Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog

Migratory Dairy School


I recently received this image of the Migratory Dairy School, the only known photo, a Ruskin inspired idea executed by the reliable Cannon Rawnsley to huge success. The school took eduction to the people, in this case teaching farmers how to farm diary cows and produce butter. The school, centred on a caravan and tent, set up for 10 day periods in small villages in Cumbria and helped many farmers out of economic straights during the 1890 recession, anyone for butter. 

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 25/11/08 at 14:18

Peter Hodgson in the Yard - 21st November


Farmyard radio is delighted to be welcoming Peter Hodgson talking about his life and works. Peter is a leather worker and artist based in Ambleside, his work has been the cornerstone of the Honesty stall and is currently represented at the myvillages village kiosk at the GSK season at the Royal Academy   


Posted by Adam Sutherland on 19/11/08 at 14:31

Madam Alone


Adam on his own in the office, in a week of increasing building problems. It promises a lengthy blues moan over a disco soundtrack about buildings - actually that sounds fine

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 14/11/08 at 14:39

Back to bark

The usual team back in the yard for a change, plenty to talk about even if most of it is off record so to speak, just between the 2 of us - web radio - where that can really be true.

Appropro (spelling debate in the office) of nothing, well i ve just been looking at it, check this blog for farmyard chic http://greenhousevt.blogspot.com

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 07/11/08 at 15:53

GSK at the Royal Academy, back entrance


The GSK Contemporary Season opens at the Royal Academy on Thursday, you can see the slightly unwilling Grizedale contribution on the ground floor for free - the rest you have to pay for - it makes sense as it seems we and the artists have done it for free. There are some Rowlandson images that better illustrate our feelings but they are a little to explicit to post. This one is actually of the Royal Academy main staircase.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 29/10/08 at 14:19

Help, we need somebody

Our great local supporter, South Lakeland Council, are advertising for a new Arts Officer. 

Deadline is Nov 10th, beg all your inspired friends to apply.

See more info on the post here

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 23/10/08 at 14:53

Dans le cour de la ferme

Farmyard radio goes French with a visit from La Drome and a group redeveloping a 1930's utopian community in the France profond.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 03/10/08 at 14:06

The Bretheren of the Stone: Iron Man

Jen Lui's commission for Agrifashionista is now online at www.agrifashionista.tv
This is the second in a trilogy, the sequel to The Brethren of the
Stone: Comfortably Numb, made in 2006. This body of work came out of Jen's residency at Grizedale when we took her to Furness Abbey in Barrow-in-Furness (Cistercian founders of Lawson Park), Millom, Haverigg stone circle and Egremont. From this she developed a whole body of work concocted around a band of hooded, stone worshiping monks who were heavily into prog rock.
West Cumbria down to a tee I'd say and maybe this goes part way to explaing  why Alan Kane's daughter, on receiving a job offer as a nuclear physicist at BAE in Barrow, quickly arranged a transfer down south.
In not entirely unrelated way the protagonist of the this second chapter is introduced to the big city after a youth in the idyllic country, and must face various instances of
social and aesthetic alienation. He does not cope with it well, and
in the end, we see that his only way means of dealing with it is
violence. However, is his violence directed outwards, or inwards?
Jen Lui: "I worked with composer Ray Sweeten and Judith Hallet on a piece to
reflect this rift between the protagonist and the modern world. The
protagonist's voice is expressed though Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage"
translated into Latin, and re-written as medieval plainchant. The
modern world takes Black Sabbath's Iron Man translated into an
Italian late-era Romantic opera for female voice.

I also worked with composer Matthew Welch and the Depauw Tiger Pep
Band to create a marching band version of Black Sabbath's Iron Man,
that closely adheres to the original song in composition."

Go see http://www.agrifashionista.tv/home/

Next month sees the launch of William Pope L's commission and Nathaniel Mellors is up after Frieze week to film us dressed as neanderthals having a bar-b-que. Hang on.....

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 01/10/08 at 15:20

Work Weekend 26th and 27th September


It's meadow cutting time again, well a bit late actually. The artist group Reactor are bringing their Geodesic dome living utopians - the Geodesians - to develop a series of systems for the processing and use of bracken at all its stages of its development. Hopefully this will provide the thatch for the Lawson Park porch, we discovered that the farm buildings had been thatched with bracken back in the 18th century. Anyone feeling the urge to work hard there are lots of opportunities get in touch re accommodation and food - the Geodisians have a special diet but we will be providing a more standard and hearty fare.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 22/09/08 at 19:44

And here is our answer

In response to Letter from XXX of Kendal

The NGS in Cumbria has more recently included a number of unusual and atypical gardens, among them Sprint Mill, near Kendal, a beautiful and productive garden surrounding an old mill. Mrs XXX would find there a very much smaller vegetable garden and an even more informal layout and relaxed maintenance regime than that at Lawson Park. However, like Lawson Park, it widens the palette of the Scheme by introducing more varied approaches to gardening than present in the many ‘classic’ Lake District gardens we know so well. These approaches include diversity in planting, design and maintenance which will not be shared by all garden lovers.
It is to the NGS' credit that such different gardens can be included under their umbrella.

We welcomed well over 200 guests on the NGS day and have not received any other written, email, telephone or in person negative comments.

All parts of the LP garden – like any this season – were adversely affected by the extraordinarily high rainfall this summer. Previously stable areas became hazardous with wet, and we did our best to signpost these. It would have been a shame to have closed off entire areas of the garden (or worse, cancelled the day), given that able-bodied people could navigate most of the site with care, so we decided to go ahead with the routes as planned.

The entrance to the meadow was staffed and visitors were warned there verbally that areas were damp and slippy. However, the NGS listings did state that the garden was not wheelchair accessible. Next year’s listing includes a more explicit warning to the less able-bodied about the terrain to be expected.

Footpath / access
Grizedale Arts’ environmental policy, as well as limited parking on site, discouraged visitor car use on the NGS Day.
The footpath from the car park at Machell’s Coppice is maintained by the Forestry Commission, not GA. We have passed on comments regarding its condition and on inspection it transpired that it had been vandalised. The FC are now improving it. We have also revised the timing on the NGS entry as we realise that this is misleading. The alternative vehicle track offered much steadier walking terrain and perhaps we should have encouraged its use in preference.

The minibus was provided as a courtesy to visitors who needed it rather than as a provision for all. As it was impossible to anticipate visitor numbers, we estimated that one minibus would suffice, and there were periods in the day when it was indeed empty.

Artist’s residency base:
Building work has been severely delayed due to unforeseen structural problems, hence the extent of progress on the NGS day was difficult to anticipate at the time of going to press. However, the house was not advertised as open to the public. The Lawson Park website (address included in the publicity) contains clear information on the progress of the Lawson Park building. Many visitors were interested in the building work in progress and commented favourably on being able to visit at this time.

Informal herbaceous:
The garden is consciously designed to be naturalistic and so includes less familiar plants and many allowed to grow unchecked and to set seed. Borders are nontheless kept largely weedfree and in excellent health.

The main vegetable and fruit area is some 80m long by 20-30m wide which cannot honestly be described as “very small”, even for a rural area!
The ‘Paddy fields’ (several acres) were not opened to the public on NGS day due to the ground conditions (but were marked on the map) and included a range of crops – the potatoes on sale on the day were from there. The piggery is also there.
Keeping livestock on site had been suspended during building works.

The apiary:
The bees are regularly inspected and have suffered wet-weather starvation, which caused one hive of the four to gradually die out. It was finally checked and removed shortly after the NGS day, and there is no disease present anywhere in the apiary, hence the hive posed no risk.
The bees are maintained with assistance from Furness Beekeepers, a very reputable association.

The polytunnel:
Was not open to the public, marked ‘Private’, so was not part of the NGS Day.
Contains a trial of 3 tomato varieties (underplanted with herb seedlings) and 3 varieties of cucumber.

Wildflower meadow:
See general comments on weather above. The NGS date is late for meadow blossom, however, varieties in bloom on the NGS day included field scabious, sanguisorba, purple loosestrife, bramble, meadowsweet, angelica, vetch, speedwell and much knapweed alongside unusual and common grasses. More familiar meadow plants such as ox-eye daisies and cornflowers are generally not found in upland meadows in the area.
The meadow has recently been assessed and commended by a number of environmental agencies (including Cumbria Wildlife Trust) for its diversity and wildlife value, counting over 200 plant species. It is being looked at to use as a ‘seed bank’ meadow to sow others.

Grizedale Arts, Sept. 15th 08

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 18/09/08 at 09:40

They didn't all like it after all


Here's a letter from someone that didn't seem to like the garden at the NGS day. All the things we like and think are good they felt the exact opposite about. It seems like a very urban view of what gardens should be like - full of flowers and hard edged borders. Wild flower meadows that are 'features' rather than real meadows. Anyone that has visited the Lawson Park garden will know it is quite naturalistic and not very flowery or colourful, funny how even this sort of very mild subversion can elicit such fury. I guess it seemed threatening to these visitors, still its years since I got such an angry letter.
Nice to know we can still annoy.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 17/09/08 at 16:07

Brantwood of yore


Just tidying my desktop and came across this image of Brantwood, home of John Ruskin. Looking a bit dog eared but probably much as Ruskin left it, he may have been the voice of architecture but his own improvements to the building look a bit 'extensions and conservatories from B&Q'. He declared a total lack of interest in his own surroundings, a very sensible approach if you ask me, a house is just a place to live not life itself - with the ongoing housing crash this may become a more common position. I remember the last crash and the blessed relief from house price discussion it brought to the country.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 15/09/08 at 09:34



We’ve been in a few discussions with the village about reshaping the Coniston Institute to bring it back into use, or at least increase its use and redefine its function. Ann Hall, the Conservative Councillor, brought us in after she came to an impasse with the conservatives (small c) in the village over the published plans to modernise the institute. Many want to retain the etched memories and faded grandeur, which you can see the appeal of, as it’s pretty much a fantasist’s version of 20’s rural function rooms: dusty library; voluminous, staged hall; English Rose kitchen and billiard room. The council want to improve the current library offer of opening half a day on Wednesday, by working with the village so that they will run it themselves and open it more often, on their terms. Which is all very interesting. Anyway the plan is to work with Guestroom to make it a sizeable project that links with the library and kitchen at Lawson Park – a new concept for what a library might be and all that. Ramping up the old and the new at the same time, I would think.

One thing’s certain though, no one wanted the otter in the library, so we came away with it. For now, at least, until they realise this is the original Ruskin Giant Otter of 1898 with a tattoo of Venice on the back of its left buttock.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 11/09/08 at 14:27

Back from summer

Alistair and Adam reminisce about the 'summer' including Alistair's adventures at Creamfields....

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 05/09/08 at 16:09

If Hieronymous Bosch had seen this he wouldn't have done that (the Pete Tong mix)


Last weekend, whilst the open garden at Lawson Park roared with the appreciative nodding of the gathering gentiles, I descended into the pit of heathen depravity that was Creamfields dance music festival. Grizedale were there to collaborate with John Moores University’s SITE projects department to experiment with an almost-live internet TV station for Creamfields.

From the sanctity of a makeshift edit suite in a portakabin in the production compound, pairs of camera crews wheeled away into the 40,000 morass of heavy beats, fake tan and neon bra tops. The scene in production subsequently took on the feel of a WWII RAF camp, with crews coming and going with tales of the front line and rest, tea and fags on the summer grass between.

The project was an attempt to equate the gentle world of art making with the extreme experience spectacle of mass popular culture. A meeting that ordinarily ends up with art getting its head stamped on. With Grizedale contributions to the big screen, you can see it’s hard for art to come close to making an impact in its usual mindset. Marcus Coates was due to perform the ultimate conclusion to his shaman act on the big stage, to the baying sea of e-ed up scallywags and wannawags. Cream got cold feet, not really because it was too weird, but more for his own safety. But it could’ve been pretty good. Carnage, but pretty good.

It’s this taking on of the mess of the bigger world that we need and aim to do. At this stage I’d give the project a 5 out of 10, but I’d go back for a 8.5 next year and by 2012 looking to meet the LOCOG and DCMS targets for straight golds in mass participation and synchronised vomiting.

For a taste of the action and some light discussion go to www.creamTVfields.tv

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 29/08/08 at 14:39

Summer break apologies

We'll be back in the yard next week Friday 5th September, welcoming autumn....

Posted by Dorian Fraser-Moore on 29/08/08 at 11:51



Yesterday saw Team Grizedale (& Team Guthrie, Pope-Olden, Watson, Quinn, Falconer et al) welcome several hundred visitors to the first Open Garden at our HQ Lawson Park.
Exact figures and photos to come - but a huge thankyou to all involved.

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 25/08/08 at 15:39

Too hot for bees


so they line up on the landing board and fan the hive to cool it down. How do they work that out? its weird, first they have to know that if the hive gets too hot it's bad for the babies, then they have to work out that wind will cool it then they have to work out that their wings could alternatively be used as a fan and all that without a brain - genius and all together.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 28/07/08 at 18:33

Who needs artists

The builders continue with their series of projects exploring how the building occupies and relates to the space around it. The first project was to plant seeds found in the walls as an ironic ritual - bringing the past back to life - criticing the notion of the shaman figure within 20 century practice. They then took down all the walls and rebuilt them in a different material before facing them with the material the walls were originally made from - exploring authenticity and the concept of presence and absence. The newest work sees the positioning a red monkey with a tennis racket at various points around the building, highlighting the 3 dimensional nature of the space for a virtual audience, extending this notion of the flat into our understanding of the natural and unnatural whilst cross referencing Alan Partridge as a symbol of the confusion of contemporary identity - sounds like a Giorgio Saddotti work.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 24/07/08 at 14:29