Artists create film based on Swaledale with score produced by river harp in Swale

• Sam McLoughlin and his river harp in the Swale for the Swalesong film.

Two artists have produced a film inspired by Swaledale with includes a musical score produced by a river harp in the Swale.

The project is part of a fresh take on North Yorkshire’s history and heritage created by artists and county residents, which is being shared with the public.

The exhibition is the culmination of the Unfolding Origins project, which has seen three artists in residence create a multimedia experience inspired by North Yorkshire’s historic archive at the County Record Office.

Unfolding Origins has supported the creation of art and new ways for the public to engage with North Yorkshire’s archival collections from Selby, Richmond and Ryedale.

The three artists began their research in the archive, seeing where the records took them. Each residency culminated in a local exhibition. These have now been brought together at the County Record Office.

In Richmond, artists Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan produced a collaborative film exploring Swaledale, taking inspiration from the landscape, maps and waterways and how they have developed.

Swalesong also features photographs by the Kearton Brothers, Swaledale residents and pioneering wildlife photographers of the early 1900s.

The film’s score was created by Sam McLoughlin, who recorded his river harp in the current of the Swale.

The soundtrack also includes historic audio interviews with local people who remember Neddy Dick, an eccentric 19th century musician who was well known for instruments made from nature.

In parallel with Nick Jordan and Jacob Cartwright’s work, filmmaker John Kirkbride worked with Hawes Youth Group, encouraging them to create a modern archive about how they feel about where they live.

Collectively, the young people decided on 15 words that depict Hawes and explored the words through photography and film, which form part of the exhibition.

Margaret Boustead, head of archives and record management, said: “The archives held at the County Record Office tell an amazing story of the people and places of the county over many centuries. We want as many people as possible to experience the archive as a living record.

“This exhibition helps to do that by bringing a handful of the archive’s stories to life through fresh eyes. I hope many people are able to visit us at the County Record Office between now and 29 July to see the work for themselves.”

The exhibition is free to view at North Yorkshire County Record Office, Malpas Road, Northallerton, from Tuesday to Friday, 9am to 4pm, until July 29.

The project is a collaboration between North Yorkshire County Record Office, Chrysalis Arts Development (CAD) and other partners, including Selby District Council, Ryedale District Council, Richmondshire District Council, ArtUK, Arts Council England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan’s Richmondshire project

Filmmakers Jacob and Nick quickly focused on the River Swale after securing the Richmondshire Unfolding Origins project.

“The archive is so vast,” said Mr Jordan. “I think there is something like eight miles of shelving, so we thought early on we’d try to narrow things down. The Swale emerged quickly.

“It appealed to us in terms of the history of place, of people and the river could become a symbol to thread things together. Our work often layers together natural history and cultural and social history.

“Initially, we looked at the river south of Richmond, but once we had delved further into the archive we decided to look at the source of the Swale. We started to research areas around the source and Keld became a focus point.”

This led them to a local history display in the village and a chat with the local archivist.

“That’s how we first heard about Neddy Dick, who lived there in the late 19th century and was well known for his musical instruments that he used to play sounds from nature, he used nature to create the sounds,” said Mr Jordan.

“For example, he would wire up tree branches to his harmonium, and he made a lithophone, which was new to us.

“It is an instrument made from rocks that he pulled out of the Swale.”

At the County Record Office they learned of wildlife photography pioneers the Kearton brothers, who were born in Keld and were active around the same time as Neddy Dick.

The Swale, Neddy Dick and the Keartons became key elements in the film, supported by a natural soundtrack by the filmmakers’ friend, musician Sam McLoughlin, whose river harp was placed in the Swale to generate sounds, fitting neatly with Neddy Dick.

“None of this was planned,” said Mr Jordan. “Me and Jacob have an improvised approach.

“We try to keep an open mind and have an exploratory way of going about things. We try to respond to places, people we meet or material we find and look for surprises.”

Extracts provided by the Keld history group from interviews recorded in the 1960s were added to the soundtrack. In them, a man and a woman who recall Neddy Dick and his musical instruments.

“The other thing we were interested in was the apparatus of the archive itself, the microfiche readers,” said Mr Jordan.

“They operate with film, so as filmmakers we loved using them. In our film, there are shots of the archive material being run through the microfiche readers.

“The archive is such a wealth of latent material waiting to be revealed.

“It was a case of trying to animate the content, but also the nature of the archive itself. We wanted to use the location as well and bring it into the film.”