A National Trust half term

I think that keeping myself and the children busy and active, doing lovely things and making lovely memories, is one of the best ways that I’ve dealt with the difficulties of the past eighteen months and helped myself and the children to settle and move on from the trauma of the separation: by doing things we love and spending time together. Continue reading “A National Trust half term”

Guest blog for #yorkshirehour

Thank you to Angie Aspinall who has published my guest blog for last week’s #yorkshirehour (a weekly social media event on Twitter). I’ve written it focusing on my three Nidderdale-based Twitter accounts and it’s an account of what #yorkshirehour has done for me so far. Have a read!

Twitter successes

Social media consultancy is a growing part of my work and is going well. I launched a Twitter account for the Friends of Nidderdale AONB on the 18th September, and seven days later the account has 75 followers. The Brimham Rocks Twitter account is followed by 679 followers as of today. I became responsible for the account almost exactly three months ago, on the 25th June when there were just over 200 followers. The Twitter account for Making Music Yorkshire and North East had 40 followers on the 29th August when I was given responsibility for the account, and today has 145 and growing.

I’m obviously thrilled at the success of these and I’m finding Twitter great fun to use and a very positive experience. I’m also enjoying the interactions within the local community that come from running Yorkshire-based accounts across different areas of the arts and heritage sector. It suits the non-profit sector perfectly, because it’s a type of marketing based on friendly interaction and genuine positive feeling. There’s no place for hard-sell here and it is a medium which is ideally placed to support the values of non-profit organisations and promote their activities.

I’m currently working on social media training presentations for the non-profit sector and I’m very happy to hear from any organisations or groups who might want to know more about what I offer.

National Trust staff profiles

More articles have gone online for Brimham Rocks including two staff profiles, of the Community Ranger and the Countryside and Community Manager. There are more to follow now that the Our Work section of the Brimham website has gone live. These were fun to write! In fact, both pieces were originally much longer but are here in their concise versions. The image of Sophie walking the dog in her dressing gown around ‘her’ rocks on an evening is a lovely one.

Field work beckons…

I compiled this ‘Local Area’ page for Brimham Rocks last week. It involved writing the content, and finding local pubs with good online reputations, to make a listings section. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had the chance to personally test these pub recommendations… I think developing this section through personal experience might have to be a long term project this year. Professionalism demands it!

Bouldering at Brimham Rocks
This is me trying out bouldering for the first time…

Incidentally, researching and writing the climbing article (which included a visit to Harrogate Climbing Centre), combined with a photo opportunity day where all staff gave ‘bouldering’ a try, made me keen to try climbing for real, too. Climbing followed by a Yorkshire pub lunch: now that’s a plan!

I will be at Brimham on Friday to complete work on the ‘Our Work’ section and to edit some staff profiles I wrote a few months ago into a suitable style and length for the site. Hopefully this section will increase visitor engagement with the site and might even help in recruiting outdoors volunteers to support the National Trust countryside team in their conservation work.

Clare Woods – The Unquiet Head

My children at Brimham Rocks

On the 29th January we visited The Hepworth Wakefield to coincide with the final day of Clare Woods’ exhibition, The Unquiet Head. I was determined not to miss this exhibition, as the paintings have been inspired in part by the landscape around Brimham Rocks, a stunning collection of natural rock formations in North Yorkshire, which is a few miles down the road from our house. And having offered to do some communications volunteering for the National Trust about Brimham Rocks I thought this would be a useful field trip.

The children love visiting Brimham Rocks: we’ve been several times since we have been back in the UK. The amazing rock formations, worn away by erosion over thousands of years, are a natural playground, with shapes, steps, crevices, caves, towers, hidden paths just asking to be explored. It’s a genuinely wonderful and original place, but it’s true that having visited so often with young children, where most of my time is spent clambering desperately to keep up with small people, I have not had the opportunity to take the time to explore the emotions and impressions that the landscape can evoke when alone, or in a more contemplative mood.

Clare Woods visited Brimham to research her paintings and describes a sense of anxiety, in particular when visiting alone, early in the morning. She explains, “it’s not a relaxing place: it’s not about, look at this beautiful view, or this wonderful panorama” (BBC News report, October 2011). The rich cultural history associated with the site – from Victorian myths about Druids and fairies, to the names affectionately given to individual rocks (The Druids’ Writing Desk, The Dancing Bear, The Smartie Tube) – gives a sense of the sheer inventiveness of human imagination when applied to this odd quirk of geology.

Brimham Rocks

relationship between the paintings and the rocks intrigued me from the outset. Some paintings clearly ‘are’ certain rocks (even are recognisable). As we walked in, I overheard a woman coming out saying “They’re supposed to be Brimham Rocks, I think.” Supposed to be? I suspected that this was missing the point on a catastrophic scale.

The BBC news report is even less ambiguous about the connection. Woods’ exhibition is captioned, ‘the work depicting Brimham Rocks’. “Having just come from Brimham Rocks, I completely recognise them. There they are!” enthuses the journalist at the end of the video report.

It has somehow done Clare Woods a disservice to associate The Unquiet Head too closely to the landscape at Brimham, which makes the question “which rock is it supposed to be?” crowd out the other impressions and inspirations the paintings evoke. The exhibition leaflet states that “Woods continues a tradition of British landscape painting characterised by artists such as Paul Nash, John Piper and Graham Sutherland”, but I’d be tempted to look further back into the stylistic history of abstraction – a characterisation of Woods as a landscape artist threatens to negate the strong and vibrant nod to predecessors in genres such as abstract expressionism, and the compelling abstract colour work, for me a major part of the appeal of these pieces, strongly evocative of some parts of the Colour Fields movement.

Clare Woods – The Intended

Because they are moving, stunning paintings in their own right. Two things struck me upon first walking into the main room (where the two large murals, Mistaken Point and The Intended, are displayed): the sheer scale of the paintings, and their glorious physicality, in the boldness of colour and glossy liquidity of the surfaces. The murals face each other across the room: one bolder with red and black hues, the rock forms looming and swaying above the viewer’s heads; the other softer, more fluid, with a palette of pinks and natural tones. They are placed opposite each other as if offering two different interpretations, or two different attitudes or emotions.

I can’t help wondering if the titles of both works are a hint that all is not what it seems. Both titles refer to intention and reception, with perhaps a hint that the artist is tantalising the viewer with the point, the intention, deliberately set aside to elude us.

Clare Woods – close up detail

The other thing which makes a visit to see the originals in the gallery (rather than a print or photograph) so compelling is the difference between the distant and the close-up view. This is touched on in the BBC documentary. I actually preferred coming in close to the paintings, enjoying the gorgeousness of the paint and texture and letting the shapes and blocks of colour smear and weave between each other, without coalescing into a rock or other shape. Some of the close-up textures are also fascinating.

Apart from the two vast horizontal murals, there are other immense works along the ‘rocks’ theme, but also smaller, more intimate works, some clearly implying faces or heads, others suggesting natural forms, perhaps nests or wood. On the day we visited, the stunning Ligeti string quartet was playing in one of the rooms, in which were displayed three vast paintings. The music had been chosen to suggest the unsettling and dark nature of the paintings. My 6 and 2 year old sat silently and watchfully through a ten minute piece by Nicola de Fanu. I’m not sure what they thought, but I do think the haunting atmosphere affected them and kept their attention. When the piece was finished, I decided to take pity on them, and took them for a drink in the café. I hope the quartet didn’t take it personally when we left (I’d have sat there for hours).

I’m very much hoping the exhibition travels to another gallery, as I caught it too late to be able to recommend it. But I think I’d definitely suggest disassociating the paintings from the rocks. They are not paintings ‘of’ rock formations. Instead they are a luxuriously crafted and compelling glance at the thoughts, passions and emotions of an artist with a gifted eye for colour. Next time I visit Brimham Rocks, perhaps the relationship will work in the other direction, and the reds, roses, blacks, taupes, oranges and greys from Clare Woods’ visions might stay with us, when we are exploring the infinity of browns, greys and greens dreamt up by the Yorkshire countryside.

To see all 54 images and viewpoints of our visit to the Hepworth Wakefield, click here to go to the set on Flickr.




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