Thursday, 18 July 2013

Quiet in Bowhill (Chapter 1.4)

Sitting in front of the Bowhill Giants, I notice something that will become evident at all of the sites. Although the surrounding area is full of motion – the longer I wait, the more dynamic nature appears – the Giants themselves are static. Everything else is swaying in the wind, or being ruffled by the activity of the fauna hidden behind the blossoms. But the Giant heads are still.

Their edges – in particular, one of the heads has a spectacular branch protruding like a single horn to the left – are occasionally shifting while their bulk remains solid. Being the only man-made object in the scene, they become a focus, a point around which nature can rotate. Their stillness enhances the vibrancy of the surrounding flora.

The Giants have taken on a quality of architecture. They are far more discreet – it did take me some time to spot them, and in photographs they blend into the background – but have a different quality to their context.

Ironically, they draw attention to nature’s wildness, to its energy.

Back at the House, I am lucky enough to meet with my Bowhill contact, Helen Currie. I had not expected to see her. As important as my visit undoubtedly is, she had a prior engagement with the queen.

This had been the talk of the Selkirk visitor centre. I hoped that my schedule might bump into the monarch’s route. I was content to chat to Helen over tea in the House’s refectory instead.

Her enthusiasm for both the Borders and Bowhill is infectious – she isn’t native to the area, but has lived there for long enough to recognise its beauty. She is the first person to say that it is ‘underrated,’ which I can only use as my epithet for the area.

She tells me about the estate – it has the oldest theatre in the Borders (still active) and there are two shows arriving during the summer. She also points out that there are residents in the house, and the Estate is very much a going concern, and not just a tourist destination. Between the plays and the adventure playground – and the various walks around the tended grounds, Bowhill estate is a hub of all-age activity.

Helen also describes how the Giant heads were made: local school children added the detail to the framework that Vision Mechanics provided. She offers me a few clues about the Dark Forest event – storytelling will be involved – and remembers the previous year’s show with evident pleasure.
Since these are my first set of heads, I can’t quite take it all in, or understand how they work. A few ideas – they provide a reason to visit a beautiful location, get children out into nature and making. But I am ready to learn more.

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