Thousand year old riddle inspires interactive artwork

red field contrasting with bright blue sky. Telegraph cables in distance

A thousand-year-old riddle has brought together printmakers, historians, a poet and a filmmaker.

Riddle 57 from The Exeter Book has inspired artwork which has been used to create an online interactive version of the riddle.

Double Elephant Print Workshop invited visual responses to Riddle 57 from The Exeter Book – one of only four surviving manuscripts of Old English poetry and probably the oldest surviving book of English poetry in the world.

Poet Jacob Polley wrote a series of prompts as inspiration for artists whose contributions have come from around the country, and further afield. These visual responses have been used in an animation.

Three experts were invited to translate the riddle, and viewers can now select from a range of possible meanings to create their own modern-day version of Riddle 57. With seven lines, and three different translations, there are 2,187 possible versions of the riddle.

Each translation is an interpretation of the original meaning. This is interesting enough with a regular poem, but with a riddle, possible solutions may be closed off when the translater makes choices about the words to use. The writer of the riddle was playing with words to intentionally misdirect the reader, so each translator has to make decisions about what the original writer wanted to say.

Poet and Professor of Creative Writing, Jacob Polley said:
“These artistic responses to the riddle 57 are new interpretations of a text that’s lasted over a thousand years, showing that the mysteries of the riddles can provoke and inspire extraordinary creativity today.”

Emma Molony, Project Manager, Double Elephant Print Workshop said:
“We’re interested in how the language and imagery from a riddle that’s a thousand years old can resonate today and inspire new work. This has been a really positive project for us to focus on during isolation. It’s been a new challenge for us to pull it together collaboratively online with project partners locked down across the world.”

The interactive animation of Riddle 57 will be online from Thursday 20 August.

The project has been funded by The National Lottery through the Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund and is an Exeter UNESCO City of Literature Associate Project.

Lockdown inspires creativity for Exeter artist

Artist painting onto a ceramic jug in her studio, surrounded by paints

The adversity of lockdown has sparked even more creativity for Exeter-based artist Veronica Gosling.

At Studio 36, Veronica has created a quirky, inspiring space within which, in normal times, she has held exhibitions of her own and other artists’ work, and used it as a gathering space for activity groups, and a place for informal performances with a talented group of local musicians, poets, and dancers.

Wishing to contribute, during this strange time, to her own community of Newtown & St Leonards, she has begun a project called Get On Board. Using a large and beautifully designed noticeboard, she has encouraged local artists, and writers, young and old, to unlock their thoughts, feelings and observations by sharing artwork, photos, poems and stories. The response has been enthusiastic, with art coming from people of all ages – enough to fill the board for the first month and beyond.

Another project involves personal online input from the Studio’s mailing list. It is entitled
House Lights On and features weekly input from studio visitors including their ideas, thoughts and often what they do, boatbuild, fish, weather details, woodwork, plus paintings of shoes, cartoons, jewellery, ‘Hedge Chairs’ many poems and a description of  some vivid COVID-19 dreams.

Veronica’s own art is all around Studio 36, the place where she lives and works. Creativity spills out into the sculpture garden, where her latest creation depicts two passers by peering over the fence. Her quirky paintings often feature animals, which she uses to express her feelings. The texture, shape and story behind a found object often inspires a magical creation.

As well as showcasing her own work, Studio 36 has been a hub for a group from Age UK. Exeter called Budding Friends. Thought of as ‘Conversations in Colour’ the sessions which need neither language nor memory bring people with dementia and their carers together to chat and paint.

Veronica said:
“Lockdown has made me more driven; I’ve become obsessed with my work. It helps me to stop thinking about the situation we’re all in, and stops me feeling lonely. I  like meeting new people and sharing this place with them. It’s  a shame we can’t do that at the moment. Every time we have an exhibition, the place is full. I think people enjoy the informality of  the gallery and garden.”

Veronica is planning to open the sculpture garden for private bookings for small groups in the near future.

Night & Refuge

Online premiere hosted by Cement Fields,
Noon, Friday 10 July

A new film-poem created during a live night-time collaboration by five poets will be premiered on Friday 10 July. Night & Refuge creatively documents the process of writing together online during lockdown, and ends with a reading of the new poem.

The project was created by Caroline Bergvall who invited poets Leo Boix, Vahni Capildeo, Will Harris and Nisha Ramayaa to collaborate.

The writing process took place in May, when the writing and conversations between the poets were shared live with an online audience through a Digital Writing Desk created by artist Mays Albeik.

The poets explored themes of the night and of seeking refuge. Their collaborative process was inspired by the tradition of Renga – an ancient Japanese form of collective writing with strict rules.

One audience member said:
“It was the totality of the various threads of writing, talk about writing, the stories, locations, medium and context that fascinated and moved me. I did take pleasure in watching the poets edit their text, rooting for my preference and learning from their choices.”

The conversations and the developing lines of the poem were recorded by the project’s sound artist Jamie Hamilton, and recomposed into a film-poem by Andrew Delaney.

The premiere will be hosted by Cement Fields, a commissioning organisation which grew out of the Whitstable Biennale.

Caroline Bergvall said:
“I see this Night & Refuge as a meditative, and deeply human work rooted in the night and in our need to find a way through the darkness that enfolds us. It is intensely involving, reviving the ancient idea of performance as public gathering while exploring how poetry, music and memory all help us carry our truths within and without us.

“My motivation as a poet and interdisciplinary artist is to create live works that energize a personal engagement with one’s surroundings, with one’s time, and with others: spaces of respite and of shared critical spirit. My material is often rooted in languages, spoken, written, remembered, reclaimed.

“With Night & Refuge, my focus was to initiate a live writing event between a few UK based poets, which was open to the public. Due to Covid-19 this took place online. Night & Refuge opens the final stages of my ongoing cycle of performative works Sonic Atlas, which has focused on encounters with poets and language-activists who work with different minorised languages in the UK and EU, as well as with thinkers and practitioners from various fields.”

The Night & Refuge project was made possible with funding from Arts Council England and support from Cement Fields and Counterpoints Arts.

The recording of the full, unedited writing event, which took place in May as a 3-hour long Zoom meeting, is available online [add link].

The sound-poem will be premiered on the Cement Fields website  at noon on Friday 10 July.

Quarantine Quilt

People from across the country will be contributing to a Quarantine Quilt.

The Quilt will be created as part of a project by Devon-based organisation Significant Seams CIC, which  has received Arts Council England funding to lead a national stitching  project in response to the effect Coronoavirus is having on our lives.

People are invited to send stitched words or designs which reflect their feelings and responses to the pandemic.

The project is inviting people to make patches for one of several community quilt projects across the country. They are also providing free learning materials online, and developing new ways to deliver remote arts-based courses. The first courses will be delivered free to Devon residents this summer via Devon Recovery Learning Community, which is part of Devon NHS Partnership Trust.

An emerging network of organisations, artists, and projects across the UK are producing quilts in response to Covid-19 and the changes it has had on people’s lives. Significant Seams is also examining the evidence for the health and wellbeing benefits of these activities. Alongside Significant Seams, so far,  there are projects in Oxford, Cambridge, London, Essex, Bradford, Derbyshire, West, Derbyshire, Somerset and West Yorkshire. These include textile projects in response to Covid-19, arts & health organisations, and community organisations supporting one or more such projects.

Everyone is invited to contribute one of two types of patches:

A stitched word for ‘The Wall of Words’ on a 5inch high x 7 inch wide rectangle with a word or phrase within the 4 x 6 inch centre area (leaving a ½” seam allowance all the way around the design. Alternately (or additionally) SW residents are encouraged to submit

Any design representing feelings, responses and experiences related to the coronoavirus pandemic on 7 inch squares with your design centered within the 6inch centre area.

Patches should be sent to: Significant Seams, Apple Studio,  ℅ Carpenters Cottage, Crediton Hamlets EX17 5BX

The Quarantine Quilt will be part of an online exhibition in the first instance. Further plans are subject to evolving circumstances.

Artist seeks ceramic fragments with stories to tell

Artist David Mach is appealing for broken pieces of pottery with a story behind them. He is asking people to send the fragments to help create a new artwork for St Austell, Cornwall.

Ceramic memories might include the handle of a cup that was bought on honeymoon 35 years ago, a shard of a decorated plate found on the beach, or part of a favourite mug that got broken and just couldn’t be thrown away.

During lockdown, while many people are digging the garden or investigating the contents of drawers as part of a spring clean, they are encouraged to collect any pottery pieces they find so that they can be part of the newceramic collage.

The artist will use thousands of fragments to create a major new public artwork, ‘Earthly Delights’, which is part of a programme of new commissions by The Whitegold Project.

David Mach said:
“China clay was exported to make pottery, and connects St Austell with the rest of the world. This new artwork will celebrate that far-reaching impact of the Cornish China Clay industry.

“I’m asking people to send me pieces of pottery with a story to tell. We’ve all got something at the back of a drawer – the broken fragment of something that we couldn’t throw away because of the special memory it carried. I want to hear that story – was it a piece of a broken thimble your mother used to use, a spout from a beloved teapot, a piece of a commemorative plate you bought in holiday….”.

Over many years, David Mach collected thousands of pieces of pottery on his local beach in Methil, Fife. The fragments were made with the same clay that is sent around the world from Cornwall. The artist wants to use donated pieces to make his installation, and to extend that connection. The commission will be almost 20 metres wide and will decorate a wall in St Austell.

Whitegold Project curator Alex Murdin said:
“This is a wonderful way to involve everyone in creating this impressive new work of art for a public space that tells the intimate histories of china clay. We’re hoping that people from St Austell and further afield will send pieces of ceramic and share their special stories to help create something that connects St Austell and Cornwall’s heritage with places around the world”

Donated ceramic pieces might include a fragment of an old treasured possession, or something found in the back garden whilst digging during lockdown. They could be a small fragment the size of a postage stamp or a larger, whole piece.

Contributions, along with any stories behind them, should be posted to:
Earthly Delights, St Austell BID Office, Burton House, Trinity Street, St. Austell, PL25 5LS. The risk of viral transmission through the post is minimal, but it is still important to follow hand hygiene procedures when sending mail. Those sending donations are asked to: follow Public Health England guidance and wash their hands thoroughly when preparing post, where possible to send a package which can go through a letterbox, to purchase Royal Mail postage online and to maintain social distancing if visiting post offices.

Spreading creativity in Torquay

People in Chelston, Torquay have been making willow sculptures to decorate their gardens during lockdown.

The idea began when a community project to create willow sculptures for the local parks was put on hold. Local people wanted to continue making sculptures, and found a way to share their creations with others. Woven willow hearts and stars are now hanging in windows, on doors and around front gardens so that anyone taking their daily walk can enjoy them.

Celebrate Chelston is a project designed to increase residents’ pride in where they live, grow a greater sense of community and encourage people to take part in creative activities. As part of Torbay’s Great Place Scheme, it is one of a number of initiatives to improve people’s wellbeing through arts and heritage.

When the community workshops were postponed, Coach House Arts – the organisation behind the willow-weaving – quickly found a new way for residents to continue their creativity. Over 200 small mini willow sculpture kits have been sent in the post, instruction videos made available, and the results shared in gardens and online for everyone to see.

Celebrate Chelston lead artist Vik Westaway said:
We’re building a sense of community and collective endeavour even though we must all stay at home. Local people really enjoyed the community workshops before lockdown, and it’s encouraging to see the living willow sculptures which we made back then for local parks have now started to grow. The residents of Chelston have responded so enthusiastically to this new way to keep the creativity going. It’s wonderful to see people looking out for the hearts and stars hanging in people’s gardens when they’re on their walks.”

Cllr Mike Morey, Cabinet member for Infrastructure, Environment & Culture; and Board member of Torbay Culture said:
“Celebrate Chelston!’ really caught the imagination of residents. What started as a creative group activity has had to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances we’re living through. That’s made it even more special – it’s connecting people creatively, whilst we follow the NHS advice, and stay apart.  Celebrate Chelston! has truly captured people’s hearts.”

Celebrate Chelston is a Torbay Culture project in partnership with Torbay Community Development Trust as part of the Great Place Scheme

Whitegold Ceramics Prize 2020 shortlist announced

Worth over £20,000, the prize is part of the Whitegold Project, an initiative set in St Austell in the heart of Cornwall. The Project aims to create art, craft and design inspired by the area’s industrial and post-industrial landscape and its global china clay connections.

Conviviality is the theme of the second Whitegold Prize, to be awarded to ceramics projects which enable convivial community interactions through their engagement with food and clay.

Applications were invited which combine environmental sustainability with creativity. Themes include cooking, eating, drinking, creating a festive and sociable environment, ceramics for growing, works that consider clay as a part of the soil and life cycle, and environmentally friendly food production.

Selected from a strong field of international entries, the shortlisted projects are:

Clayground Collective
Creative practitioners Duncan Hooson, Claire West and Julia Rowntree collaborate across artforms to engage the public, educators and researchers through clay.

Francesca Anfossi
Francesca Anfossi’s interdisciplinary practice takes the tradition of crafts as a starting point to make and collaborate, using ceramic as a core material.

Portland Inn Project
The Portland Inn Project is a creative arts project for a community in Stoke-on-Trent that aims to achieve community cohesion, economic, social and cultural development.

Adam Sutherland, Grizedale Arts
Grizedale Arts is a local resource and  an international arts organisation. Its activity is drawn from existing, available resources, from raw materials to cultural heritage.

Whitegold Project Co-Curator Katie Bunnell said:
“The Prize recognises outstanding ceramic practices that connect people, culture and place. The aim of this year’s prize is to inspire projects which use ceramics to encourage conviviality and connections within local communities. We are hoping that shortlisted artists will be able to start working remotely with local communities through digital technologies. We just don’t know how things will play out in the longer term, but we are hopeful at this stage that ‘hands on’ community projects will go ahead later in the summer. While the future is uncertain we feel it is important to recognise the hard work and extraordinary creativity from all our applicants. In particular, we wanted to share the good news about the shortlisted artists, and to give the people of St Austell something to look forward to when the time is right.”

The shortlisted artists and groups are each invited to develop a proposal for a new community project for St Austell that uses clay and food to bring people together. The Whitegold jurors will review these four new proposals and select two finalists who will be allocated a budget of £2,500 each to produce and complete their project.

The original aim was for these projects to coincide with the Whitegold Festival in September 2020. The Whitegold jurors would then experience the final outcomes and work with the local community to make the final decision about which of the finalists would win the Quartz award of £10,000 and who will be awarded the £5000 Feldspar Award.

The 2020 jurors are:

Neil Brownsword – International Ceramic Artist Educator. Winner of the Whitegold Quartz Award, 2019
Caroline Cheng – International Ceramic Artist and Director of the Pottery Workshop
Céline Holman – Curator, Eden Project Ltd
Ashley Shopland – General Manager Imerys UK, St Austell, Cornwall
Ben Quinn – Canteen Cornwall and Woodfired Canteen
Katie Bunnell – Co-Curator, Whitegold Project


Museum collections inspire new music

Music in the Galleries
Sat 7 March Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter

A Chinese gown, a giraffe and a collection of pocket watches are amongst the museum objects that have inspired the composers of new music to be performed in the galleries at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

The performance is part of the international Festival of Contemporary Music for All.

Thirteen new pieces of music have been specially commissioned by the Devon Philharmonic Orchestra (DPO), whose players and singers will perform in small ensembles around the museum. The audience will walk through the galleries, choosing their route, and stopping to listen to the performances while looking at the objects.

The composers have taken their inspiration from a wide range of museum artefacts, including a Chinese gown, microscopic diatoms, an Inuit map carved onto a bone, a collection of pocket watches, and RAMM’s famous Gerald the Giraffe. The new compositions will reflect a range of musical styles with influences from Indian music, jazz and other genres.

At the end of the performance, a finale, composed by Devon Phil’s Music Director Leo Geyer, will be performed by all the players and singers, and heard all around the museum.

Cllr Rachel Sutton, Portfolio Holder for Climate & Culture said:
“We’re delighted that RAMM’s wonderful objects have provided the inspiration for this new music. It’s been a very exciting project for RAMM to work on with the Exeter-based Devon Philharmonic Orchestra, and the performance promises to create a magical atmosphere in the museum. “

In addition to work by eight experienced
composers, five emerging composers will have their new pieces played. Each has received a bursary and mentorship from DPO’s Music Director to help them to create their own work inspired by the museum’s collections.

The project has received funding from Arts Council England, and is in partnership with the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery.

Music in the Galleries is at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum at 7.30 on Sat 7 March. (doors & bar open 6.45). More information and tickets are available from