An uplifting new choral performance by artist Daniel Bye, former Chumbawamba guitarist Boff Whalley and a volunteer choir from Morecambe has been released as a beautiful film.
The film of the project known as These Hills Are Ours was shot in early March before Government lockdown measures for Covid-19 were put in place.
It shows Daniel, Boff and the 42-strong choir singing and walking from the proposed site of Eden Project North on Morecambe seafront to the summit of Clougha Pike in the Forest of Bowland, taking a route around 14 miles long.
The group used public footpaths and off-road tracks, many of which represent historical struggles over land access.
The film, which features the choir performing in some breath-taking locations (and some characteristic Lancastrian weather), was directed by Bevis Bowden and is available to view at https://youtu.be/YMwT4AGbJR4.
These Hills Are Ours began life late last year (2019), part of a series of thought-provoking art commissions which form the first phase of an Eden Project programme of public art in Morecambe, curated by Eden’s Senior Arts Curator Misha Curson.
In December, Daniel and Boff started recruiting the choir and ran workshops to compose the piece. The lyrics were inspired by runs that Daniel and Boff took in the area.
These Hills Are Ours is the story of what they found out – about the relationship between city and country, between wild and controlled, about land ownership, about why we’re drawn to wild places – and about what we are really running from:
From city streets to duckboards, it reminds me that I’m free
From the ocean to a wilder world up high
All these barriers and fences they don’t mean a thing to me
Or the harriers that wheel across the sky
Daniel said: “Collective singing and time in the outdoors have demonstrable and significant impacts on well-being. Likewise exercise, and for some participants 14-ish miles with a climb at the end is a considerable challenge, so you can add a sense of achievement to that list.
“The songs we sang were created in collaboration with the groups who sang them, about their own relationship, as people of this place, with the peak overlooking them and their place. I will carry with me that sense of purpose I shared with those groups, as we walked and sang our collective anthem.”
David Harland, Chief Executive of Eden Project International, said: “These Hills Are Ours is an inspirational and moving love-letter to the varied landscapes surrounding Morecambe Bay, told with tangible passion by Daniel, Boff and the other talented people who have brought this piece to fruition.
“It has particular poignance in the context of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, a period which has seen huge hardships but also many people able to take the time to embrace art, creativity and the natural world.
“For us based in Cornwall and unable to visit Morecambe for the last few months, it is a timely reminder of the uniqueness and beauty of the area and its vibrant, creative community.”
Daniel Bye is a writer, performer and theatre director whose shows have won multiple awards and have toured internationally. Boff Whalley is a guitarist and vocalist and was a founder member of Chumbawamba, best known for their 1997 number one single Tubthumping. Both men are from Lancashire – Daniel from Lancaster and Boff from Burnley – and are enthusiastic runners.
The choir was led by Anni Tracy, who has 20 years of experience as a community choir leader and workshop facilitator.
Bevis Bowden has had his work selected for both the Banff and Kendal Mountain Film Festivals and has worked professionally on a wide variety of projects including documentaries, art films, music videos and drama.
These Hills Are Ours is part of a series of public art commissions designed to herald the opening of Eden Project North.
The programme was curated through an open-call and is led by Misha Curson and a panel of local and national artistic advisors including Mark Ball, Creative Director of Manchester International Festival, Jocelyn Cunningham, Director of Lancaster Arts, Rhian Harris, CEO of Lakeland Arts, Samantha Lackey, Head of Exhibitions at The Whitworth, Kathryn MacDonald and Pete Moser, Development Director and Founder of More Music.
Other projects commissioned during this first phase of the Eden Project’s public art programme in Morecambe include Warmth by Bethany Wells, which saw a wood-fired sauna in a converted horse box take up residence on the Morecambe sea front, and Shop Fronts by Rebecca Burns, a project in which Morecambe-based artists renovate empty shop fronts in the town.
Eden Project North is a landmark new project for Morecambe and is due to be built in a stunning location on the seafront, overlooking the spectacular bay.
It is part of a portfolio of projects being developed by Eden Project International, alongside sister projects in places including China, Australia, New Zealand and Costa Rica. Other UK-based projects include those in Derry~Londonderry, Dundee and Portland.
In a recent community consultation whose results were released in March, 99 per cent of people who attended events or responded online said they were in favour of Eden Project North.
Eden Project International is working with Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancaster University, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council to deliver Eden Project North.