The Word

Newcastle, Bamburgh, Lindisfarne

Curator: Professor Linda Anderson, Director, Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts Newcastle University

Commission date: launch on 28-29 June

The monastery on Lindisfarne, founded by St Aidan (an Irish monk from Colm Cille’s monastery on Iona) in the seventh century is celebrated for its remarkable natural beauty, its association with the eighth-century Lindisfarne Gospels (one of the great early medieval gospel books together with the Book of Kells and the Chad Gospel) and its famous saint, Cuthbert (to whom the Lindisfarne Gospels are partly dedicated). Colm Cille and Iona are thereby linked to Cuthbert of Lindisfarne and to the nearby royal settlement at Bambugh, where Aidan died, leaning against the church which would later bear his name, St Aidan’s. Innovative art, such as that of the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the interchange between Irish, Latin, British and English culture, characterizes the ‘golden age’ of early medieval Northumbrian culture.

Antiphonal from tom schofield on Vimeo.

The Word, curated by Professor Linda Anderson, Director of the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts Newcastle University takes up this association between artistic innovation, communication and the multiple voices of the early medieval past in two ways. The first is a poetry commission of a series of poems by established poets associated with the Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts and the region including Sean O’Brien, Gillian Allnut, Bill Herbert, Cynthia Fuller, Linda France, Christy Ducker, Pippa Little, Peter Armstrong, Peter Bennet and Colette Bryce, who will edit the collection as a print-media pamphlet. The second is a site-specific sound installation, entitled Antiphonal, engineered from lines of the commissioned poems, mixed with recordings of natural sounds and Old English words, by artist Tom Schofield, from Culture Lab (a research centre for human-computer interaction at the University of Newcastle). This will be installed in the crypt of St Aidan’s Church, Bamburgh, and the newly renovated Look-Out Tower on Lindisfarne. The Tower which looks across the sea to Bamburgh helps in the envisaging of the idea of the project, expressed by the title too, of words and voices linking different places and echoing between them. Crypt and Tower also connect cell and air, height and depth lending their own symbolic resonance.

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The Word brings together, the picturesque village of Bamburgh and the tidal island of Lindisfarne. Summer 2013 celebrates the area with the Festival of the North East in June, immediately followed by the Lindisfarne Festival (July-September) when the Lindisfarne Gospels will be on display at Durham Cathedral. The two festivals merge in a weekend festival on Lindisfarne, 28th and 29th June when the installation will be launched. The Word links these activities to those of Colm Cille’s Spiral for the Derry~Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013, in a present-day remapping of the legacy of Colm Cille, Cuthbert and contemporary culture.

The project is also the subject of a radio programme for Radio 4 to be broadcast on 24th October.