Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

MPA Creative Director Nick Hunt reflects on a five-year milestone for the Singing Ringing Tree…

Don’t time fly!  I hadn’t realised quite how swiftly, until the Christmas card from the Chief Exec of Burnley Council brought it to mind.

The official municipal card was exploiting a suitably seasonal photo of the Tree in its Siberian winter setting, with a pile of presents sketched in around the base.  This playful bit of graffiti might have been tailor-made to offend the impeccably minimalist design sensibilities of its creators, the inspired architect duo Tonkin Liu, but at MPA we are still inclined to be delighted whenever a Panopticon gets a bit of extra exposure.

Reflecting fondly on how often that happens with this particular, much-loved landmark, I suddenly realised that the fifth birthday of the Singing Ringing Tree had slipped past in December without us noticing.  Damn!  We should have been celebrating…

The Singing Ringing Tree was the third of the Panopticons series to be commissioned and built, in a very productive partnership with Burnley Borough Council.  It was unveiled in December 2006, with two coachloads of special guests ferried up to the site and bent nearly double to keep their feet in the face of the howling gales.  Back in the car park at Crown Point, the big executive coaches were rocking side to side as if about to capsize.  But this delicate little landmark survived its crazy launch day, and has not looked back since.

You can catch the wind-buffeted flavour of that day, and the story of the construction of the Tree as a ‘giant Meccano set’ , in Roger Appleton’s film of the project:

The Panopticons project  was intended to encourage folk to use the landscape on their doorsteps, to discover spectacular new views of Pennine Lancashire, and to explore further the rugged splendours of our area.  More than this, it was designed to create positive images to project out into the wider world, and transform perceptions about our locale.

The Singing Ringing Tree has delivered on all of this, with knobs on.  Burnley Council and people promoting Pennine Lancashire both make fulsome use of this very photogenic icon in all their promotional stuff.  Images of the Tree have whizzed around the world.  Millions of YouTube users have viewed viral videos of the Tree and its song.

And this momentum is not slowing down.  In 2011 we’ve had features of the Panopticons on two network TV shows – a lovely feature on Flog It! and another on Country Tracks.  The Tree has featured in audio and image in the Berlin fashion mag Sleek and its covermount CD.  And the new edition of our local OS map – guess what it has on the cover!

This is the gift that keeps on giving.  And what a gift it was.  By happy coincidence, that launch day in December 2006 was also the 80th birthday of the Tree’s first benefactor, Sir Simon Towneley, who had identified the site, donated use of it, and worked tirelessly to help us locate the extra funds we needed.  He also recruited our second benefactor, his son Peregrine Towneley, whose immensely generous contribution made it possible for us to balance the books and to complete this dream of a project.

So happy 85th birthday Sir Simon, thanks again Peregrine, and here’s to the next half decade.

More information for planning your visit at:


Latest Commission in the Contemporary Heritage Series

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing

by Claire Morgan

Mid Pennine Arts and Lancashire County Museum Service are delighted to announce the latest Contemporary Heritage commission has been awarded to international sculptor Claire Morgan.

No Match will have its official opening at a free public event on Saturday 18 February 2012 at Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, Rossendale, Lancashire.

Following on from a research residency at Helmshore Mills Textile Museum in October, Claire Morgan will create a six part, site specific, sculptural installation at the museum in January.

Inspired by the mill and her discoveries during the residency, what Claire has found most intriguing is the mill workers fond memories despite the daily hazards they faced. The installation will be suspended in the Devil Hole where man’s attempt to harness natures’ power was realised through intense heat, noise, pressure and sometimes even smoke, fire and blood.

“My idea for No Match came from my fascination with all the complex, repetitive, and really quite aggressive processes that occurred in the Devil Hole.  I wanted to make something that traced the passage of nature through that dark, industrial space, and for me that could mean anything from the cotton, to workers, to fire, or even blood.  The finished installation will hopefully acknowledge these things in an abstract but engaging way.” Claire Morgan

No Match is part of Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing, Mid Pennine Arts’ ambitious partnership programme of contemporary art commissions at some of Lancashire’s most colourful and intriguing historic venues.  The commissions, inspired by Lancashire’s heritage, animate each site and offer visitors a rare chance to experience major works of art by artists of national and international standing outside urban areas.

No Match launches at 1pm on Saturday 18 February 2012 at Helmshore Mills Textile Museum, Rossendale, Lancashire, BB4 4NP. FREE EVENT.

No Match is supported by Modern History which is a European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), funded marketing programme which promotes the industrial heritage of the North West in a contemporary and compelling way making it relevant to today’s visitor.

Call for Papers

Mid Pennine Arts
Lancashire, UK
March 2012

Mid Pennine Arts are currently looking for case studies to feature in a celebratory event we are planning to mark the conclusion of the REMADE regeneration programme.

This will be a conference event in which we aim to bring together delegates from the arts sector and those who work in public realm, landscape, education and policy contexts. The aim is to share the success of the Remade programme but also to contextualise it with inspiring case studies from across the UK and beyond. In particular we want to attract speakers to talk about projects around the themes of:

  • connecting people with landscape
  • imaginative and creative new use of landscape
  • re-use of derelict land

The event will take place on Thursday 29th March 2012 at Brockholes Nature Reserve.

Those wishing to present papers are encouraged to forward a 300-500 word abstract to Lucy Green

Deadline for abstracts:  30 January 2012


My Top Ten Days Out in the North West

With the New Year upon us, I thought it would be good to start with the top ten places I would like to visit this year.  Having only managed to visit one of these last year, I am determined to tick these of my list in 2012. Ranging in prices, location and experience, this list provides a selection of outings to suit all tastes and budgets. A few do have end dates so make sure you visit those first! All these suggestions are suitable for adults and children alike.

1. Clitheroe

Clitheroe is great day out not only does it offer a large variety of unique and boutique shops there is also a fantastic selection of cafés, bars and restaurants to enjoy that well earned afternoon tea! There are many walks that begin in Clitheroe which you can find out more about here.

You will also find in Clitheroe, the Platform Gallery which provides a unique market place for handmade crafts from across the UK.  You can visit the craft exhibitions, buy stunning gifts in the Craft Shop or take part in workshops and educational opportunities.  For further information and opening times visit the website here.

Clitheroe Castle Keep is also host to TAKEN, a sound installation by contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain. Inspired by the story of the Lancashire witches, TAKEN allows the visitor to imagine how the 12 individuals may have felt during their last four months in captivity whilst awaiting trial. December is an excellent time to visit with the cold, windy, icy weather adding to the experience.  Find out more about TAKEN here and on our blog.

2. Panopticons

Have you visited the Panopticons yet? Designed to attract visitors into the countryside to enjoy the stunning landscapes that this delightful area has to offer. There are four Panopticons altogether each situated on a high-point site commanding spectacular views.

Colourfields, in Blackburn’s Corporation Park, allows you to enjoy a panoramic view of the park below, with the town beyond and distant views out towards Lytham, Southport and Fleetwood.

Singing Ringing Tree is situated on Crown Point above Burnley, look north for a superb view of Pendle Hill or east for a glimpse of the Cliviger wind turbines on the Yorkshire border.

Atom, nestles on the hillside high above Wycoller village, there are breathtaking views of the Pendle landscape all around, including the historic settlement of Wycoller, now a conservation area.

Halo is the centrepiece of a former landfill site on Top o’ Slate above Haslingden. You can enjoy commanding views of the Rossendale Valley, Greater Manchester and into Hyndburn, Burnley and Ribble Valley.

For more information, visit You can also download various maps and guides for walking around the Panopticons and other areas of interest here

3. The Greenway – Padiham & Preston

The Greenways are perfect for an afternoon walk or cycle with the family; constructed along disused railway lines they provide a safe, beautiful and alternative way to discover the countryside.

The Preston Greenway was constructed along the formally disused railway line that formed part of the Bamber Bridge to Preston extension of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The greenway links Penwortham, Bamber Bridge and Preston City Centre and forms part of the National Cycle Network.

The Padiham Greenway was created on a disused railway line that runs between Rosegrove and Padiham in Burnley. The Padiham Greenway has been developed as part of a longer route between Great Harwood and Burnley which is designed to create an off-road trail that connects people to facilities and open spaces in and around the towns that flank the route.

4. Chapel Gallery, Ormskirk via Burscough.

The Chapel Gallery is situated in the lively town of Ormskirk. Their diverse programme brings some of the most inventive contemporary fine art and craft from across the UK to the region, while also supporting locally based artists in the development of their careers. There are plenty of activities to keep young minds absorbed and with an on site Café and Contemporary Craft Shop, the gallery is the perfect place to visit on a day out. Ormskirk itself offers a variety of shops and cafés and an afternoon can be easily spent wandering around the town.

On route to Ormskirk why not stop off in Burscough and visit Gallery on the Wharf, the new permanent home for the Art and Craft Guild of Lancashire. As 2011 marks the silver anniversary of the Guild, the gallery opening in February makes it an exciting year for everyone. There is a wide variety of work on offer including ceramics, furniture, textiles, jewellery, glass, art, photography and turned wood from original designs all displayed in the unique setting of Burscough Wharf. Visit the website for more information.

 5. Brockholes

Brockholes is a new kind of nature reserve, an unreserved reserve owned and managed by The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside. There’s lots to see and do at Brockholes, you can hunt out the floating Visitor Village which houses a restaurant, shops and Welcome Centre or explore the family-friendly hides, walking trails and play area.  A fantastic free day out accessible by car and public transport. Visit the website for more information.

6. TATE Liverpool

See the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at Tate Liverpool till 29th January. The first exhibition of its kind to explore how Lewis Carroll’s stories have influenced the visual arts, inspiring generations of artists. The exhibition will provide insight into the creation of the novels and the inspiration they have provided for artists through the decades. Alice in Wonderland  offers  visitors a rare opportunity to view Carroll’s own drawings and photographs, alongside Victorian Alice memorabilia and John Tenniel’s preliminary drawings for the first edition of the novel.

7. Museum of Lancashire

Find out the history of Preston’s Guild in 2012 with a visit to the recently refurbished Museum of Lancashire. They have a lot to offer and admission is completely free! Whether your interests lie in Preston or the wider heritage of Lancashire, the Museum of Lancashire gives you a great introduction to all things Lancashire. With displays, interactives and activities aimed at different ages, there really will be something for all of the family to enjoy. Why not top off your visit with a relaxing coffee and cake in our Gateway café.

8. Cedar Farm

Cedar Farm nestling in beautiful countryside is surprisingly situated just 15 minutes from junction 27 of the M6. Providing an inspirational and creative shopping experience, the wonderful array of unique shops, selling contemporary crafts, clothing, home furnishings and mystic gifts is complemented by a group of creative working artists; here visitors have an opportunity to purchase artwork made by some of the most talented people in the region.

The cafe@cedarfarm, serves delicious freshly prepared food and the Coffee Roastery are both award winning places to eat and drink.

With regular exhibitions, free parking, a children’s playground and farm animals to feed, it’s a perfect place to spend an hour or two. Although, if you want to spend longer, you can book onto one of the courses or have a pamper day at the beauty salon.

With opportunities to feed the variety of animals and drop in to Pots of Fun to paint a pot, in between coffee and cake and wander round the unique shops, Cedar Farm makes a great afternoon out for the family or adults alike.

 9. Valley of Stone.

The Valley of Stone is a project which celebrates the quarrying and stone working heritage of Rossendale.  From the late 18th century to the time of the First World War quarrying was a major industry in Rossendale, employing thousands of men. The Valley of Stone project tells the story of this great industry, conserves remains, provides a programme of guided walks featuring Rossendale’s stone working heritage and celebrates this heritage through a number of arts-based activities. You can read more about Mid Pennine Arts’ involvement and the sculptures we commissioned in Lee Quarry here.

Why not visit these sculptures and take the family and your bikes along for an active, cultural and historical day out all rolled into one!

10. BFG at the Dukes.

One of Roald Dahl’s most popular children’s stories, The BFG which follows the adventures of Sophie a little girl with a big heart and she’s going on a whizzpoppingly wonderful adventure this Christmas, as she meets the Big Friendly Giant and sets off on an unbelievable journey.  From her sleepy orphanage, to magical Dream Country and beyond, join Sophie in this brand new production promising excitement, just a touch of danger and larger than life characters. In a faithful adaptation of the classic story, The Dukes brings this heartwarming tale of friendship and bravery to the stage with amazing puppetry, masses of fun and plenty of surprises along the way.

Visit the Official Roald Dahl Website, which is packed with information and games as well as up to date news from the World of Roald Dahl.

The BFG is on till 7th January. Why not make a day out of it and visit Lancaster home to the Storey Gallery and Gallery23

One of my many New Year resolutions is to organise more days out and actually do them – something I have been guilty of these last few years!

Please let us know if you visit any of the above and what you thought by leaving your comments below.


Author: Rebecca Fitton