Words: Richard Skelton
In 2011, exchanging one coast for another, my wife Autumn and I returned to south-west Cumbria from mid-west Ireland. We had lived in, and made work about, the region before, but this time we headed further into the interior, to higher ground. We found a small, nameless valley in the outlying fells of Lakeland, and rented a cottage lodged beneath a steep (or in the local dialect, stickle) tract of fell side. It was an area untroubled by tourists, mobile phone signals or light pollution. In fact, something of the darkness of night permeated most of our days there. In many respects it seemed an in-between landscape, neither solid nor liquid, constantly visited by rain, mist and cloud; the saturated fields often glimmering, the rills brimming, the fosses running white with foam.
I began writing, recording music and filming almost immediately. ‘Life up here,’ I wrote early on, ‘amidst elemental nature and the tumbled stones, seems more precarious, and therefore more precious.’ I found it fruitful to write by simply finding a place in the landscape in which to sit, observe and think. The music, too, seemed to emanate from, or hover around, a point of stasis. Similarly, it was the ‘static’ film footage that worked the best. Minimum interference or artifice. Just position yourself and let the landscape impress itself upon the medium. And so the material gradually began to accumulate, as the months and years went by.
In many ways the film, though small, encapsulates much of what I wanted to achieve, artistically, whilst living in Cumbria. Through its drawing together of words, music and images, it is perhaps the most layered piece of work I’ve thus far produced. I started out making short films over a decade ago, drawn to the all-encompassing vision that the medium afforded. Beyond the Fell Wall represents something of a return. The story, which forms a postscript to the book, reflects my interest in folklore and mythology, and represents a distillation of some of the themes that have occupied my previous work: ideas of agency within the landscape, of animate and inanimate life, of sentience and animism.
Richard Skelton will be joining us at our Bush Hall event on 15 November where he’ll be in conversation with Radiohead’s Colin GreenwoodMore info here
The book, Beyond The Fell Wall is published last week by Litle Toller. Copies are available from the Caught by the River shop, priced £12.