Tag Archives: Ailis Ni Riain

A Volunteer’s Progress

Dominique Dunand-Clarke reflects on her time with MPA (so far)!

On a warm April morning in 2011 I crossed the park and climbed the steep hill to Clitheroe Castle, I was going to take part in an arts project which I knew involved the Castle, a composer and a recording of my voice as I hummed a song. As somebody who has never listed singing as one of my talents I was a little apprehensive. I soon realised I needn’t have been when I met Rebecca Alexander and Lucy Green, two members of the Mid Pennine Arts team, who were very friendly and put me at my ease as well as assuring me that however bad my singing was the talented compositional skills of Ailís Ní Ríain would transform the sound!

My first day at MPA

The project was called Taken and Ailís did indeed create a beautiful sound installation from the donated hums of the local people who took part, which was played in the castle keep for a year and transformed the space. While I was at the castle I plucked up the courage to ask Lucy and Rebecca if I would be able to volunteer for Mid Pennine Arts to gain some experience while I was at university.

I am glad I did because three years later and I’m still here and have gained experience in an extremely wide variety of areas including: assisting artists with research to dressing as an Elizabethan Lady of the Manor; updating MPA’s website to hanging photographs outdoors in the rain, on a windy day in Burnley’s town centre, which as most people who work in the arts will know, is a very useful skill to master.

A windy day in Burnley.

While volunteering for MPA I have had the opportunity to gain training such as being qualified to deliver the bronze and silver arts awards as well as learning about marketing and project management. After I graduated from university and was looking for employment within the arts it was invaluable to be volunteering for an organisation with so many contacts within the arts community and my work with MPA certainly enabled me to apply for my current job in arts management.

Flicker

Volunteering has been a hot topic recently with questions raised about how helpful it is to volunteer as an unemployed young person. I would say that if you volunteer for the right organisation you get back what you put in. Mid Pennine Arts has certainly been the right organisation for me and I am still enjoying my varied role here, the best part of it being that I am never bored!

If you would like the opportunity to find out more about volunteering with Mid Pennine Arts, do not hesitate to email me. I am normally in the office every Friday however I will be out of the office on Friday 17th and Friday 24th of January.

Popular Sound Installation Extended throughout Anniversary Celebrations.

We are delighted to announce that we have been invited by Lancashire County Council to extend TAKEN, the sound installation in Clitheroe Castle Keep by contemporary classical composer Ailís Ni RíainOriginally the installation was due to close on the 9 April 2012, but TAKEN can now be experienced until the 3 June 2012.

TAKEN, inspired by the plight of the individuals accused of witchcraft in 1612, evokes the voices in the last days and nights of the twelve accused.  Held captive in a dark, dank, cramped airless cell that measured just 20 by 12 feet, one of the accused died awaiting trial while others began to suffer psychologically in the appalling conditions.  We can only begin to imagine the absolute terror, fear and sadness experienced.  And maybe for some, the final defiance and peace found through good memories and hope for the next life.  The effect inside the space is unrelenting, your imagination not letting you escape the voices of the accused. Some visitors have described it as unsettling, haunting and eerie.

The second experience of TAKEN is from the outside, where you can walk around the Keep on an elevated walkway and at ground level.  This was a deliberate decision on Ailís’s part.  “I was not content with the music simply wafting out and being carried off by the wind so we ensured that speakers were cunningly concealed around the Keep to ensure that the music carries. The visitor has the experience of being a voyeur, aware of people being held captive in the Keep, hearing them humming, however now at a comfortable distance, as the music is mixed with the sounds of the everyday world continuing to spin, spin, spin and they can walk away from the wrongly accused…”

To create her sound installation, Ailís worked with 12 local people.  The ‘hummers’ spent their time together with Ailís, understanding her work as a composer and how she creates her music.  Each person hummed a song that had a personal poignancy to them which became part of the installation.

Ailís said, “I am very pleased that TAKEN at Clitheroe Castle has been extended to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the trial of the Lancashire Witches.  It provides us with the ideal opportunity to take some time and remember those whose lives were taken from them based on inference, inaccuracies, and misinformation and perhaps for simply being different.  The incarceration, trial and hanging of the Lancashire Witches was a travesty, one which has many contemporary resonances. It is important to remember in order not to forget.”

With the 400th Anniversary of the Lancashire Witches upon us, this is the perfect opportunity to experience this thought provoking installation.  TAKEN will continue to run until the 3 June 2012. Immerse yourself in sound and thought as the Keep is brought to life through music.  Free entry to the keep.

TAKEN was commissioned by Mid Pennine Arts in collaboration with Lancashire County Council.

TAKEN is part of A Contemporary Heritage: 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.

I love this job

I love this job

A chill November afternoon; rain in the air.  Every time the door opened you could feel the damp breath of autumn in the wind.

I had just had afternoon tea with eleven ladies from a Lancashire Libraries’ Reading group from Whalley. We were about to visit the Contemporary Heritage installation ‘Taken’ by Ailis Ni Riain in the Castle Keep.  It is inspired by the true story of the Lancashire Witches. But before we could move there were some challenging questions: “Who is paying for this? Where does the money come from? Lancashire’s logo is on the flyer – does this mean we that we are paying ? Is it a sensible use of money in these difficult times? The great thing about the discussion which followed was that I was not expected to answer all the questions – they just set everyone off.  When you belong to a reading group, I realised, you are used to challenge, the challenge of other opinions being different from your own.

Onwards and upwards…to the Keep.

All we did was to lean with our backs against the castle walls, in silence at first; listening….listening to the layers of voices in the wind, to the humming, to the chords from the harp…the perfect instrument, an inspirational choice for the mood of the piece and for this setting.

..and what did they say when the silence was broken?  There was no more     talk about funding…

“…I could feel their voices in the stone…you can see them sitting on a cold    floor, rocking back and forwards with their heads in their hands  murmuring,   humming…it should stay here as a part of the experience of visiting the Castle; it really takes you back in time…I can still hear their voices now we’ve come back…those poor women…there was a real feeling of despair up there…yes, of hopelessness, disturbing…I think there are places where these  things are still happening….”

I don’t have say more only that it a privilege to share this experience with  this group of ladies….and of course the afternoon tea!

I love this job.

Author: David Smith

TAKEN is open daily 10am-5pm and can be visited till early Summer at Clitheroe Castle Museum, Clitheroe BB7 1BA.

Free admission to the installation in the Castle Keep

Have you seen TAKEN already?What are your thoughts?

Ailís and the hummers….

Contemporary classical composer Ailís Ní Ríain talks about her recent experience with the ‘hummers’ at Clitheroe Castle…

Ailis in front of the Castle Keep

Early on Friday morning the 8th of April 2011 I set off by train from my home in Todmorden to Clitheroe for Humming Day as part of my new commission at Clitheroe Castle. It was a glorious morning, I passed an opening daffodil on my way that wished me luck for the day ahead.

Beautiful day to be up at the Castle!

By 10am all twelve ‘hummers’ had arrived – 10 women and 2 men representing ‘The Pendle Witches’- those accused of witchcraft in 1612. This lively and enthusiastic bunch appeared ready for action! I asked each ‘hummer’ to hum me a song/tune which meant something special to them. I sat with each ‘hummer’ one to one for about 25 mins where I recorded them and discussed their choice of melody, why they had chosen it, what it meant to them and then broadening out to discuss how they felt humming differed from singing both physically and emotionally and then finally, touching on this new piece and the final weeks of those 12 accused awaiting their fate in a 20 foot by 12 foot Well Tower at Lancaster Castle.

Ailis and the hummers having their photo taken for the press

I was surprised and moved by their musical choices, some were quite jaunty, others very relaxed, some classical in origin, some improvised, some folk tunes, some pop including some that were quite a challenge to hum. It was a fascinating day. I very much enjoyed meeting each hummer one to one, in a calm, quiet space in the shadow of Clitheroe Castle Keep, sharing my thoughts and asking them for theirs. I appreciated their honesty, their humour and their tears.

Ailis composing

The commission is called TAKEN and will launch on Saturday 18th June 1-4pm (all welcome!)

www.midpenninearts.org.uk/contemporary-heritage-clitheroe

A new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Mid Pennine Arts announce new Contemporary Heritage commission at Clitheroe Castle Museum.

Contemporary Heritage: A new way of seeing

“This is a composer who can get right under the skin.” Journal of Music in Ireland.

MID Pennine Arts have this week announced that the second Contemporary Heritage commission – that will be at Clitheroe Castle Museum – has been awarded to international prize-winning contemporary composer Ailís Ní Ríain.

Born in Cork, Ireland, Ailís captured the public’s imagination in 2009 with ‘Lighthouse Lullaby’, in Maryport, Cumbria. Ailís made the lighthouse sing. Her composition incorporated the sounds and rhythms of the lighthouse’s position at the harbour entrance. The piece interacted with the natural sounds and acoustics of the cast iron building to create an ever-changing improvised performance.

At Clitheroe Castle Museum, Ailís will create a sound installation in and around the Castle Keep. Her composition is inspired by the story of the Lancashire Witches and the 400th anniversary of the Witch trials in 2012. Ailís will be working with 10 women and 2 men aged 18 to 80+ who live or work in Clitheroe. The ‘hummers’ will spend time together with Ailís, understanding her work as a composer and how she creates her music. Each person will hum a song which has a personal poignancy to them which will become part of the installation.

Ailís said, “Clitheroe Castle Museum and grounds are fascinating. The Keep itself is particularly inspiring and I found the panel on the Lancashire Witch Trials in the Museum curious and indeed shocking. The Keep is incredible and has terrific scope for engagement with the public which is something I focus strongly on throughout my artistic work. “

Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of artist commissions at stunning historic sites across Pennine Lancashire. The commissions, inspired by Pennine 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 centres.

Contemporary Heritage brings an extra dimension to our partners’ venues, creating a new way of seeing the history and heritage of these sites. Mid Pennine Arts will deliver a programme of creative learning activities associated with each commission to further surprise, inspire and delight participants. Contemporary Heritage provides a terrific counterpoint to some of our heritage treasures, and attracts a new audience to explore the splendours of Lancashire.

Burnley’s Towneley Hall and Park is home to Not Forgotten, the first Contemporary Heritage installation by nationally acclaimed artist Geraldine Pilgrim.

Nick Hunt, Mid Pennine Arts Creative Director, said: “Contemporary Heritage is an ambitious programme of new art that makes dramatic use of some of our outstanding heritage locations. We are delighted to be working with Clitheroe Castle Museum and thrilled that Ailís has accepted the commission. Her installation will bring contemporary art, local people and a unique place together. It will give visitors a very new experience of this wonderful Lancashire landmark.”

—ENDS—

Notes to Editors

If you require further information, images or would like to interview Ailís Ní Ríain or Rebecca Alexander, Visual Arts Programme Manager from Mid Pennine Arts – please call Julian Jordan from BrandSpankin’ on 01282 878 301 or email julian@brandspankin.co.uk. Further Contemporary Heritage installations are planned at Gawthorpe Hall, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and Turton Tower.

About Mid Pennine Arts

We are a driving force for the arts, recognised nationally and internationally for devising and delivering integrated programmes that inspire, surprise and delight. We work in some of the most deprived communities in the UK yet have a longstanding track record of powerful, high quality work, demonstrating profound social and economic impacts. Our portfolio includes prize-winning public art for breathtaking landscape settings. Commissions of bold, contemporary work combine dynamically with exemplary programmes of creative learning and creative community engagement. Strong relationships with extensive networks of local partners have been consolidated over decades.

Our mission: we bring art, people and places together to transform perceptions and change lives.

Mid Pennine Arts Charity registration number 250642