Looking at Durham in a new light

I hadn’t been to Durham in years. I’ve been twice now in the space of a couple of months.

But why Durham? Newcastle gets all the cultural headlines – the Turner Prize exhibition opens at Baltic from October 21. Alnwick Castle gets all the film fans; Lindisfarne the pilgrims.

But Durham? Well, it’s a bit like my home town of Chester: historic, picturesque but, ultimately, a bit staid. Isn’t it?

The Journey by Fenwick Lawson

Lighten up

Actually, no. Durham hosts the UK’s biggest light festival, Lumiere, from November 17 to 20.

The four-day public-art installation brings some 30-plus installations, created by artists from across the globe (including the UK’s Tracy Emin), to public spaces around the city.

One of the highlights this year is a repeat of Crown of Light, projecting the story of the Lindisfarne Gospels (returning to Durham in 2013) against the 11th-century stone canvas of Durham Cathedral.

Wise words

There’s more public art across the city. My favourite was tucked away on a walking trail from the historic centre to Durham University’s Botanic Garden.

Amongst the autumn-turning leaves of maple, oak and cherry, the tranquil grounds reveal the Kindersley Engraving, a stanza of verse by the Newcastle-born modernist poet Basil Bunting.

The Kindersley Engraving, featuring words by Basil Bunting

His advice?

Words! Pens are too light. Take a chisel to write.

Black gold

The man from the Telegraph was around Durham recently, too, talking a bit too much about coal and not enough about change.

From my visit, exploring the past to reflect the future was the key to appreciating Durham in a new light.

It’s like Jacki Winstanley of open-air museum Beamish told me: “We need to know where we came from to understand where we’re going.”

Read my story in the Express in November.

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