what is Beneath the Beacon?
Standing on a hill of red sandstone above Penrith, the Beacon was built to protect and connect communities during dangerous times. The stone-built, pointed tower marks the spot where beacon fires have blazed over the centuries. An emblem for the town, a local landmark, coming into view it heralds homecoming for drivers on the M6 motorway.
Imagine sitting on the summit, with eyes like a hawk, gazing out at a landscape rich with beauty: lakes and fields and fells, and the roofs of scattered farmsteads and the town itself. Over the centuries you would have seen ordinary, extraordinary people going about their daily lives, staying or simply passing through.
BENEATH THE BEACON gives a home to the ghosts of these remarkable women and men. Come a little closer. Hear how their lives were shaped by the people and places around them and how they went on to shape their world.
BENEATH THE BEACON brings to life the characters of Penrith and north east Cumbria and tells their story through the view from the Beacon across time and place.
BENEATH THE BEACON aims to inspire people to discover more about the town and its surroundings - beautiful places but whose stories of origin and past are not at all well-known.
BENEATH THE BEACON draws out the influences that have shaped people from the past, who have in turn left their legacy on the landscape.
BENEATH THE BEACON will involve mechanical sculpture, story boxes, illustration, words, music, tours and trails and an alphabet of characters. It will draw upon local shops and businesses, singers, artists, agencies and anyone who loves this town. It will bring to life historic documents in the local collections held by Cumbria Archive Service.
Above all, BENEATH THE BEACON will celebrate the uniqueness of Penrith.
By Dawn Hurton.
From a Leicestershire farming family that had lost their farm, Dawn's Dad tended farm machinery for a living. "He was always tinkering with mechanisms and motors; wasn't bothered about the aesthetics as long as it worked," smiles Dawn, "and he built some great machines."
Albert, Dawn's grandad, was flamboyant: he wore a trilby hat with polished brogues for his daily trip to the village pub, dreaming up unfeasible projects. It was Albert - with his print of The Haywain and a dubious family portrait - who first taught Dawn to draw and shade with an old 5B pencil. She remembers him giving instruction, "Squint your eye, look at the light and smudge it."
False starts followed: family law in Newcastle, fine art in Sunderland, graphics at Bretton Hall, then a breakthrough moment securing a craft metalwork apprenticeship in the public art studios of Hilary Cartmel and Mike Johnson. Afterwards Dawn moved to east Cumbria, found herself without co-workers or foundries and fell into a Community Arts MA. Since then she has developed and delivered a range of projects mixing arts, heritage, culture and community. Dawn’s work gained momentum with the Story Giants of Eden and at Cumbria Archive Service where her role was to share the county's written history. Insight into the lives of extraordinary people led her to make puppets - shadow, rod and giant - and the characters came to life. A need to give the puppets dynamism of their own and an encounter with mechanism-master Rob Ives led inevitably to creating automata.