Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog

Poppy abuse


The brilliant blue Himalayan poppies have been attracting the passing visitors into the garden to take photographs, which we all thought was rather nice, until we discovered that they had also been pulling up the plants for the unripened seed heads and dumping litter and banana and orange skins, it does rather put you off being welcoming.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 17/06/09 at 08:09

A storm cloud over the 21st century

1723hrs and a big storm has hit the Vittoriale. Here's hoping the power holds out....

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 05/06/09 at 16:22



Even though the final push at Lawson Park is well underway, projects continue apace, just to try and prove we are not going to be a slave to our building like other art institutions. Though the bags under my eyes reveal why it's a hell of a lot easier just to do one thing at a time.

So I've buggered off for two days to Lake Garda to finally realise our project with Jonathan Meese, to make a performance from Vittoriale degli Italiani, one time home of futurist poet and militarist Gabriel d'Annunzio and now a beautiful and extraordinary visitor attraction. The hanging gardens provide a gentle green backdrop to the monumental stone constructions celebrating dictatorship.

The best gardening touch of all is the battleship Puglia rammed into the hillside and merged with a network of granite paths, the most impressive garden terrace I've ever seen.

On deck, with Garda stretching out behind it, is Jonathan painting flags and fascist memorabilia all the time being filmed by his cameraman Jan. One tourist/culture offianado got a bit steamed up over the imagery and you can see why. Looking forward to the party tonight with all the dignitaries and skeletons with Hitler mustaches.

We seem to be all set up for the webcast, wunderkind webmaster Dorian remains chipper and so too is Jonathan, happy in this balmy enclave of dictatorial splendor.

tune in turn on drop the tiny mustache 






Posted by Alistair Hudson on 05/06/09 at 13:28

We plough the fields and scatter


This Bank Holiday sees us reinstating what was the lawn bit of the wlldflower meadow in front of Lawson Park -underneath this soil is the equivalent of a small house containing the water and drainage for the new hostel. Here's our jolly Swiss intern Ladina weeding....

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 25/05/09 at 10:14

Nordic Eightsome


Just back from a most untimely trip to Denmark and Sweden looking at craft and design. A full account of the ins and outs of the world of mid century modernism and other things like, what is craft for? you can look at the trip's own website and blog http://www.formingideas.co.uk/view/blog - it was an Arts Council event to look at how to develop crafts in the UK.

I was interested to see Paul Potts - whom I initially mistook for Jack Dee - plastered very large outside the Danish Crafts Council, the poster promoted the very recently unknown Paul with the fact that he has had 60 million hits on You Tube - interesting no?

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 17/05/09 at 06:24

Holy Trinity


Morris, Guille, Lyons, three great UK designers from the 1940's and 50's all ready to move into Lawson Park, barr a little upholstery including Adam Chodzko's Leather jacket intervention


Posted by Adam Sutherland on 13/05/09 at 22:29

The Long Goodbye


Lisa Stewart has been gamely managing the building project here at Lawson Park for yonks and recently those of us left on site now it's (kinda) finished (a few builders, Adam, me, Lisa & Alistair) cracked open the champagne to christen the building and to thank her in the best way we know how.

Lisa's hands in the photo show she's earned that mug of bubbly.

Lisa will be back and forth for a while yet tying up loose ends and plans to relocate to Ireland in the near future.


Posted by Karen Guthrie on 03/05/09 at 21:25

Wildflower Survey


We've received a fascinating detailed examination of the beautiful 1 hectare meadow that Lawson Park overlooks, from the Cumbria Hay Meadows project. There are 30 native plant species present apparently, but its steepness makes it unsuited as a formal seed-donor site for others trying to establish native meadows unfortunately, as equipment struggles on the slopes.

It's all a far cry from the downright ignorant complaint we had about the meadow after last year's NGS charity open day: "There were no wildflowers to be seen". Clearly a blindfolded visitor.

Anyhow, the report recommends:

• Manage the whole parcel for its floristic and habitat interest, focussing on the species rich neutral grassland , tall herb vegetation and small parcel of oak woodland.
• Re-instate a cutting and preferably grazing regime over the area.
• Sow the area of disturbed ground below the building with a suitable seed mix and manage with the rest of the herb rich neutral grassland sward.

You can read more about the Cumbria Hay Meadows Project here. Email us if you'd like to receive a copy of the whole report or if indeed you'd like some hand-harvested seed this summer, to start your own meadow.

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 14/04/09 at 14:51

Internships announced


After a thoruoghly gruelling interview process we now have two interns to work at Lawson Park as we prepare for the grand opening. Sophie Perry is an archeologist/anthropologist/artist with a track record in 4wd driving and Matt Mattandross of Matt and Ross is an artist with a track record nailing things together. Welcome both and thank you to all who applied, we hope to have more opportunities soon - volunteers are always appreciated for heavy, medium and light dutues.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 03/04/09 at 12:06

Does my bum look baggy in this, actually does my head look rubbish too?


The rural pest control man came out to Lawson Park to advise on the Hare problem - it looks like it's traps - he had a collection of moles in his van including an albino. Funny how moleskin trousers always look as shapless and baggy as their namesakes, which came first the name or the shape?

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 24/03/09 at 10:14

A Day on the Fells


C/o the very helpful and very game Spoon Hall Pony Trekking Centre near Coniston, Grizedale were able to borrow a pony to use in a photo-shoot for a forthcoming Frieze advert. We also borrowed the landscape...

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 20/03/09 at 09:24

OPPORTUNITY - 2 x internships with Grizedale Arts

Grizedale Arts is in the final stages of developing its new headquarters, residency base and farm at the refurbished hillfarm of Lawson Park, overlooking Coniston Water in the Lake District. The building has been designed by architects Sutherland Hussey to accommodate the residential and organisational headquarters for Grizedale Arts and its local, national and international work. There are four artists' live work units on site, communal living space, a warden's cottage, GA office and 25 acres of land including a Kitchen Garden.

The two interns will join a team of Director Adam Sutherland, Deputy Director Alistair Hudson, web & special projects developer Karen Guthrie and two off-site interns working on the Lawson Park Collection and Library. The post-holders will have the opportunity to work on different aspects of the GA programme and with artists working on commissions. These currently include: Olaf Breuning garden sculpture, Guestroom - library, Wapke Feenstra - farm shop, Pablo Bronstein - Chicken house, Juneau/projects - building commission, Martino Gamper - shelving unit, amongst others.

The interns will work with the staff of Grizedale Arts activities including agricultural work, commission development & fabrication, Collection development and archiving, Library cataloguing, building, carpentry, furnishings, website development, documentation and much more. Specialist skills in any of these areas would be very useful and should be highlighted by prospective interns when applying. We are looking for resourceful and self-motivated individuals who will relish working in what can be a challenging rural environment. Previous interns at GA have gone on to pursue distinguished careers in the arts and media and this is a unique opportunity to work closely with GA staff and an exemplary group of artists.

The internships have the benefit of excellent accommodation on site and Grizedale Arts will cover travel expenses for two journeys between the home (or UK point of entry for overseas applicants) and Lawson Park. There is an available pick up truck so a driving licence would be an advantage.

This is a very busy time for Grizedale Arts working towards the opening of the new building, so we are looking for committed people who will contribute to the success of the project and help realise the potential of the site.


Queries or for more details contact director Adam Sutherland on adam@grizedale.org

To apply send a CV and outline of interests and skills (max 2 x A4) to Adam Sutherland by email on adam@grizedale.org or by post to Grizedale Arts, Lawson Park, Coniston, Cumbria LA21 8AD, UK

Deadline - March 16th
Interviews (UK venue TBC) - week of 23rd March

Start date early May
Building opening July 10th / Gardens & land open July 26th





Posted by Karen Guthrie on 18/02/09 at 16:19

A response to Simon Barnes


Dear Simon  

Thank you for making your points about Adam's article for Cumbria life (see entry under January 5 below), they are useful, but to my mind an acute illustration of the attitudes being increasingly forced upon rural communities. There are three pertinent statements in your text that need to be addressed:

I see nothing wrong with wanting to get away from the crowds and seeking a little solitude, or selected company.

You are absolutely right in that there is nothing wrong with this, the trouble is, as Adam indicates, the Lake District is packed to its rafters with people seeking solitude, from day trippers to lifestyle residents, and seem to get very cross when they rub up against them. This is not a wilderness but a working environment, even if that work is now predominantly the leisure industry rather than tilling. I would suggest Outer Mongolia but you'd probably find that's the same now.

Unfettered hedonism has its place too!

Again, I'm inclined to agree in part, but crucially, at whose expense? Unfettered hedonism anywhere crowded has an annoying effect on those unsuspecting bystanders. The problem here is that those folk seeking all-out-guns-a-blazing-pushing-themselves-to-the-brink-of-finding-out-who-they-really-are-experience tend to regard the rural as some neutral zone that's up for grabs, that you should be able to do what you want here and it doesn't matter. Well it does, because this is a social space like anywhere else and we all need to be considerate to those around us. You just need do hedonism where it won't get on someone else's nerves. All the outdoor pursuits centres specialise in what they term 'a beasting' which is basically is an initiation, dragging the innocent on a lung bursting and tortuous rampage through the hills, preferably in cold wet weather. You can transcribe this attitude to the landscape and its people and this is something that even the School of Outdoor Studies in Penrith (that trains the trainers) has now realised and is looking to correct.

We have a rural ideal which perhaps bears little relation to reality, and I don't think the dwindling numbers of country dwellers have much cultural impact on the rest of us.

Yes you are right once more. Your rural ideal bears little relation to reality. For the first time ever, rural populations are increasing and will do for the foreseeable future as long as technology and communications continue to enable increasingly mobile living patterns. In case you hadn't noticed the world recently got a bit global and with the odd flap of a butterfly wing and the odd carbon sink here and the odd eco-issue there the rural has shifted rather high up the list of important things. A bit like when Kevin Mcleod went to the top of the leader board in Top Gear's Star in a reasonably priced car. Most of my neighbours work in the local arms and nuclear industry and I'd say they have quite a bit of potential for impact on the wider world. The reason why Grizedale Arts is here is to ensure that the rural does exactly that, trying to influence culture in a major way like all those other country dwellers who did the same - Rousseau, Wordsworth, Ruskin, Darwin, Jefferson and the like who all had quite a bit of a say in how things turned out.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 13/01/09 at 14:42

Article for Cumbria Life


Here's the unedited version of a very short column written for Cumbria Life, a magazine celebrating Cumbria.

A much edited version should appear in the New Year issue


Things I would like to see in Cumbria in 2009


Cultural relevance

I would like to see the presentation of the rural as an intelligent, valuable contributor and leader of national cultural development – it’s happened before, many of the most influential cultural developments have originated from the provinces. But the rural and particularly Cumbria has allowed itself to be portrayed as merely a beautiful place, but beautiful to no purpose. Beauty is not an end in itself it is a vehicle for ideas, an attractor to convey a message. The landscape is political, how it is managed, owned, used, portrayed and viewed all are political positions, this is complex and relevant to contemporary culture yet there is a definite attempt to deny, simplify and trivialise the complexity of landscape and one of the worst offenders is art. Art is increasingly used to market the landscape as no more than an attractor for visitors and consequently a source of income for the individuals willing to service the sector – not really an industry, more a collective of amateur opportunists. But the more dependant the area becomes on tourism the more any real culture is driven out, the very thing the tourists come to see is inadvertently destroyed by them and ends up being replaced as a vacuous commodity. It is interesting to note that the Cumbria tourist board is now directly commissioning ‘art works’, creating the culture it deems to be appropriate for attracting visitors. This is Disney, but this particular Disney world is being moulded onto a real place, squeezing out, suppressing and remodelling the actual culture of the area, much in the fashion of Victorian pubs being renovated to look more like Victorian pubs.

Let’s put a stop to prostitution in the Lake District, wrest the holiday cottages magnates into plough shears, and the gift shop empires into pruning hooks.


Joined uppishness

Lakeland villages are determinedly trying to position themselves as a Stag party destinations, petrol head nirvanas - a base for all petrol driven activities, green destinations, fair trade towns, local food towns, real communities, in effect as any kind of tourism, as a councillor stated ‘I would do anything to get more tourists to this village’. Which reminds me of a old TV show where they had a feature called ‘I would do anything to be on TV’ where people did the sort of things that all reality shows now do but back then in the 80’s people still thought was disgusting – snogging your own grandmother – that sort of thing. What I would like is a bit of pride, a few standards, some moral backbone, a stand against the apparently easy money of tourism, a clear and coherent message – some ideals. The Lake district needs to think about itself, what it actually is and wants to be. By default it is anything anyone wants it to be, normally in some hapless attempt to generate an easy income, this is rationalised as a kind of freedom – but just because freedom of the individual was invented here there is no reason that we have to adhere to it, as one of freedom’s earliest exponents said, ‘only the responsible can enjoy freedom, for the rest it just a licence to behave badly’ – be which I think we can assume he meant himself, bearing in mind he spent most of his life rolling in the gutter. 


Taking part

The landscape around us and the communities it has fostered have been used up feeding the tourism agenda, I would like to see tourism radically change its ambitions, it should take part, and contribute, not use and abuse. Instead of purely pointless leisure activity the visitor could take part in building the culture and economy, not by paying for overpriced services and pseudo culture but by active involvement in food production, skills development and labouring. The effect of decades of tourism is that the local culture has largely been replaced by people playing at local culture, sheppards translate to hill walkers, farm land rovers - off road driving, rural craft – gift ware. Most tourists have valuable skills outside of getting drunk, shouting and urinating in public. The rural is part of this country, its culture contributes to the national psyche, the countryside is not just a playground in which to play simplistic games. 


People being interested in people

The rural as an escape from other people is a very negative idea, not to mention entirely erroneous in Cumbria. The fact that in every tourist shop there are scores of postcards and not one of them including a person, most also excluding buildings and signs of human habitation says a lot about our attitude to one another. It is an attitude that it is easy to be sympathetic to, tourists behave selfishly, they are encouraged to seek their personal pleasure at the expense of others. I think the country code needs to be re-established and re written it may need some rather basic rules and understandings, for example; one person in a micro light should be aware that they are ruining any kind of peace and quiet for thousands of other people, a constantly barking dog equally can destroy hundreds of people’s afternoon. But further than this legion of irritants it should identify a positive involvement, don’t just shut that gate, mend it. It is no longer a matter of personal freedom it is matter of consideration and social responsibility in this very crowded land.

Lets stop exploiting our weaknesses (sloth and greed) and start exploiting our strengths (humanity, creativity, perseverance, community spirit and love of the area). 


Pretty upbeat for me I thought

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 12/01/09 at 13:40

Happy New Year


The longest Christmas holiday in the last 2000 years seems to have passed in a frozen flash. Lawson Park remained frozen solid throughout, the mice have eaten an errant clementine - losing 3 of their number to the traps but the horde surged on, the deer have eaten all the purple kale and all the tropical fish have died due to the failure of their tank heater. All in all a little light death and destruction but nothing momentous. 

The builders are back with promises of mid March finish dates, although it does seem unlikely, the one official opening is booked for 10th July so seems like plenty of leeway.



Posted by Adam Sutherland on 05/01/09 at 13:56

Guestroom library proposal - CANCELLED due to unforeseen circumstances


Guestroom present their proposals for the Lawson Park and Coniston libraries - live. This really is them presenting their plans and ideas so may not be very radio orientated, more of a fly on the wall broadcast. 

Sad to say this weeks broadcast has been cancelled, could say it was due to heavy snow, but sadly rather more mundane reasons keep us from you - the train is late. 

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 28/11/08 at 07:09

Old Master of Coniston

I saw this lovely notice in a local shop today - Titian is alive and well and working in our village.
Posted by Karen Guthrie on 26/11/08 at 20:18