Several years ago I visited Cheeseburn in Northumberland on the Solstices and Equinoxes and Cross Quarter days, spending time in the gardens and grounds. It was a sanctuary for me after Moorbank, Newcastle University’s Botanic Garden, had closed. I struggle with my own semi-wild garden, high and wind-ravaged, with a very short growing season, wedged between a field of sheep and a strip of woodland, never quite managing the sense of luxuriance I long for. So I enjoy visiting other gardens and luxuriate there.
Cheeseburn was a perfect place to witness the changes that happen over the course of the seasons – a mixture of the natural, the elemental, and the man-made. It was also going through major changes in preparation for housing more sculptures and opening to the public on a more regular, formal basis. I was privileged to be there, on the sidelines, able to watch this transformation. Since then, as a result of the dedicated and enthusiastic work of Joanna Riddell and Matthew Jarratt, the place has become very popular, much-loved, and an important site in the region for supporting new artists.
The knowledge I’d gained of the setting at Cheeseburn informed Compass, a sound installation with Chris Watson, commissioned by Cheeseburn in 2015, and shown in 2016. Because Cheeseburn’s early summer opening this year has been curtailed, a new version of Compass is being released online over the next five weeks. As well as the original four pieces set in different parts of the garden, reflecting the points of the compass and the seasons of the year, Chris and I have created a new compilation piece, A Year and a Day, spanning the entire year. You can listen to these works on Cheeseburn’s Facebook page, YouTube and Sound Cloud.
Revisiting my various notes for this piece, I came across the earlier monthly blog pieces I wrote for Cheeseburn from my initial visits as Poet in Residence. I’ve added them here, in a new Archive space on this site, for those who’d like to read them alongside listening to the recordings as they are released. It’s good to be reminded of the long arc of history as well as the passage of the seasons at this particular time. This too shall pass. But some things, the important things, we hope, will endure.
Sculpture by Joe Hillier