Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Seeing the Light While Treasuring the Dark; Environment Editor Tony Henderson on Seeing Northumberland in a Whole New Light

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Seeing the Light While Treasuring the Dark; Environment Editor Tony Henderson on Seeing Northumberland in a Whole New Light

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

MODERN light pollution means that most people in the North East seldom see the spectacularly starry skies which transfixed their ancestors.

That is why the black skies of rural Northumberland are one of the county's appreciating assets, and have led to the opening of the new Kielder observatory.

Those same black skies will now form the backdrop to a lighting event at Kielder over two weekends where the forest meets the water.

Visitors will be invited to enjoy a night walk along Kielder's Lakeside Way - suitable for people with reduced mobility - and with a longer route for cyclists, as delicate theatrical lighting picks out parts of the natural and built environment.

Installations will also enhance natural sounds.

The event is part of the third Northumberland Lights winter festival, and director Zoe Bottrell is at pains to point out that the lighting makes a virtue of the blackness rather than detracting from it.

"It is about immersing yourself in the darkness. We don't light up the skies, point lights anywhere, or throw up lots of orange hue," she says.

"There is very specific treatment of objects and there is no light spill.

"It is about experiencing the rural wonder of Northumberland at night, which is beautiful in itself, and also making different objects beautiful. The black skies are a perfect backdrop against which objects come alive, and we want to retain that darkness. Responding to the natural darkness of our Northumberland sites is key to the success of these events."

"We aim for almost complete darkness, and a clear night sky around and above the visual works, giving them a real natural context."

The Kielder Out of Water events over the two weekends of November 8-9 and 14-16 follow last year's Electric Forest experience at Cragside in Northumberland, when the Debdon Burn received the special lighting treatment.

Zoe says: "We have worked in a number of highly sensitive locations including a site of special scientific interest at Simonside Crags, the Cragside estate, two castles, and other listed buildings including pithead winding wheels and a number of churches. …

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