Our 2020 exhibitions explore everything from the birds in the sky to the fish in the sea

18 September 2020

Where are the birds taking me? by Lisa Hooper and Ken Cockburn

Retrospective by Astrid Jaekel

Out of the Blue by photographer and filmmaker artist Colin Tennant

From herons and ravens to the harvest of the sea – Wigtown Book Festival is preparing to stage three online exhibitions highlighting nature, culture and community in south west Scotland.

Where are the birds taking me? features original prints of nine different birds by the multiple award winning wildlife artist Lisa Hooper, based in Port William.

Each illustrates a poem by Ken Cockburn (written after being awarded the 2018-19 annual Spring Fling and Wigtown Book Festival residency) about ancient place names of Dumfries and Galloway that were inspired by the birds which gathered there.

These include Knockiecore, from the Gaelic Cnoc na' corr and meaning hill of the herons, near Old Luce in Wigtownshire or Brandy Burn, from the Gaelic brandubh, raven black, at Kirkconnel, Dumfriesshire.

The collaboration between Ken and Lisa came about after he toured the studios of artists taking part in Spring Fling, Scotland’s top open studios weekend, looking at the work of visual artists who depicted birds.

Ken said: “I loved Lisa’s work when I went to her studio and she had been to the reading I had done about my poems in Wigtown at last year’s festival, so it seemed like a perfect idea for us to work together. And the prints she has created are absolutely beautiful.”

While some of the birds, such as herring gulls, wrens, blackbirds and goldfinches may still be familiar sights in the region, the chough is now rare and the corncrake has vanished altogether – with only place names like Drumatrane (ridge of the corncrake) to recall them.

Lisa said: “It’s so interesting that place names reveal a pattern of species loss of which we are slowly becoming all too aware. It was this revelation that particularly fascinated me about Ken’s work.”

The other exhibitions further underline the close relationship between Wigtown Book Festival (taking place from 24 September to 4 October) and Spring Fling as two the region’s leading cultural events.

There will be a retrospective of work in Wigtown by Astrid Jaekel who is a former Spring Fling artist in residence at the festival.

She has since returned to carry out a number of projects, including wallpapering the outside of a dozen buildings throughout the town with designs that reflected their histories as everything from fish and chip shop to a bookmaker’s. The retrospective will include reinstalling Astrid’s Windows of Wigtown exhibition in the town itself.

Out of the Blue is by Colin Tennant who is also the photographer and filmmaker for both Spring Fling and Wigtown Book Festival (and this year’s festival will feature a series of short films he has made about Wigtown’s salt marshes, about festival volunteers and about the bookshops of Scotland’s National Book Town).

The photographic exhibition features pictures – some of them not previously seen – from a year-long project in 2015 which explored South West Scotland's commercial seafood industry.

Commissioned by the Solway Firth Partnership (and supported as part of Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters) it documents the people, places and environments that support and shape locally landed seafood around the Solway coast.

Colin said: “Seafood has sustained the people of southern Scotland for the past 10,000 years and is still an integral part of local and rural life.

“However, the industry is often misunderstood or ignored. Scallops, oysters, lobster and crab provide the main catch, but little is sold locally or even nationally and most is exported to central Europe.

“My aim was to raise awareness about locally caught seafood and the important role it plays in supporting and sustaining rural economies and communities in this overlooked corner of Scotland.”

Adrian Turpin, artistic director of Wigtown Book Festival, said: “As this year’s festival has had to move online we are finding all sorts of different ways to bring our region to the world.

“So we have built on our relationship with Spring Fling, and with visual artists all across Dumfries and Galloway, to create exhibitions that each express something different and distinctive about its culture, character, history and environment.”