dusty archives giving up their stories

 H - Huckster John Close: his story box is on display at the EVAN Gallery in Penrith's Corney Place

H - Huckster John Close: his story box is on display at the EVAN Gallery in Penrith's Corney Place

With a week to go in the Beneath the Beacon Alphabet Trail there's still time to see the characters come to life in Penrith.  The trail runs until 2 September in shops and other venues around the town.  Pick up a leaflet at the EVAN Gallery on Corney Place.

If you've visited you will have seen that each character is accompanied by a copy of an historical document that tells part of their story.  These documents are the link with my original inspiration for Beneath the Beacon. 

In 2015 I was working for the Cumbria Archive Service, trying to connect communities with the rich treasure trove of written history held by the Service at Lady Gilford House in Carlisle. 

I could sense the people whose experiences and memories were held fast in the boxes of documents on the shelves - all kinds of letters, papers, press reports, minutes and records  - and was wondering how to bring them to life.   

 U - Unfortunate Mary Chambers' Certificate of Freedom from the Paramatta Factory

U - Unfortunate Mary Chambers' Certificate of Freedom from the Paramatta Factory

As someone who prefers to work in three dimensions I started to think about the possibility of creating figures based on the characters.  And so the idea of creating the story boxes and automata was first sown.  

With (for the timebeing) the Trail coming to a close we'll be showing the archive documents and transcripts on the Beneath the Beacon website alongside their characters so that virtual visitors can explore them online.  

If you'd like to hear a different angle on the trail, on Friday evening (31st August) at Penrith Playhouse local musicians and poets will be performing songs and poetry inspired by the people Beneath the Beacon.  Tickets are only £5 and are available from the EVAN Gallery or here.  I love the way the musicians have picked up on the stories and re-interpreted them in their own way.  The characters have once again taken on lives of their own, heading off in directions that the archives can only hint at or suggest.