In the space of five days last week, I visited first – and alone – the poetry installation of ‘Antiphonal’ by Tom Schofield, sound and interaction artist, in the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, on a Sunday afternoon, next, on the Monday – and in the company of Linda Anderson of Newcastle University – the complementary installation of ‘Antiphonal’ in the Lookout Tower on Lindisfarne, and finally, on the Thursday – in the company of assorted medievalists, artists, curators and Difference Exchangers – I travelled on to the Chapel of St Peter-on-the-Wall, Bradwell-on-Sea to engage in the unfolding of new ways to know the past in London and Essex. That’s two knots in Colm Cille’s Spiral: The Word (Newcastle, Lindisfarne and Bamburgh); and Ethical Knowledge (London and Essex). And a journey of my own making to listen to poetry, in place, and to think about we can know of the past from the ways in which we respond to it in the present.

 Antiphonal’ is an installation in two parts, in two places, drawing on the multiple voices of the poems commissioned for The Word by Sean O’Brien, Colette Bryce, Alistair Elliot, Cynthia Fuller, Peter Armstrong, Pippa Little, Bill Herbert, Peter Bennet, Christy Ducker, Gillian Allnut, Linda France, and Linda Anderson. The poems are also brilliantly edited by Colette Bryce as Shadow Script: Twelve Poems for Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, which has just been published by the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, and is on sale from there as well as on site. (

Shadow Script Cover

I have been carrying this book around with me for a while now and, having heard ‘Antiphonal’, I know that I will return to it and to these poems many times.

 Antiphonal’ and Shadow Script are foldings of the past in the present, ushering in new, creative and contemporary beginnings for early medieval culture now and in the future. As the concluding poem by Linda Anderson puts it: ‘After I closed the book, there were other openings’. Thank you, everyone.

 We are promised a re-mix of the poetry installation and a film, which Linda hopes to show in Newcastle before bringing it to Derry~Londonderry for our exhibition.

 From Lindisfarne to Bradwell, I travelled by car, train, mini-bus and on foot, thinking all the time that Cedd might just have had an easier time of it by sea, though grateful for loans of transport. Getting there matters, and so does the weather. Sitting on the medievalists’ minibus to Bradwell, I was reminded of the poetry bus to Lindisfarne last November (was it?). This was one of two trips made by the group of poets and sound artists brought together for The Word. That bus of rowdy poets (who knew poets could be so rowdy?) safely disembarked on Lindisfarne and the skies opened; it rained spectacularly and from all directions, it seemed. Some of us found the pub. Medievalists are no less rowdy when we travel, however. Some of us tell really good stories (thank you, Josh Davies), we never found the pub (least not before I got off the bus back on the Strand in London), but the sun shone and we did make it to the sea.

 What was made of the medieval in Bradwell is a story that others will tell and still others respond to. Aside from being blown away by the ways in which Fran Allfrey, Becky Dobson, Carl Kears, Kath Maude, and Vicky Walker met Marc Garret’s challenge to communicate their research ethically to new audiences in the ancient place that is Bradwell, my own response is again simple gratitude. Thank you too James Paz and Josh Davies who put so much energy into getting us focussed on Bradwell in the first place and who steered us so deftly when there.

 My other response, both to Bradwell and to Lindisfarne/Bamburgh is the feeling that my own practice as a medievalist is beginning to be radically altered by Colm Cille’s Spiral. Onwards! To Raasay.