystery
This week: Kielder Art and Architecture in Northumberland, Bradford's Sisterhood Festival, Whitby Folk Week, Ken Dodd exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool
NATURALLY, the only car we saw on the road was parked just where we’d planned to stop - right next to the piece of sculpture that we’d driven up a single-lane, unsealed forest track to see.
Three people, a family presumably, who had like us clearly hoped to be alone inside the wooden structure, the wind whipping up their hair as they peered through the slats at the landscape beyond.
After a while, they stepped out and waited patiently by the side of their car for us to take our turn. But although they didn’t speak to hurry us along, we couldn’t help feeling rushed.
That’s one of art’s great inconsistencies. Sometimes other people’s company enriches the experience, sometimes you need to be alone. One day you’re caught up in the communal experience of witnessing a work alongside strangers, another you wish they’d get back in their Ford Puma and drive off down the hill.
This was my second visit to The Nick, a public art work made up of 23 pentagonal frames positioned on an axis connecting the two local villages of Byrness and Kielder in Northumberland. It was built here in 2018, at the crest of Forest Drive, a stunning 12-mile drive along one of England’s highest roads.
The first time, we’d stumbled upon it during the first summer of the pandemic, when we’d spent a week maintaining a safe distance from everyone and everything while exploring this beautiful part of the North East. Then it was deserted. Nobody else, it seemed, had ventured outside to post three pound coins into the honesty box near Kielder Castle before setting off on the drive.
With no phone signal and the usually available Forest Drive maps and information leaflets hidden away for Covid safety reasons, we had to sit with our own impressions of The Nick for a while before Googling to find out more. This time, though, ours were not the only opinions available - we discovered a visitors book tucked away next to the sculpture.
Googling had revealed The Nick was one of many works constructed in the area over 25 years as part of the Kielder Art & Architecture project. Unfortunately, finding them all is not an easy task as some are lost or being repaired.
An Art and Architecture section of the Visit Kielder website still exists, but the links on it to the project’s own website redirect to what looks like a betting company. We managed to find some more information about individual works online as well as a map, but it was out-of-date, and some of the pieces we looked for appeared to no longer be there.
We did discover Mapping Mini Golf, a playable course based on current and old maps of the area from before Kielder Water was dug, and Minotaur, a maze near Kielder Castle that ends in a room made of wire bricks filled with glittering pieces of glass.
So despite wanting to experience the works alone, it turns out that I can only do so with the help of others. Have you visited the Kielder Art and Architecture works? Do you know which are still there and what happened to those that are no longer? I’d love to hear from you.
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We’re Also Buzzing About…
Happiness!: The first major exhibition on a comedian in a national museum will celebrate the life and humour of Sir Ken Dodd. Exploring the two sides of the much-loved Doddy - from the larger than life, quick-witted performer to the deep-thinker and private man off-stage - it opens at the Museum of Liverpool on September 9 and runs until March 3, 2024. Tickets are £5 adults, free for 0-17, concessions available, from here.
Sisterhood Festival: A day of activities, workshops, interactive sessions, art, poetry, spoken word, live music, stalls, film screenings and more in a female-only space in Bradford's City Library. It takes place on Sunday, September 24. Tickets are free but should be booked in advance here.
Whitby Folk Week: I was lured to last year’s event by a combination of childhood memories and longing for sea air. A few days of walking up and down the hills, listening to live music and watching different generations share a common passion felt genuinely revitalising. This year’s programme is as packed as ever, with ‘special events’ including an exploration of songs of protest and a vocal technique workshop by Maddy Prior. August 19-25. Entry prices vary with day tickets for adults at £69 most days. Details here.
Thank you for reading this week’s Stored Honey. If you’d like to share your thoughts on the arts scene in the North of England, I would love to hear from you. Get in touch on Twitter, in the comments or you by dropping me a line at email@example.com.
Have a great week,
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