Walking through the narrow lanes of my home town of Wirksworth this weekend, I felt so glad that I discovered this grey market town. Thirty years ago when I first visited with Nick Antram on a smoky autumn afternoon we wandered around Church Walk, paused to listen to music by Messiaen played brilliantly on the church organ, then on up to the twisting lanes of the puzzle gardens and the hills beyond. I fell in love with the town straight away. In those days – before it was discovered - you could buy a cottage for ten thousand pounds. The same building would now be on the market for at least two hundred thousand. Despite that, high on the hills amidst the limestone quarries and old lead mines, Wirksworth still retains its rawness.
This weekend of the annual art and architecture trail the town was bustling with visitors. With over seventy houses transformed into art galleries, there’s far too much to see, so I wandered around, absorbed the
atmosphere, and delighted particularly in the work of four artists.
In the dusty old parish rooms transformed into a space as fine as London gallery, I stumbled into a curtained off room to see the work of Yvonne Jordan, ‘Every Contact Leaves a Trace,’ - a single, high resolution, back-lit
photograph of suburban street in that livid light just before dark when everything is at its most intense. Empty except for a battered Ford Fiesta, a discarded mattress by a wall, distant buildings with dark windows - the street was unbearably bleak and lonely. But backlighting transformed it into place of luminosity and colour. I sat for a long time absorbing the light, the exquisite detail of plant and brick and sky, aware of a calming effect, a sense of coolness behind my eyes. It would be wonderful, and healing I think, to see work
like this on the walls of hospital wards.
In the blacksmith's dimly lit workshop there was a huge mobile filling all the available space - The Blacksmith’s Depositree, an installation by Katherine Vaughan and Greg Storrar. Three concentric circles hung from the ceiling and on lengths of silver wire discarded metal objects, found in the workshop – a metal
flower, old tools, fragments of rusted iron – were attached and spot-lit from above. There were around two hundred objects, and the result was brilliant – a hanging tree, its decorations glistening in the gloom, a quality of fragility and delicacy, accompanied by the recorded sounds of the blacksmith at work.
There were many beautiful moments over the weekend, but the loveliest was walking up to Shaw Quarry late in the afternoon to catch the last hour of Quarry-o-sion, an extraordinary dance performance by Salamanda Tamdem. I often walk the dog in the disused quarry, a huge arena surrounded on three sides by immense limestone cliffs overhung with trees, where the only sound is of starlings gathering or falling rock. In this environment, wearing radio headsets, we listened to pre-recorded sounds of mining, of birdsong,
fragments of stories told by quarryman geologist Geoff Selby-Sly, layered with live observations by Isabel Jones as she navigated her way around this amazing landscape of rock. We watched Isabel dancing with her partner, Indra Slavena – the sensitivity of touch between them, the heightened awareness of place and
space. I could have watched all day and wished I had arrived earlier. I stayed until the end.
Is dance the language of the soul?
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.