Chris Wadsworth
Percy Kelly - Looking East to the Ennerdale Fells
Writer and Art Consultant

10th April 2016

GO HERDWICK

There is sun  glistening on  white fell tops.  There are  daffodils in profusion. There are leaping lambs skittering in the fields and there is the strangest, brightest flock of sheep you will ever come across up here in the Lake District.

I nearly fell over one of them outside the Keswick Museum last week and again at Theatre by the Lake as well as spotting one in the shop window of Fishers’ Outdoor Clothing. In all there are 60 of these life sized Herdwick  ewes  and they are grazing in unusual places along the 555 bus route* in the Central Lake District -  Keswick, Grasmere, Ambleside, Windermere  etc   -  each one  individually and  imaginatively decorated by a Cumbrian artist. You can buy a map of their exact positions  at any number of places See www.goherdwick.co.uk and enjoy finding and  photographing each one and ticking it off. It’s easier than bagging Wainwrights’ but just as much fun. Children love it.

The original concept was the brainchild of Cumbrian born, internationally known artist Conrad Atkinson,  who let  60 artists loose on 60 identical plain white models of  Herdwick sheep - a hardy breed with naturally ‘smiling’ faces.  ‘Think like an artist,’ BBC Arts Director, Will Gompertz  exhorted us at Words by the Water a few weeks ago. Artists see things differently and  in sharing their ideas with us they change the way we look at things too.  Conrad has encouraged just that and the result is amusing, surprising and  heart warming.  They make you smile and after the winter we have experienced - we need it.

* The 555 shuttle bus running hourly between Keswick and Grasmere is a particularly scenic ride at the moment as the A591 was washed away in the storms so it takes an interesting temporary route. It isn't possible to drive along this bit of the route - cars are banned until the old  road is repaired.The normal service bus  takes over at Grasmere.

But these sheep will not come together as a flock until September when they will be gathered  and  later auctioned in October at Rheged  Visitor Centre for the Calvert Trust who are constantly working on new ideas to make the  lives of disabled people more exciting. Based beside  Bassenthwaite Lake the Trust works hard to  make  it possible for physically challenged people to achieve what they thought was impossible. They swim, they sail, they climb, they absail, and they enjoy the outdoor life. The money raised will help to provide more accommodation for clients.

James Rebanks, author of best selling book A Shepherd’s Life has agreed to be a patron of the Herdwick project.  His book has now been adapted as a play which is showing at Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. The stage flock and accompanying sheep dogs  are cleverly made puppets operated by the people who made War Horse for the National Theatre. It only takes a few minutes to forget they are puppets. It has had excellent reviews in the press and  runs until 26th April. Box Office: 017687 74411 www.theatrebythelake.com

Don’t forget that I am ‘doing a turn’ at the lovely Heron Theatre in Beetham just south of Kendal next Friday night with some reminiscences  (backed up by images)  of life as a gallery owner. At £5 a ticket – it’s a bargain!

Life Class is still selling well and I’m getting good reviews and lots of nice e mails from readers.  If you buy  or have bought it on Amazon or if you have had difficulties buying it from them  please will you let me know as I think something has gone awry in this complex behemoth of an organisation.  Oh – and  write a review if you can.

See you Friday at the Heron.

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