I arrived at Allenheads Contemporary Arts to join a weekend community of artists brought together to consider and discuss the ‘Beyond’. Changing patterns of work have meant that this area of the North Pennines, that once employed thousands of people in the lead mining industry, now feels – if not quite the ‘back of beyond’ – then certainly some distance from the nearest towns. It is this remote setting and the dark skies that accompany it that has encouraged ACA and the local residents to establish a community observatory. This facility with its telescopes, planetarium and local astro-enthusiasts forms the focus for the open door residency. We gather together around warm stoves, amid clear skies, plummeting temperatures and the prospect of snow, to ponder on mythology, metallurgy, the unknown and the unknowable, time-space and the scientific method.
Staying in an unfamiliar place affords opportunities to explore geography, history and the local community, whilst meeting new people and becoming friends brings rewarding conversations and an appreciation of others’ attitudes, ideas and approaches to life. I brought my own interests in architectonic spaces, in surface mapping and the consideration of deep time and took away enthusiasms for meteoric iron, muon’s and the Orion nebula! It will take a little longer to notice the influence on the development of my work but I found the whole experience a rewarding one with plenty of chat, laughter and singing – and I won’t quickly forget the sight of Alan dancing to the B52s or Robert getting to grips with dowsing. Thanks all for a very enjoyable few days.