A popular County Durham park has provided the inspiration for a group of bell-ringers after their regular meetings were halted by coronavirus lockdown.
A visit to Durham County Council’s Hardwick Park has been recreated in musical form by Sedgefield Handbell Ringers, in a recording which had to be pieced together by its members remotely and virtually while they were unable to meet in person.
The bell-ringers meet weekly at Sedgefield’s Ceddesfield Hall but like the rest of the country they have been unable to gather face-to-face over the course of the latest national lockdown.
In January the group was surprised to receive an invitation to collaborate from Ed Carter, an interdisciplinary artist who specialises in creating site-specific works, on writing a new piece of music inspired by Hardwick Park, on the outskirts of Sedgefield.
Ed has already been chosen by the council to lead a new art project focusing on the architectural history of Hardwick.
In an online meeting with the bell-ringers the artist explained how he wanted to explore the influence of park designer architect James Paine on Hardwick. He also introduced the group to the 1803 poem Hardwick Plantation, which he suggested may provide material for members to work with.
The poem takes readers on a trip around the park’s circuit walk where they encounter a series of follies including the Gothic Seat and the Temple of Minerva, both still popular with visitors today.
The group subsequently met regularly online; sharing ideas, editing the narration and developing melodies and rhythms in the process of creating a musical recording which reflects the journey through the park.
Later in the year, the group is hoping to be able to get back together at Ceddesfield Hall, and have the opportunity to play and record the finished music composition with Ed.
The artist said: “It has been so much fun working with Sedgefield Handbell Ringers, as we’ve overcome the challenges of collaborating remotely during lockdown. Hearing the piece coming together has been such an enjoyable process, and it really captures the creative journey we’ve all taken together.
“Although we haven’t been able to work together in person, we wanted the piece to feel like it belongs in Hardwick Park. I think the combination of the abridged poem, the music, and the reverb captured in the stunning Temple of Minerva, has resulted in a wonderful reflection on the park’s fascinating history.”
Bell ringer Mary Carter said: “Taking part in the project has been an interesting and fun experience. It has helped us develop our sound recording skills on WhatsApp and with the help and support of our project coordinator we are both surprised and pleased with our achievements.”
Kylie Lloyd, the council’s community arts manager said: “We know many people enjoy visiting Hardwick Park, and have special memories of their visits over the years. This project is about celebrating the park and the communities that enjoy it and we are delighted that more people will be able to enjoy Hardwick Park as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted.
“It’s evident that Ed Carter and the Sedgefield Handbell Ringers have been inspired by the place from listening to their work. It’s a real feat to record a piece like this virtually and we hope that they will get the chance to play it together as a group soon.”
The art project being led by Ed is focusing on how connections between historic themes can still be observed within the park’s landscape.
Drawing on the relationships between Hardwick’s built structures, their surroundings, and the wider landscape, it is bringing together staff, volunteers, visitors, and local schools to discuss these themes and contribute individual perspectives.