Illuminated sheep arts trail to light up Northumberland this autumn

Illuminated Sheep will appear across Northumberland up until December 2.

Illuminated sheep art work at Bamburgh with artist Deepa Mann-Kler
 (photo: Raoul Dixon)
Illuminated sheep art work at Bamburgh with artist Deepa Mann-Kler (photo: Raoul Dixon)

A brand new visual arts trail will light up Northumberland to celebrate the arrival of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East this autumn.

Illuminated Sheep by Deepa Mann-Kler is inspired by the Gospels’ themes of light, sheep and pilgrimage, and will see a flock of life-sized sheep lit up in bright colours at some of the region’s most iconic locations including Bamburgh Castle, Vindolanda and Woodhorn Museum.

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Individual sheep will then be adopted and customised by local communities across the county to create a free Art Trail, before the flock are rounded up for a final gathering at the Festival of Flame at Hexham Abbey on December 2.

Deepa Mann-Kler with children from Seahouses Primary School who will adopt a sheep for the Art Trail (photo: Raoul Dixon)

Commissioned by Northumberland County Council, Illuminated Sheep is being developed and managed by Queen's Hall Arts and the Hexham Culture Network. It is part of the Cultural Programme of Hexham High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) and is funded by North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Queen’s Hall artistic director Katy Taylor said: “Illuminated Sheep will show our fantastic county in a new light, encouraging both visitors and locals to get out and about to explore Northumberland’s unique landscape, heritage and culture as they find the flock this autumn.

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“By offering a chance to adopt the sheep as well as exhibiting the whole flock at some of the county’s most iconic venues, this project aims to bring communities together in a celebration of the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to our region, creating a playful modern day pilgrimage that’s accessible to everyone.”

Deepa Mann-Kler is an internationally renowned multidisciplinary artist, primarily creating neon and light installations that explore concepts of belonging and identity that are deeply rooted in communities. She has exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions in China, America, Germany and Ireland, and her previous work in the North East of England includes Lumiere in Durham.

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Queen's Hall Artistic Director + Artist Deepa Mann-Kler at Bamburgh Castle (photo: Raoul Dixon)

Deepa said: “Working with the team at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham to bring Illuminated Sheep to Northumberland has been a challenging, rewarding and a deeply fulfilling experience. I am so excited to see the full flock appear in the landscape. We need light, colour and humour now more than ever and as the nights art to draw in, I really hope that audiences flock to the installations and find joy in this shared experience.”

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There will also be a free programme of activities for schools and families, including creative workshops, activities in Libraries across the county, and an online activity pack created by North East artist Bridget Hamilton available to everyone.

Illuminated Sheep is part of Lindisfarne Gospels 2022 - a programme of events inspired by the display of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the North East in autumn 2022.This will be the first time the ancient book, the most spectacular manuscript to survive from Anglo-Saxon England, has been displayed in the city since 2000 and its first showing in the region since an exhibition in Durham in 2013.

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On loan from the British Library, the manuscript will take centre stage in an exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne from September 17 – December 3, 2022.

Pupils from Seahouses Primary School will adopt one of the sheep for a county wide Art Trail (photo: Raoul Dixon)
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Councillor Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority Cabinet Member for Culture, Creative and Rural said: “Northumberland County Council is delighted to be commissioning this engaging and inclusive project.

"We are proud to support innovative artists that connect our heritage and communities and we hope this will be an enjoyable and memorable way to celebrate welcoming the Gospels back to the region.”

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Illuminated Sheep will be at Bamburgh Castle until October before moving to Vindolanda from October 7-9, Woodhorn Museum from October 14-16, and the Festival of Flame at Hexham Abbey on December 2.

An Art Trail of 40+ individual sheep adopted and customised by local communities can be found across Northumberland from October half term until the end of November as an Art Trail. Entry fees apply at venues hosting the flock, the Art Trail is free.

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More information including times, locations and public transport, bike and walking routes can be found at www.queenshall.co.uk/events/illuminated-sheep or using #FindTheFlock @illumsheep on social media.

Illuminated Sheep is being developed and managed by Hexham Cultural Network on behalf of Hexham High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) and led by Queen’s Hall Arts. HSHAZ is an ambitious scheme seeking to deliver major improvements to boost the town centre and enhance the Conservation Area.

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It is a partnership between Historic England, Northumberland County Council, Hexham Town Council and the Hexham Community Partnership, working with the local community. The project is funded by Arts Council England, North of Tyne Combined Authority, Hexham Town Council and Northumberland County Council.

For the Art Trail, 40+ individual sheep adopted and customised by local communities can be found across Northumberland from October half term until the end of November. Locals and visitors are encouraged to find their inner shepherd, exploring the region’s rich landscape, heritage and culture to #FindTheFlock at shops, businesses and schools across the county.

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For more information including locations, timings and bike, walking and public transport links, plus a programme of free workshops and activities, visit www.queenshall.co.uk/events/illuminatedsheep website.

Illuminated Sheep event listings

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• At Bamburgh Castle, September 30 - October 2

• Vindolanda, October 7 - 9

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• Woodhorn Museum, October 14-16

• Art Trail, October 24 – November 30

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• Hexham Abbey Festival of Flame, December 2