Power In The Land Research Residency @ACAAllenheads – Allenheads Contemporary Arts in Northumberland.

Following the recent success of delivering Power In The Land as a touring exhibition and publication – last week we took up residence at Allenheads Contemporary Arts, a rural arts centre in Northumberland.  As a group of artists who live geographically far away from each other in the UK and abroad, meeting together at ACA gave us the opportunity to re group, evaluate and discuss plans for further developing the project.

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Image shows Allenheads village set within the North Pennines landscape

Allenheads is a rural and industrial landscape in the North Pennines, which is located far away from Wylfa Nuclear Power Station in Anglesey – which was the starting focus for Power In The Land as a project back in 2014. Meeting in a different environment and away from the now decommissioned nuclear power station allowed us to objectively reflect on our interests in revisiting Wylfa and Anglesey as a nuclear landscape, as well as talk about how we can bring in influences from our wider art practices.

The residency centred around each of us giving presentations about our own research and the work that we have been producing as artists alongside Power In The Land whilst also allowing time for questions and constructive conversation amongst the group. On the other days we discussed the strengths and criticisms of producing Power In The Land as a body of work, whilst reflecting on the outcome of the exhibition tour and the practicalities of how we could further work together as a group of artists. Informal conversation continued during cooking meals and exploring the wild industrial landscape of Allenheads.

Power In The Land will now take the form of a research platform while we develop the next phase of the project.  Thanks to our ACA hosts (www.acart.org.uk) Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliffe.

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Sellafield

20170915_092745On my way up to Allenheads Contemporary Arts to meet up with X-10,  I swung by Sellafield in West Cumbria. Astonishingly large site but quite hard to get up close to take it all in. It really is a small city of its own and one with the now familiar nuclear culture – no photos of course except from the publicly accessible views like this one. Here is where the fuel rods from Wylfa will end up once they have been extracted from the power station as part of the decommissioning process.

CVAN visit to Sellafield, June 16th 2017

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As luck would have it the CVAN event (Bivouac#2 hosted by Eden Arts) I had booked myself on some time ago happened to include a visit into Sellafield. This was an excellent research opportunity complimenting my previous visit to the area. The CVAN event was very well organised and comprised of a full afternoon of discussions on Thursday 15th, plus an evening of presentations, followed by a day trip on the Friday. I made some great connections with various other artists and a very enlightened scientist, all of whom I hope to keep in touch with.

At Sellafield we were hosted at a visitor reception centre outside of the high security area where we had tea and coffee and were given our security passes. We were then bused through the gates once our passes were physically inspected and the bus checked over.

We were taken to the viewing gallery of the waste reception and indoor pond storage site, the newer one not the legacy ponds which have had so much media attention over the years. We were given a lot of information about the history of the site and the waste processing systems.

We were then put back on the bus and given a tour of the entire site from the bus before being taken back to the reception centre for lunch. Our guides were very open to questions and generous with their information. Alas no photographs, as no phones or cameras are not allowed in with visitors.

I am still processing all the information from that visit, but immediate impressions were that the site is a very compact history of the nuclear story from the military beginnings at Windscale though to the UK’s first civil nuclear power station at Calder Hall all the way through to the waste storage facility and the long term issues yet to be resolved here.

Once again timescales and thoughts beyond the human are raised here. The flasks that were on display for the containment of reclaimed Plutonium were particularly striking to me. They made me think of canoptic jars, except instead of hieroglyphics there are bar codes…plutoniumflask

Greycroft Stone Circle, May 7th 2017

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“Radioactive Art”, which was first broadcast on radio 4 Thursday 2nd March, ends in an interview with Ele Carpenter  standing in a stone circle at the outskirts of the Sellafield Nuclear reprocessing facility in Cumbria. This inspired me to make a journey over to Cumbria to seek out this site and make some work there.

The weather was glorious,  the action pictured above resulted in serious sunburn! As expected, we attracted the attention of the Nuclear Defence Constabulary who were very polite and extremely thorough in their background checks. It is an interesting test of communication skills explaining why it is important for to you to carry a handmade loom across the fields to a stone circle in order to weave recycled copper wire in the sight of Sellafield……

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