Thursday, 3 January 2013

Reflection, contemplation, light and dark

Opposites is a good theme for this time of year. Bringing light into the dark, with fireworks celebrating the turn of the year, as well as reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one.

What a perfect time, then, for the Light Walks for Dark Days exhibition, which Carole and I opened on December 20th in the little Bee Inspired workshop in Kettering.

Our exhibition aimed to bring lots of light into the dark days of December, and reflect on the past year of walking around Northamptonshire. Our Light Walk Team were there to act as hosts, and got stuck in to talking to visitors about their experience of the last year. It was great to see how their confidence had grown over time.

Our exhibition celebrated walking, seasons, growth, nature, weather and companionship. It celebrated generosity too through the sharing of food and our wonderful visitors brought their own foraged offerings to share at the gathering, including this beautiful bouquet made from dried leaves:

We screened our film for the first time too. The opening afternoon was really busy, packed with people and quite noisy, which was great! However it was lovely to sit down at 5 o'clock after everybody had gone with just Carolyn from N-STEP and Kate and Lorraine from Corby Community Arts, turn down the lights, drink a glass and watch the film through from beginning to end.

We had to put the film together quite quickly, using footage that had been shot during the walks throughout the year, and with a soundtrack stitched together from recorded conversations between Carole, me and the Reverend Richard Coles (the vicar of one of our explored places, Finedon, as well as a regular walker and broadcaster for Radio 4, who kindly agreed to be interviewed for our project.) So it was lovely to have the chance, after all the organisational mayhem to get the exhibition up and open, to just sit and look at what we had actually made!

The film is contemplative and impressionistic. The pace is much like a walk itself, a slow ramble, images of light and landscape merging one into another. Textures, weather, water and colour float across the screen as a simple voice soundtrack relate memories and impressions.

The process of putting the film together was interesting. We just had a whole lot of material to work with, moving imagery as well as recorded voices and sounds of birdsong and water running. There was no plan, no structure or storyboard, we simply took what we had and juggled it around. Gradually a structure suggested itself and we edited, edited, edited until we had 25 minutes with a coherent beginning and end.

I enjoyed this way of working, it was intuitive and creative and allowed layers of meaning to emerge, layering voice-overs with imagery and allowing one image to overlap into another. There were many wonderful moments in the opening event, and just one of my highlights was Lorraine's reaction. Having watched the film she said she would like to watch it again and really think through some of the things it suggested to her about walking. For me this encapsulated what I wanted, to create a film to quietly contemplate and to mull over. A film with the same feeling I have when I go on a walk.

We would like to tour our exhibition and film and would welcome suggestions for venues where we could recreate the installation.

The year of walks we did with the Light Walks Team of young people are documented on our collaborative blog,

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.

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