Saturday, 21 September 2019

The serious work of childhood

Saltaire Festival 2019
There were a few activities laid on for children as part of the Festival, perhaps not as many as in past years but my granddaughters certainly enjoyed themselves.

Here they were engaged in creating 'cameras' out of egg boxes, with plastic lids attached as 'lenses' and 'shutter buttons'.  They drew pictures on small pieces of paper to store inside as 'photographs'. Both of them settled down to the task with intense concentration, producing cameras that they seemed quite pleased with (even though the plastic lids kept falling off!)

Then there was the opportunity for a 'framed photo' - taken with Gran's camera, of course.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Day of Dance

Saltaire Festival 2019
Mid September in Saltaire means it's the annual Saltaire Festival. The first Saturday dawned fair and warm, delightful for the crowds who gathered. Teams of Morris dancers were dancing at various places throughout the village. There were at least six teams, including the border morris side from Otley, Wayzgoose (above), with their colourful traditional costumes. They make a lot of noise with their sticks, all rather exciting. Our local Rainbow Morris were dancing too, and Four Hundred Roses, the ladies who dance an interesting fusion of folk and belly dancing.

I didn't take many photos as I had my two granddaughters for the day. My focus had to be on them, making sure hats and toy dogs didn't get lost and drinks and snacks were constantly available. (Toy dog nearly did get lost!) When there are crowds, I get anxious about losing sight of them. It's a bit like keeping an eye on two fireworks! The girls are not really old enough or familiar enough with the village to find their own way home. All was well, however and we had a super day. They were enthralled by the dancing.

Thursday, 19 September 2019


I was reading a feature in a photography magazine the other day about 'developing (no pun intended!) your own style' as a photographer. I'm not sure if I have a style or not; that is, whether my photos are recognisably 'me' or not. I suspect I take too many different subjects to really nurture a style. What I do know, though, is that most of my images that I truly love are rather colourful.

Here are a few that I've taken recently, just for the sheer joy of the colour. (Yes, there's a self-portrait there too!)

The next two are in-camera double exposures, just to capture even more colour!

Finally, a selection of beaded necklaces I spotted on a thrift stall.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

The church treasurer and the church treasures

I enjoyed noticing the smaller treasures in the seven churches we visited as part of the 'Sculpt' Arts Trail. The little bear above made me smile; the church treasurer, perhaps? 

Elsewhere, there was a pretty little angel, made out of the folded pages of a book:

All the churches had floral displays, some more elaborate than others but all bringing a breath of nature into the interior. 

There were interesting carvings in the choir-stalls: dogs, birds and all manner of strange gargoyles.

In one church there was a small brass plaque in the floor, with a Latin inscription to a Thomas Sutton, a former rector, who died in 1492. It was quite worn away by polishing and brass rubbings over the years. 

I found a piece of Roman mosaic, from a Roman villa and bathhouse that was excavated nearby,

In Snape Castle Chapel, there were several of these ornate gas lamps, now superseded by electric lights but still looking fairly intact. They are on brackets that could be folded out away from the wall.

Church doors are often rather beautiful, with studs, scrolled ironwork and large handles:

I love stained glass windows of all kinds, ancient and modern. In one church porch there was a pair of these trefoils, one either side, which I thought were very attractive.

In the church in Healey, they had thoughtfully placed a floor mirror to enable a view of the cocoons hanging overhead, without craning one's neck.  Depending on where one stood, it provided a variety of interesting shapes and patterns to amuse a photographer.

Finally, a couple of pieces of apparently lost property made me laugh, casually placed on a pew end that could, at a quick glance, have been the profile of a face.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Seven Colours

'Sculpt' Arts Trail
Our final destination on the Arts Trail was the church at West Tanfield. The installation here, 'The Seven Colours' by Eduardo Niebla, was a sound recording. It blended sounds the artist had recorded locally - church bells, the church choir, school children, the local blacksmith and the sound of water in the River Ure - with global sounds like a steam train, Gregorian chant and musical rhythms from around the world. The resulting collage of sound played for about 15 minutes and was strangely soothing. It was intended to symbolise and celebrate community and connection across all seven continents.

Though there was no artwork to photograph here, the church of St. Nicholas is filled with interest and history. It dates to the 14/15th centuries, with Victorian restoration. It holds the tombs of Sir John Marmion, a knight who died fighting in Spain with John of Gaunt in 1387, and his wife Elizabeth. The tomb has an unusual iron canopy, known as a hearse, with prickets for candles that would be lit on special occasions. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in England. The alabaster statues show Sir John with his feet on a lion (signifying a knight) and his wife with her head on a pillow held by angels.

The Marmion family lived in a manor house near the church. It is now vanished but its crenellated gatehouse, known as the Marmion Tower, remains, adjacent to the church. See it in my top photo. 

Monday, 16 September 2019

Rock of Ages

'Sculpt' Arts Trail
'Rock of Ages' by Harriet Hill is a huge sculpture like a hovering rock, suspended by cords. It is made of wool from local Masham sheep, along with straw, hay, baler twine and netting. It represents the layering of history, linking the people who have lived and worked the land in this area through the 1000 year history of the church in Well.

The church of St Michael the Archangel, in Well, dates back to the early 14th century though there were churches on the site prior to that. It holds many treasures including the tomb of Sir John Neville, last Baron Latimer of Snape, who died in 1577. There is also lots of 16th century graffiti defacing the tombs!

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Wonder and War in Heaven

'Sculpt' Arts Trail
'Wonder and War in Heaven' by Jon Gabb takes its name from a fresco, by Antonio Verrio (1636-1707) on the ceiling of the chapel. Twisted branches and knotted cords, in the original colours of the now-decayed fresco, form a tangled web across the whole chapel. They are supposed to depict the casting out from heaven of Satan (Rev 12:9).

This installation was in Snape Castle Chapel, a fascinating place with a sadly damp and mouldering atmosphere, rather 'Miss Havisham' in its ambience. The castle dates back to the early 15th century and was once the home of Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII. It has a wonderful and interesting history (see HERE) but, trusted to the care of an agent, all but one wing were left to decay. During the 18th century the chapel (on the right of the photo below) was used as a grain store, which is thought to have been what ruined the painted Verrio ceiling, now just a blackened mess.

Much of the castle itself is a rather romantic ruin, set at the edge of the very pretty village of Snape. 

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Neons from Heaven

'Sculpt' Arts Trail
'Neons from Heaven' by Silvia Lerin was a striking installation of 100 blue tubes with reflective bases, suspended centrally in the church. It is apparently about times we need guidance in our lives, looking for enlightenment. Heavenly blue light is suggested by the tubes and we see ourselves reflected as we look up at the bases. The guidance you need is potentially within you.

I'm not always sure that my interpretation of an artwork is anywhere near that of the artist's... It was an impactful piece, nevertheless and picked up nicely the touches of blue around the church, in the stained glass windows and furnishings.

The church is question was the large church of St. Mary in the centre of the market town of Masham. I've visited it before, on a rather nicer day (see HERE).  It's lovely and has the air of a well-used and well-loved church, the hub of the community.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Le Bon Temps Viendra

'Le Bon Temps Viendra (The Good Times Will Come)' by Ana Rosa Hopkins. This was an installation of six large cocoons, made of silk, woven metal thread and glass balls. They hung from the central tower of the church and represent the potential of human beings to change and transform: our outer facade and our inner soul, where change must start. Glass butterflies represented our fragility and hope. 

The artwork's title is the motto of the Harcourt family, who built Healey St Paul's Church, completed in 1848. It is an unusual design, by Edward Buckton Lamb, with its central spire supported on well-disguised buttresses. It is reputed to have been financed by the winnings of a racehorse, Ellington, trained in nearby Middleham. It won the Derby - but not until 1856, after the church was built. 

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Cloud of Unknowing

'Sculpt' Arts Trail
'Cloud of Unknowing' by Alexandra Carr was a large perspex cube with coloured lighting, hanging in the church's nave. When we first went into the church that is all we could see, but as we moved around, after several minutes, a fog erupted from the cube, slowly wreathing the church in its vapour. The fog represents our human quest to understand our place in the cosmos and our fleeting, ephemeral comprehension of 'the unknown'. It was intriguing, anyway, and rather beautiful as it unfolded.

It was installed in the small church of St John the Evangelist in Mickley, another church dating from the early 1800s. It is constructed of cobblestones from the nearby River Ure. It has an unusual memorial window of etched glass, in memory of Lt-Col Samuel Hutchins DSO, Royal Irish Regiment, who lived locally in his later years.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Every Small Difference

'Sculpt' Arts Trail 
A friend and I spent a fascinating day touring seven churches in the area between Ripon and Masham, in North Yorkshire. They were each hosting an artwork as part of an arts trail called 'Sculpt', an Arts Council-backed project. It is part of the 'art in the churches' initiative, a voluntary effort aiming to bring contemporary art to the countryside and to utilise and showcase some of England's vast treasury of small, often ancient, village churches. The installations are site-specific, inspired by the church in which they are displayed. The trail continues until 28 September.

It was a dismal day of incessant drizzle and low cloud, not the best for photography. That didn't dim our enthusiasm (nor prevent me taking photos!) and anyway, the artworks were all inside the churches.

Our first stop was  to see 'Every Small Difference' by Sarah Williams. This was an oil-painted triptych, with reflective domes. It represents, apparently, 'the vulnerability of our planet to climate change and our responsibility to protect it'. It had painted bubbles, suggesting the delicacy of the planet and our own fragile lives. Somewhat underwhelming, we thought. I'd have liked it better if the painted bubbles had contained reflections of trees or nature.

It was hosted in the church of St Mary, North Stainley, a small and unpretentious church. It was built in the early 1800s after the passing of the Church Building Act in 1818 that was designed to provide the growing population with access to a church nearby. Like most churches, it has been added to and altered since then.

It was neatly kept and had some nice stained glass windows, including the one (left) that appears to depict the story of Jesus' raising of Jairus' daughter. Sadly, the glass panels were in urgent need of conservation, I thought. They were horribly bowed, particularly the lower panels.

I also liked the unusual mosaic memorial in the wall.