The Light Walks exhibition, the culmination of the project Jo Dacombe and I have been engaged in during 2012 aimed to bring a warming glow into the dark days of December, and to reflect on the past year of walking around Northamptonshire.
Our vision for the Light Walks Installation was to give visitors a sense of everything we had seen and done during the course of the project and to try and pack 8 walks into a small space took planning and ingenuity. As we had made foraged fare we also wanted to have a shop space rather than a gallery space in which our produce would be both exhibit and product, sculpture and part of everyday life.
I had spent a dispiriting day in November in Kettering town centre, finding many empty shops, but none that were available to us! On my way home I popped into Bee Inspired, an Aladdin’s cave of craft materials and fabric. Gemma and David saw my forlorn face and I told them of my quest, I knew they had a workshop space at the rear of the Mews but couldn’t believe our luck when they agreed to rent it to us during December/ early January.
Jo and I made a short film, which was screened during the exhibition. We took the film whilst out on the walks, with a day of extra filming to cover aspects we might have missed, we had been chasing the light all year but 2012 had been temperamental, we had to catch what we could whenever we could! I have been up to my Wellingtons in a stream with a still camera round my neck, my phone for filming whilst trying to set boats afloat in a rushing current with Jo on the other bank capturing the boats progress on her recorder.
We knew we had enough imagery, but what would tie it together? We felt that a recorded conversation between the two of us would be good but we needed another voice and one connected in some way with our walks. Via Twitter we were able to persuade the wonderful Reverend Richard Coles, Vicar of St Mary the Virgin in Finedon to talk to us about what walking meant to him.
Finedon has always been a special place to me, over the years I’ve cycled to and sat in the Churchyard, hunted down treasures in its ever changing array of antique shops, taken part in writing workshops, had animated talks about gravity, made mosaics with one local school and prints with another: I loved being able to share its delights with Jo and our Light Walkers, two of our walks started from St Mary’s.
The process of creating the film took place both together and apart, working the images to the sound clips; going through all the material we’d collected brought back the pleasures of creating the walks, interventions, observations and conversations with Jo as well as sharing the countryside with our Light Walkers and guests. It is a film of textures, sounds and atmospheres with a gentle pace and contemplative nature, it carries thoughts and memories
of these walks and other experiences of walking.
One walk we had tried to take proved impossible because the landowner had planted trees and blocked the access points so Jo & I decided to create a miniature protest to highlight the issues surrounding public rights of way and the pathways that are such a special part of our countryside.
The artificial grass, plants, trees and herbs helped to bring the smells & textures of the outdoors inside. Interventions were recreated in miniature, a bucket filled with tiny floating paper lanterns,
an acer dressed in thin blue ribbons, an image of light and an image of water printed onto silk,
a picnic table and rug to reference all our alfresco meals. Some of our guests brought foraged gifts to add to the display.
Sharing food together was seen as a very important part of the project, the picnics created by Carolyn always added a sense of celebration to the walks. We wanted to share a mini indoor picnic with our guests and supporters. The Light Walks Team acted as perfect hosts, talking to visitors about their experience of the last year. It was great to see how their confidence had grown over time.
We could only show a selection of the images taken during the year and we would like to tour our exhibition and film. It has been quite an adventure and we’d love to share this with a wider audience, we would welcome suggestions for venues where we could recreate the installation. The full set of images that form part of the exhibition can be viewed here
The year of walks we did with the Light Walks Team of young people are documented on our collaborative blog, undiscoverednetworks.blogspot.com
Light Walks for Dark Days was made possible by funding from the National Lottery through Awards for All, from the Midlands Co-operative Society Ltd and support from N-STEP.