Explore landscape as poetry meets modern technology

A collaboration between the Northumberland National Park Authority and an English poet has led to the launch of a digital trail of spoken poems that can only be accessed at specific locations in the Park.

Poems in the Air is a collection of six new poems by Simon Armitage CBE, which are inspired by serene hidden gems and secret places within England’s most tranquil national park.

Simon Armitage, right, with Northumberland National Park representatives and chief executive Tony Gates at the Poems in the Air launch at Haughton Castle. Picture by Mark Savage

Simon Armitage, right, with Northumberland National Park representatives and chief executive Tony Gates at the Poems in the Air launch at Haughton Castle. Picture by Mark Savage

Using the Poems in the Air mobile app, visitors can follow in Simon’s footsteps and listen to him reading his poems in the exact places that inspired them.

Unusually, Simon’s collection of poems will not be published or visualised in any way, they will only exist as voice recordings and to experience them, visitors have to make their way to the specific location then activate the recording on a mobile phone or tablet.

The reward for making the effort is to hear the poem spoken by Simon in the very location it was written to create a unique moment which should feel intimate, personal, special and private.

Simon spent time with National Park rangers at their favourite places to explore ideal locations for the project.

He said: “I was excited by the concept of poems that are not written down and only exist within landscape.

“It was a simple idea aiming to combine poetry and the landscape to engage people with six places across the Park through the power of the spoken word.

“The concept appealed to me because in terms of the landscape, it is very non-interventionist, relying on the invisible airwaves and whatever communication devices people happen to bring with them.”

To find out more about Poems in the Air and download the app, go to www.poems intheair.co.uk
The six locations featured are: Dove Crag in Harbottle; Shepherd’s Cairn at Ewartly Shank, near Alnham ; Weaver’s Cottage in Stonehaugh;

Riverside walk in Greenhaugh; The Proposal Stone at Simonside; and Old Middleton, near Wooler.

Simon added: “Each poem is my personal, imaginative response to capturing the spirit and feel of these unique places in the Park.

“The app technology offers a 21st-century way of activating poetry in a very atmospheric setting with an element of discovery that encourages visitors to venture out, explore the landscape and be exposed to different ways of looking and thinking about it.”

Poems in the Air is part of Northumberland National Park’s rapidly developing arts and culture programme, which is supported by Arts Council England and connected to The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre at Hadrian’s Wall.

Tony Gates, the Park’s chief executive, said: “We are very excited to launch Poems in the Air with Simon. Through digital technology, we are using the arts to create a very unique way for people to experience the landscape of the National Park.

“The project is in keeping with our ambition for The Sill, which promises to be much more than just a building when it opens next year. Poems in the Air is offering a fresh perspective on ways for people to explore and enjoy the countryside.

“Simon is helping us to challenge public expectations of landscape art by creating works that invite audiences to take the time to venture into the Park and think about what it means to them personally.

“Through innovative partnerships and projects like this, we can use technology to reach out to new audiences and encourage tech-savvy visitors of all ages to come and explore our fantastic wild places and enjoy the special qualities of the National Park and the rich history and heritage of Northumberland.”

The app contains all of the information, maps and directions needed to find each of the six locations that inspired Simon and span the length and breadth of the Park. It is available to download for free on both iOS and Android platforms. It was developed by Newcastle-based creative agency TAC Design Ltd.