The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices

An immersive - and critically important exhibition opens this weekend at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre
July 20, 2022

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed literary phenomenon, The Lost Words, The Lost Spells invites readers to summon back what is often lost from sight and care by reading aloud spell-poems that conjure the sights and sounds of the natural world. 

The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre will showcase original artworks by Jackie Morris alongside poems written by Robert Macfarlane. An interactive touch screen will allow visitors to create their own songs of nature using live recordings of wildlife including owl, fox, and curlew. A digital glossary featuring Jackie’s artwork from The Lost Spells will introduce wildlife native to the UK and Northumberland National Park, explaining more about their natural habitats. 

A series of spoken word pieces, wild nature calls and acoustic music created by musicians from the Spell Songs ensemble - the musical evolution of The Lost Words and The Lost Spells books - will create an ambient soundscape which invites audiences to listen to what nature is telling us.  

Owl, The Lost Spells, copyright Jackie Morris  

Artist, Jackie Morris, said: “It is more important than ever to listen to the many voices of the more than human creatures that share this land. The Sill is built in a place surrounded by wild lives and I cannot think of a better venue for this exhibition. The swallows in The Lost Spells were drawn from birds nesting on the building next door, curlew call overhead, owls are close and the landscape is stunning in all its weathers.”

Writer, Robert Macfarlane, said: "The fabulously varied landscapes of the North East are close to my heart - from coast to moor, forest to hill-top - so it's a joy to see our book The Lost Spells at the centre of this brilliantly curated and original exhibition at The Sill. I hope that it will help visitors young and old to listen afresh to nature's wild wonders, and to tune in to the lives, songs and voices of the creatures and plants with whom we share the world." 

The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices is curated by The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, which marks its 5th anniversary in 2022. The Sill hosts a range of exhibitions, programmes and events designed to connect people with the landscape, and is the gateway through which people can explore the unique and special landscape of Northumberland National Park. 

Sarah Burn, Head of Engagement at Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “It has been a privilege to explore Robert and Jackie’s work in fine detail and curate the latest exhibition for The Lost Spells. Together, they have reignited people’s passion for wildlife, nature and landscape around the UK. We are honoured Jackie chose to collaborate with The Sill and gift us with the opportunity to launch the exhibition in Northumberland.   

“As well as being a celebration of their spellbinding work, this new exhibition is a chance for visitors to learn more about Britain’s native species, many of which can be found in Northumberland National Park, and how together we can protect them for future generations to enjoy.  

“Inspired by the poems in The Lost Spells, which are designed to be read aloud, we’ve used audio throughout the exhibition to encourage visitors to listen to the sounds of nature and consider how habitat loss, climate change and our collective impact on biodiversity could see some of these sounds lost forever. 

“We’re excited to present The Lost Spells exhibition and host it here in Northumberland, where we have the opportunity to galvanise people’s support to conserve and protect the natural world.” 

The exhibition will also feature a recording of a song by vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer, Cosmo Sheldrake. Children will be able to write their own spell-poems before speaking them into the wind, dress-upas wildlife, and take part in arts and crafts based activities led by Northumberland National Park Rangers. There will also be a range of self-led walks for people to explore the National Park’s landscape. 

An engagement programme delivered by The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre will run alongside the exhibition, including creative workshops, Ranger activities, walks and talks, and a learning and education programme. 

To mark the official opening of The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices, a celebratory opening weekend will take place on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July. People will be able to make their own wands to cast spells into nature, and there will also be a Jackdaw Challenge to see who can perform the jackdaw, an almost rap-like tongue twister from The Lost Spells. 

The Lost Spells: Listening to a Landscape of Voices opens at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland on Saturday 23 July 2022 and runs until 4 June 2023. 

For more information, visit www.thesill.org.uk 

For more information about The Lost Spells, visit www.thelostwords.org/lostspellsbook  

Header Image: Curlew, The Lost Spells, copyright Jackie Morris 

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