This Liberty live event  

Friday 6 October, 6-7.30pm, Hexham Abbey  

Artist Matt Stokes and musician Richard Dawson will reveal how Hexham Old Gaol and its former inmates inspired a set of modern-day ballads, during a one-off event on Friday 6 October.

During the event, which will take place in the Great Hall at Hexham Abbey, Matt Stokes will talk about the creation of This Liberty – a film installation which draws on traditional border ballads and consists of five new songs, each telling the story of a different character associated with the 687-year-old building.

Matt Stokes explains: “Each ballad is sung by a person representing the contemporary equivalent of one of the people who had links with the Gaol – for example, a song about Hexham’s first gaoler, who was a barber by profession, will be sung by someone embodying a present-day barber.”

The characters whose stories are told through the ballads are: John de Cawood, the first gaoler of Hexham who took up his post in 1332; a petty criminal, typical of many who were imprisoned there; a wealthy prisoner based on a notorious border reiver called Gerard ‘Topping’ Charlton who was imprisoned in the 1530s; a local citizen who visited the gaol and gave money or food to poor inmates; and a priest who would have looked after the spiritual needs of the prisoners.

This Liberty has been created in collaboration with musician Richard Dawson, who will give a live performance at the October event. Guests will also have the chance to visit Hexham Old Gaol during the evening to see This Liberty on show within the Gaol building.

North East venues including Hexham Abbey and HMP Durham are the backdrop for the film installation, with each song filmed in a different location, and the ballads are sung by Richard Dawson, George Unthank, Dawn Bothwell, Trev Gibb and Marry Waterson.

A limited number of free places are available for the This Liberty live event. To secure a place, email morag@artsandheritage.org.uk.

This Liberty is on show at Hexham Old Gaol until 31 October 2017.

Matt Stokes is a Gateshead-based artist whose work has been shown internationally, and Richard Dawson is a musician based in Newcastle whose music has received widespread critical acclaim.

The project is part of Meeting Point2, a year-long project led by contemporary art agency Arts&Heritage. Leading UK and international artists have partnered with 10 museums in Yorkshire, the North West and the North East to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.

Rowan Brown, CEO of Woodhorn Charitable Trust said: “This project has been a wonderful opportunity to use ancient musical traditions to draw out some of the gaol’s fascinating stories and to present them with a contemporary twist. It is part of a wider transformation across the Trust as we explore new art forms and approaches to bring contemporary and local relevance to our historic collections. I am extremely grateful to Arts&Heritage and to Arts Council England for generously supporting this project and enabling us to work with the inspirational Matt Stokes and Richard Dawson.”

Funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund, Meeting Point2 presents artworks in unexpected places and supports small and medium scale museums to commission artists, who will create a piece of work in response to the venue.

For more information about Meeting Point2, visit www.artsandheritage.org.uk