Ailsa Holland: Books, Hills and Crimplene

Ailsa Holland talks about being Barnaby Festival’s first Artist in Residence. 

It is wonderful to be closely involved with Barnaby Festival. Being Artist in Residence enables me to call on various skills to create things I love. Iʼve done projects for Barnaby before – a Woven Poem in 2012; The Lost Tale of Gawain with Jonathan Chadwick in 2013; and Under Silk Wood with Jo Bell in 2014.

This year Iʼm working on two projects as Artist in Residence. Back Wallgate Books will be a tiny free library and reading space in a pair of old niches in a town centre alley. Iʼm really looking forward to seeing this realised. I have a great love of books and libraries and have already set up one free library – the Library in the Landscape at Teggʼs Nose Country Park near Macclesfield – which has just celebrate its third birthday. My second project is Hills Up Streets. The idea for this came from Jane Munro, inspired by Philip Larkinʼs description of Hull as a town of ʻships up streetsʼ. Being able to see the hills from the town is one of the things I love about Macclesfield. The glimpses of green that we get while going about our daily lives connect us to the landscape and lift our spirits. Hills Up Streets consists of ten poems painted onto the pavement at viewpoints around the town. We hope that people will stop and read the poems and, most importantly, look at the view and have a moment of contemplation in the busyness of life. The poemsʼ sites are marked on the map in the Barnaby brochure and online.

Iʼm also working on two projects as a volunteer – the Crimplene Heritage Museum also with Jane Munro; and an exhibition, Lost Spaces, with artists from Studio Twentysevenb.

Barnaby was ʻrebornʼ as a festival a few years after I moved to Macclesfield with my family so Iʼve been able to see how itʼs transformed the town.  I love the way it provides entertainment and inspiration for people of many different ages and interests – and that there is always lots of stuff to do and see for free as well as the ticketed events. This is possible because the Board of Trustees and festival team work hard to get funding, and because so many volunteers give their time. Itʼs a magical thing, so many people working together to enable their community to have these experiences. Iʼm so happy and proud to be a part of that.

Photo by Ant Mulyran

Ailsa Holland and Lili Holland-Fricke (on cello) perform Under Silk Wood (with Jo Bell, out of shot)