The project is part of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival
Over the last seven months, artist Karen MacDougall has been running an international arts and heritage project working with local community groups, schools, museum visitors, international partners and museum staff to create artworks exploring perceptions of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site and landscape.
From 1st December 2022 until 31st January 2023, the artworks will be on display at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland National Park, near Haltwhistle. This is the end of the year and time to celebrate the Roman festival of Saturnalia and the end of the project.
Sarah Burn, Head of Engagement at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “It’s a privilege to be hosting Frontier Voices at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre. As the gateway to Northumberland National Park and just a stone’s throw from Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, The Sill makes the perfect venue to display the final exhibition of the seven-month long international arts and heritage project, as part of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival.
“Northumberland National Park and The Sill works closely with schools and community groups throughout the year with its learning and engagement programmes, so being able to host the Frontier Voices exhibition which has been working with a huge variety of groups, schools, communities and partners, is fitting with the National Park’s priorities.
“The National Park aims to continue to conserve, enhance and celebrate Northumberland’s historic environment and rich cultural heritage by connecting people with landscape, and we believe the exhibition of artwork will promote and engage visitors with Northumberland’s unique and special landscape and with Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Frontier Voices is a Wall-wide project that has involved all the main Roman attractions across Hadrian’s Wall and northern frontier including Senhouse Museum in Maryport, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle, the English Heritage sites of Birdoswald, Housesteads, Chesters and Corbridge Roman Town, The Roman Army Museum, Vindolanda, the Great North Museum, Segedunum and Arbeia. The project is part of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival, celebrating 1900 years since the official ‘birthday’ of Hadrian’s Wall in AD122.
The artworks include poetry, banners, embossed metal foil art, installations and felted vessels – all brought together expressing how participants feel and think about themselves as Frontier Voices and what the Wall means to them.
Dr Frances McIntosh, Hadrian’s Wall curator for English Heritage, said: “The poems and word art produced during the creative workshops at Birdoswald are inspiring, capturing the spirit of the Wall and of people’s perceptions and connections to it. It is great to feel that we at English Heritage help look after a place that attracts and inspires such strong emotions. We will be showcasing the artworks on our website.”
Transnational participation has been an especially innovative part of the project, the first time that an arts project has reached out to include other communities across the World Heritage of the Roman Frontiers. Two communities from the Roman frontier in the Netherlands and two from the Roman frontiers in Germany (from Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg) have participated in the project via online meetings and workshops. Creative works produced by them are also part of the exhibition at The Sill.
Sabine Lund, LimesGemeinden (Frontier Communities) coordinator in Bavaria said: “The community of Altmannstein has been delighted to be part of this project. In our area the Roman frontier runs through forests and fields and you can only see it if you know what to look for. The participants in Frontier Voices are passionate about passing on the knowledge of the Roman heritage to their children and grandchildren. Their own “frontier voices” should be heard in the future.”
Karen MacDougall is an artist who lives in Cumbria between Penrith and Appleby. She creates and delivers bespoke arts and culture projects for museums, schools and community groups, which range from short half-day workshops to long projects on multiple sites lasting years. She has over 25 years experience working in educational settings as a creative practitioner and 20 years working in and with museums, delivering arts and culture projects.
Karen MacDougall commented: “Frontier Voices is an amazing project! It has run since May in 11 locations in the UK and in four locations in Europe that are also on Roman Frontiers. We have been inspired by our past and see how this affects our present – visitors and residents along Hadrian’s Wall, European borders and climate change perhaps the most pressing as we create and debate art. Thank you to everyone who has taken part, you have all been fantastic!
“We have connected with just over 4000 people through half-day workshops, and many thousands more with our explorations on display and following my blog. The poetry is also published in our booklet and English Heritage is publishing it online on their Birdoswald website. The Face-pots from Arbeia even made it on stage at an RSC Associates production in Newcastle. The face-pots made by the Scouts working with Corbridge Roman Town will be auctioned off after the exhibition to help them finance an international trip to Iceland for today’s Frontier Voices next summer – our project a force for good!”
The project story and illustrations of the artworks can be found on Karen’s blog at https://www.karenmacdougallartist.com/blog.