A unique collaboration between the iconic English poet Simon Armitage CBE and the Northumberland National Park Authority has led to the launch of a digital treasure trail of spoken poems that can only be accessed on mobile devices at specific locations throughout the Park.
‘Poems in the Air’ is a collection of six new poems by Simon which are inspired by serene hidden gems and secret places within England’s most tranquil national park. Using the ‘Poems in the Air’ mobile app visitors can follow in Simon’s footsteps and listen to him reading his poems in the exact places that inspired them.
Unusually, Simon’s collection of poems will not be published or visualised in any way, they will only exist as voice recordings, and to experience them, visitors have to make their way to the specific location then activate the recording on a mobile phone or tablet.
The reward for making the effort is to hear the poem spoken by Simon in the very location it was written to create a unique moment which should feel intimate, personal, special, and private.
Simon spent time with National Park Rangers at their favourite places to explore ideal locations for the project.
He said: “I was excited by the concept of poems that are not written down, and only exist within landscape. It was a simple idea aiming to combine poetry and the landscape to engage people with six places across the Park through the power of the spoken word.
“The concept appealed to me because in terms of the landscape it is very non-interventionist, relying on the invisible airwaves and whatever communication devices people happen to bring with them.
“Each poem is my personal, imaginative response to capturing the spirit and feel of these unique places in the Park. The app technology offers a 21st century way of activating poetry in a very atmospheric setting with an element of discovery that encourages visitors to venture out, explore the landscape and be exposed to different ways of looking and thinking about it,” explains Simon.
‘Poems in the Air’ is part of Northumberland National Park’s rapidly developing arts and culture programme which is supported by Arts Council England and connected to The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre at Hadrian’s Wall.
The Sill, which is set to open in 2017, is a £14.8 million partnership project led by the National Park Authority and supported by a £7.8 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). It will open up the landscape and surrounding areas to create more opportunities for people of all ages to explore the National Park and support the delivery of more than 1,000 unique events between 2017 and 2020.
Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park, said: “We are very excited to launch Poems in the Air with Simon. Through digital technology we are using the arts to create a very unique way for people to experience the landscape of the National Park.
“The project is in-keeping with our ambition for The Sill, which promises to be much more than just a building when it opens next year. ‘Poems in the Air’ is offering a fresh perspective on ways for people to explore and enjoy the countryside.
“Simon is helping us to challenge public expectations of landscape art by creating works that invite audiences to take the time to venture into the Park and think about what it means to them personally.
“Through innovative partnerships and projects like this, we can use technology to reach out to new audiences and encourage tech-savvy visitors of all ages to come and explore our fantastic wild places and enjoy the special qualities of the National Park and the rich history and heritage of Northumberland.”
The ‘Poems in the Air’ app contains all of the information, maps and directions needed to ﬁnd each of the six locations that inspired Simon and span the length and breadth of the Park.
The app is available to download for free on both IOS and Android platforms. It was developed by Newcastle-based creative agency TAC Design Ltd.
James Carroll, Director at TAC Design, said: “From the moment we heard about Simon’s concept the project was something we really wanted to be involved in. We’re always up for unique challenges that allow us to do something that hasn’t been done before and this project was a great opportunity to do exactly that. The stunning landscapes made the technical challenge of getting the app to work in remote locations an exciting process and allowed us to visit areas in the Park we’d not been to before.
“Our approach to designing the app was to try and inspire people who perhaps haven’t visited the Park before, and to provide an innovative way to explore some of the lesser known places away from the well-known tourist sites. Working with Northumberland National Park and Simon has been a great experience for TAC and we hope this comes across when people use the app.”
The six locations featured are:
- Dove Crag in Harbottle is a rewarding woodland walk leading to a natural amphitheatre and a secret waterfall.
- Shepherd’s Cairn at Ewartly Shank near Alnham is a little-known memorial to two shepherds lost in a blizzard.
- Weaver’s Cottage in Stonehaugh is a tumbled down dwelling overlooking the pretty Warks Burn.
- Riverside walk in Greenhaugh is a tranquil meander past hay meadows and through woodland to the Tarset Burn.
- The Proposal Stone at Simonside is a site of poignant local history discovered on Simonside ridge.
- Old Middleton near Wooler is an abandoned medieval village nestled into the landscape.
Earlier this year, Northumberland National Park was voted ‘National Park of the Year’ in the prestigious BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards. The award is particularly special because Northumberland National Park won as the result of a public ballot.