The art of nature …

Kathryn Parsons put some of the work on display at a Langdyke open day

Kathryn Parsons has just completed her first year working as Langdyke’s artist in residence in which she led the Langdyke Stories project which coincided with our 20th anniversary celebrations. Here we ask about the project’s progress and plans for the future …

Q: How did you feel the project went?
A: Langdyke Stories was a great success in so many different ways! More than 500 people participated in one way or another, with more than 300 of those creating miniature artworks inspired by Langdyke’s wildlife and heritage.  It was magnificent and I’m hugely grateful to everyone involved.
Q: What exactly did it entail?
A: Langdyke Stories was managed by Art Pop-Up, an arts organisation based in Stamford who specialise in community projects.  Working closely with Langdyke, we devised a project designed to draw people in and share with them some of the stories of our local wildlife and history. 
Nature and art combine
We wanted to enthuse, to build new networks, reinforce existing relationships by giving people as many different opportunities as possible to be part of the celebrations around Langdyke’s 20th anniversary. 
There’s far too much to list everything that happened, so here are a few of my personal highlights….
  • teaching so many art workshops at local community groups and festivals, including working with schools, W.I., Scouts, Guides and GLADCA. I loved seeing the enthusiasm to take part as different groups came together to support one another – sharing their space for the workshops, welcoming others along and once even lending equipment to another group.  Thank you all!
  • the Peterborough Heritage Festival, when we took over the Vivacity unit in Queensgate for the whole weekend.  While outside the Civil War re-enactors fired their echoing guns and canon, indoors with us there was an oasis of calm with poetry readings, the art workshop and a team of friendly Langdyke volunteers with beautiful photographs of our local wildlife and a mini natural history museum too.
  • the Open Day in July, when visitors of all ages braved the heat-wave to come to Etton-Maxey and join in the fun.  I hung some of my own artworks in the young oak trees, and my eco-printed ‘poems’ fluttered in the breeze.  As part of the project we also had artist-led workshops including making mini-sheep with Sue Shields, and beautiful paper wildflowers with Rose Croft. 
  • hearing Keely Mills read her new poem at the Torpel Open Day, on a beautiful sunlit summer evening, with a Red Kite soaring overhead.  The poem was commissioned especially for the project, and is included in … 
  • the beautiful Langdyke Stories book.  It was a real labour of love, with contributions from many Langdyke members and well-wishers.  The book was edited and designed by Sam Roddan of Art Pop-Up – it’s gorgeous Sam, thank you!  We’re hoping to print more soon, so that it can be made more widely available.

    Part of the Langdyke stories collection
  • the “Langdyke Museum of Objects”.  Conceived by David Cowcill, this virtual museum is a collection of personal stories and images of objects that tell of individuals’ connection with our local countryside … the objects and their stories are included in the book.
  • the display of the 300+ miniature artworks at Castor St Kyneburgha Church, and later at John Clare Cottage, where they were enjoyed by hundreds of visitors.  The artworks will be treasured and displayed again in the future.

    Scenes from a working party reflected in a leaf image
  • and for me the art residency part of the program, from which the workshops were developed, was a real delight.  I got to work with so many amazing people along the way, and have loved learning about Langdyke’s amazing nature reserves. I’ve explored and developed new ways of working with leaves from those reserves, and created a series of new artworks using those techniques.  The final collection of artworks in the series is a “Herbarium” of pressed leaves which I patterned into photographs using sunlight (see for more photographs) … I aim to develop this further in the future.
  • and most importantly….. seeing the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the project participants as they learned about Langdyke and worked to create their own miniature artworks in response to the wealth of history and wildlife … and the delight of new connections made with other people from our local community and with the natural world, both of which are so good for us all.
Some of the work on display at John Clare Cottage
We’re extremely grateful to Peterborough Community Fund and Athene Communications for sponsoring the project, and enabling us to offer all of this at no cost to Langdyke or the workshop participants.
Viewing the work
Q: Will you be continuing your work with Langdyke?
A: The Langdyke Stories project has finished now, but I’m delighted to be continuing as Langdyke’s Artist in Residence.  We’re putting new plans in place at the moment, but it’ll definitely include an exhibition of new Langdyke-inspired artworks at the Langdyke Open Day on  June 27, at Barnack Hills and Holes.
I’ll have some of the leaf-photographs with me, and I hope to see you there!  
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to blog about my Langdyke-related work on Langdyke’s Facebook group which is open to everyone to follow and join in the conversations  here