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NWT Barton Broads hosts memorable light artwork 

Tuesday 21 June, 2022

Lumenators in a fleet of Heritage vessels including Wherry yachts, Punts and Half Deckers joined by kayaks and dinghies created a memorable light artwork at dusk on NWT Barton Broad in the Broads National Park.

Green Space Dark Skies, led by Walk the Plank, worked with local partners and artists to create a magical event at NWT Barton Broad celebrating the beauty of the Broads National Park. 

The historic event brought together the largest collection of heritage boats seen on NWT Barton Broad with local communities, many of whom had never visited before. Partners included the Broads Authority (Broads National Park), Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Nancy Oldfield Trust, Norfolk Punt Club, local boating organisations and heritage boat owners. 

Gathering at Barton, one of over 60 Broads in the National Park around dusk on Wednesday 15 June, local participants including disabled and homeless people who are rarely able to access the water of the Broads, became Lumenators for a stunning Green Space Dark Skies secret gathering. Developed by outdoor art experts Walk the Plank, Green Space Dark Skies is part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK running from April to September 2022. 

Norfolk residents are now invited to join in the project by sharing their own connections to the landscape and the local areas through Green Space Stories, a free online story archive. This and the short films created from the events will form a valuable legacy of the project, accessible to anyone interested in our relationship with land and our responsibilities to the landscape.

A newly composed acoustic soundtrack by Oliver Payne from Musical Keys in Norwich was created to complement the surrounding sounds and environment. 

A narrative, specially commissioned for the film by Cromer-based writer Hugh Lupton, focused on themes such as Barton Broad’s unique history and importance, beauty, nature and wildlife. The resulting short film (circa 5 minutes) will give everyone the chance to experience the event via the Green Space Dark Skies website soon. 

Local groups with staff who joined in included Great Yarmouth based charities Herring House Trust, GYROS and Feathers Futures as well as the Nancy Oldfield Trust.

The Barton Broad event has been produced by John Wassell, Green Space Dark Skies’ Creative Producer who is an experienced sailor and former boat-builder. John co-founded Walk the Plank in 1992, transforming an old Norwegian ferry into Europe’s first touring theatre ship, sailing the coastline of the British Isles, bringing theatrical experiences to people and communities around the UK.

John Wassell said: “Illuminating one of the most precious wetland habitats in the UK - for one hour at dusk - is important to our ambitions to create more guardians of our landscapes. To do this with the combined heritage fleets of wherry yachts, half deckers and Edwardian pleasure wherries is extraordinary - they are a precious part of this landscape, as are the sailors within them, many of whom may never have had the chance to do something like this before.” 

Carrying a Geolight specially developed by Siemens to minimise its impact on wildlife and dark skies, Lumenators helped to celebrate nature and everyone’s right to explore the countryside. The Geolights have built-in GPS technology that enables the creation of patterns in the landscape. 

Liz Pugh from Walk the Plank said: “It's been the most extraordinarily beautiful slow-motion regatta bringing together some of the Broads oldest fleets. We've got the Heritage yachts and the Edwardian Wherries, and then we've also got modern boats specially adapted for people with disabilities. So on the water tonight there are people who've not been on the water before. We've got a group from Great Yarmouth, a group of women, for whom this is a very extraordinary experience, an invitation to participate in something that is totally memorable.”

Martin from the Herring House Trust said: “I love being on the Broads in the water and I was brought up on a boat in the water and I love it. It was really good to be on a Wherry boat as I’ve not been on a Wherry before and it was good to be shown around one. I just like the calm and the peace on the Broads and I just love being there, the sunset on the water - there's nothing like it! It was nice to have been invited to do this.”

The event at Barton Broad was one of a wider series of events taking place across the UK in the coming months, that will culminate in a finale taking place on and around the UK’s four peaks: Snowdon, Scafell Pike, Slieve Donard and Ben Nevis.
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