Students respond to Northumberland’s dark skies for anniversary

This December marks the 10th anniversary of Northumberland International Dark Sky Park, an area encompassing the whole of Northumberland National Park and most of Kielder Water and Forest Park, dedicated to conserving the most pristine dark sky found within Europe.

As one of several events and exhibitions to mark this impressive milestone, Unison Colour, a  handcrafted artists’ pastel company based in the National Park, collaborated with staff from The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre to create a limited-edition Dark Sky Mini Set of pastels, inspired by Northumbrian dark skies.

The set was given to eight students from Newcastle University to use during a five-day residency at Visual Arts in Rural Communities (VARC) Highgreen, a local arts charity, in which they were invited to create artworks inspired by the dark skies.

During their residency they visited Unison Colour and saw how pastels were made and even had a go at making them themselves.

They tried their hand at a spot of stargazing with the National Park Dark Sky expert Duncan Wise who is the Visitor and Tourism Development Officer at Northumberland National Park Authority. However, the conditions were not favourable and so instead the students heard about the history of the Dark Sky Park and the importance of protecting the night skies.

The students spent the rest of the week at Highgreen, working both in the studio and outside despite the adverse weather conditions! VARC’s Artist-in-residence, Christy Burdock, was also on-hand to provide invaluable advice, which the students greatly appreciated.

The resulting artworks are beautifully diverse, showcasing the individuality of each artist and the unique, intimate responses they had to the dark sky and landscape.

Each student’s works will be exhibited at The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, opposite the welcome desk, from Monday 20 November – Thursday 30 November.

The Dark Sky Mini Sets will be available to purchase in The Sill’s shop from Saturday 9 December.