Bringing perspectives together: rethinking relationships and processes of landscape change.

1 watershed, 5 artists, communities, group events,
an exhibition and performance, and ongoing conversations.

Which perspectives are considered when plans are made that affect the landscape, and all its inhabitants, in a protected area? How can multiple viewpoints – including lesser heard voices – be brought together, with arts practice as a tool for research, conversations and collaborations?

These are two of the questions that underpinned the planning for Watershed. The project uses creative processes to inspire conversations about land use, nature and culture, and bring divergent voices together in an ongoing dialogue about landscape care and change in the Ullswater valley. We’ll also be having discussions about human relationships with ‘nature’ that impact actions locally, regionally and globally.

who’s involved

Watershed emphasises participation and collaboration. It is being led by Harriet Fraser (in connection with her arts practice and PhD study at Cumbria University) with a team of artists from the PLACE Collective. Dr Jamie Mcphie (Cumbria University) is Principle Investigator. We’ll be combining independent practice with collaboration, and our work will be led by attention to the concerns and perspectives of people who are connected to this valley. From the start, planning has included conversations with people who live and/or work here, in farming, land management, conservation and tourism.

The artists

Kate Brundrett – illustration, sculptural installation, conversations

Harriet Fraser – poetry, walking, textual installations

Rob Fraser – photography, schools workshops

Matt Sharman – film maker

Sarah Smout – cellist and poet

The project is funded by the UKRI ‘Enhancing Research Culture‘ fund, and is being run through the University of Cumbria. It is a short pilot study that will allow us to learn more about what happens when a group of artists and local participants find a number of ways for dialogues to evolve – indoors, but mostly out of doors: among woodlands, farms and fells, along the lake, and sometimes in it.

Watershed will provide a case study for the Cumbria People and Nature Network, and its findings will be shared with farmers, land owners, land management organisations, local groups, retailers and national conservation NGOs, who are taking part throughout.

what’s happening

The process

Planning and first steps: Conversations for Watershed began midway through 2022, and the active phase of work began in March 2023 with the first gathering in Glenridding village hall, where participants shared their concerns, their joys, their aspirations for this place, and had a chance to chat with one another – many disciplines and interest groups were represented here.

Artists research, walks, and talks. From April until July, 2023, the five artists will be spending time in the Ullswater area, to walk or work alongside people who know the place well, and to get a feel for the land.

Public events in June will be shared on this website.

Exhibition July 18-21 : artwork and conversations in Glenridding Village Hall

A scene showing hills, with a small pool of water in the foreground and a glimpse of a lake in the distance
Looking down from the ‘watershed’, close to Stoney Cove Pike, winter 2023
Circle of Earth. Steam-bent ash sculpture conceived by somewhere-nowhere and created by Charlie Whinney, containing a circle of earth borrowed, for a few hours, from a farm field in the Ullswater Valley. The flags hold thoughts from participants on our ‘give and take’ relationship with the earth.
A woman bends down over a circle of turf cut from a field, with grass and rushes. Next to here there is a big spade.
Harriet Fraser gathering earth for the sculpture ‘Circle of Earth’ March 2023
Three people stand on a hill above a lake on a sunny day: the land is covered by snow
PLACE Collective artists meet above Glenridding, to plan the Watershed project March 2023
Fungi growing on a mossy tree trunk
A snowy scene of hills with a lake in the distance and a single walker heading down the path in the centre of the frame