Our Dark Hearts

Night sky dioramas made by participants

Our Dark Hearts

In 2021 I delivered a pilot project for Fellfoot Forward, looking at the colours of Autumn in the Fellfoot area.

We were commissioned by the North Pennines AONP Partnership to deliver a larger project – which I called Our Dark Hearts. This was delivered by The Curious School – our CIC collective name.

In Our Dark Hearts we wanted to explore what living beneath our dark skies was like in the Fellfoot area – both now, and in the past. We developed a cross-disciplinary arts project supporting communities to deepen our understanding of the beauty and timelessness of our night skies here, through time, and through experience. We were also interested in how our companion animals and horses in particular, behave in the dark.

What was the sensory experience of navigating in the darkness, without light? How would it have been experienced by the Border Reivers, before electricity? How do horses behave with us, in the dark?

We worked with Langwathby C of E school, and residents from the Fellfoot area. With Otter Class, at  Langwathby School, we found out about our darker Border Reivers history – children were surprised to find that some of them would have been Reivers descendants, and that their old barns may have seen some action in the past.

Children made a relief sculpture of a Reiver raid, learning about our night-time fauna (and how some are now extinct in this country), gouache resist paintings, comics re-telling Border Reivers stories from old ballads, and even had a go at sword-fighting!

Border Reivers comic by the pupils of Langwathby C of E School (cover image by Gavin Pollock)

With adults we delivered an exploratory workshops programme together with night walks – in which we produced a variety of creative experiments such as making planispheres, Night Sky interpretation diorama boxes, silk painting and contributed to the project poetry film.

Border Reivers raid in relief sculptures
Gouache resist examples of a night scene, and Galloway ponies

A high point was a Fell pony night walk, by kind permission of Libby Robinson of the Fell Pony Heritage Trust, in which a group walked up the fells, in the dark to spend time walking with some feral fell ponies. The outcome of that is produced in a poetry film here.

Darkness falls whilst we are on the fells with feral fell ponies
Privileged to meet the ponies, in their night world

With huge thanks to the Fellfoot Forward Landscape Partnership Scheme, for commissioning us for this wonderful project.

If you want to be inspired some more, you can find out about the following by following these links:

Dark Skies Festival here

Things to see in the sky each month here

Moon names (did you know each full moon has a name?) here

“Night Blight” map (it does take a while to load when you zoom in or out) here

and some inspirational night sky quotes here