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Celebrating Landscape and Place

Cathy Hopley has worked alongside In-Situ for many years, in her role leading the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. At the end of this programme, she reflects on a changing view of how art and artists can integrate in understated ways with landscape projects, leading to surprising revelations.

Landscapes inspire me.

I like to 'read' the land, to work out how it has been physically formed.

I am also fascinated by Sense of Place, a term coined by the charity Common Ground, the instigators of Apple Day, parish maps and the A to Z of local distinctiveness.

The sense of a place is made up of the elements that create a landscape: it's so much more than just the view. Think of the sound of church bells, or a curlew's call. Imagine the smells of woodland, peatland, and fresh cut hay. Consider the heritage and the marks it leaves on a place through the seen things (the buildings, field patterns, beautiful dry stone walls and old tracks) and also the unseen things like the geology, archaeology, farming practice, and who owns the land. Time and weather also sculpt the land, they create fresh marks and erode old ways and lines.

A sense of place is the essence of a particular place, the distinctiveness of the ordinary and the common-place. The concept is brought together as a collective idea, through creativity and engagement.

Not surprisingly, I trained as a geographer and I work for an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty' the Forest of Bowland, which includes the iconic Pendle Hill.

LEFT Images of Cathy and working in the Pendle landscape

RIGHT Screening of Isabella Martin's Outlines at The Gatherings, 2021

RIGHT Archeological dig at Malkin Tower Farm, 2018

In my career I have often worked with artists in the landscape, and in a variety of different ways: as creators of public art, building sculptures and installations in the landscape; as community artists, creating banners and lanterns for community events; and with rural touring theatres and makers of film and community performances.

Working with In-Situ, however, has introduced me to the notion that Art doesn’t have to be about an intervention or to leave a mark in the landscape. It can also be a process, a creative tool that inspires and provokes. Art can cause a reaction, heighten curiosity; it can lead people to see things afresh, to ask questions, to take part, to watch or respond. Art can unlock understanding and creatively engage people who may never before have considered that the landscape has any relevance to them.

Images from The Summit, 2021: Caroline Eccles, Huckleberry Films

I've also come to understand that the value of art is not necessarily increased by the number of people who see or take part in it. What is more valuable: a brief visit to a gallery by a thousand people, or a three day experience for ten people where they can work alongside an artist to explore, be inspired, learn and create?

Images: Film stills from Heart of Pendle, Hafsah Bashir and The Deen Centre, 2022

Two of The Gatherings commissions, led by artist Hafsah Bashir and Remodel Manchester creative collective, worked with small groups of women and young people respectively. The resulting work is beautiful and the impacts on the individuals involved are impressive. Participants were given the luxury of time to reflect on their own experience and to interact with artists to create both individual and collective pieces of art

During my work on the Pendle Hill project I've also come to understand that my own creativity is expressed through the way I think and work. Sometimes I have to be very structured in my work: the quality of our delivery is important to me and our funders require data to demonstrate our success. However, I try to take a creative approach at other times: I like to seek out new audiences and participants, explore new ideas and take advantage of opportunities. I look for solutions and connections, I am inspired by the landscape and by others. Am I an artist?

Cathy has worked for the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty since 2004, and since 2016 she has been involved in the development and delivery of the Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership, a £2.6m scheme supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Her work at the AONB has included numerous successful funding bids to support new areas of work including combatting the climate crisis; restoring hay meadows and peatland; developing and promoting sustainable tourism; and small scale heritage projects with the local community. Cathy's current role reflects her personal commitments to inclusion and creative partnerships.


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