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Seeing Through Stone


4 July – 30 November 2009Exhibition poster showing layers of stone, a map of Portland and faces of people who have contributed to the project

A GIANT aerial view of Portland will be beamed down on the floor for a fascinating exhibition on the history of stone running throughout the summer in the Drill Hall.

The picture will be overlaid with images of Portland Sculpture Quarry Trust’s work in all areas of the island, to provide a dramatic demonstration of how the trust has kept the stories of the quarries alive in the hearts of islanders. Islanders, artists geologists and scientists have been filmed for short pieces of footage, telling of how they have been inspired by the stone, including 100-year-old George Davy, who started out in quarrying in 1924 and still remembers the songs of the quarrymen.

Part of the exhibition will focus on the ambitious plans to build a school for the whole island, and an amphitheatre and arts spaces cut into the rock. In the same area – the Independent Quarry behind the Drill Hall – there are also plans for an exciting ‘Walk Through Time’ attraction, where visitors can walk through 250 million years of fossils and caves. And there will be archive footage and photographs showing the countless arts projects and ways the trust has involved the community over the last 26 years.

There will also be the first chance to see film of world-renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie playing stone instruments, and archive footage of natural history, and the carvings schoolchildren have made over the years. The exhibition, which opens at the Drill Hall in Easton Lane on Saturday 4 July until 3 October, shows how the trust has been actively transforming the redundant quarries into areas filled with art and culture, and involving the whole community in doing so.

One of the project leaders, Hannah Sofaer, said: “For us the quarry environment has always been more than just a place where stone is extracted from the earth. It offers unique possibilities for exploring and interpreting other landscapes beneath the surface, and opens up visionary and inspirational possibilities for increasing knowledge, environmental understanding and creativity. Proposals for Independent Quarry include a geological interpretation pathway with 18 geological rooms where the fossil record is re-instated at the correct level, and a wildlife corridor leading to a spiral earth mound rising from the base of the quarry to above ground level (the present day) and into the future. Here children will be able to create work over the next 50 years that expresses their aspirations for the future, awareness of environmental change and endangered species as a means of highlighting global issues to effect change, both local and international contexts.”

Cllr Brendan Webster, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council brief holder for Leisure, Tourism and Community facilities, said: “This is going to be an incredible exhibition, spanning not only the 26 years that the trust has been working with the island, but also charting the progress of quarrying since the stone was first used in the 1700s. In fact, some of the artefacts are from the beginning of time –amazing stuff. I was hugely impressed by Dame Evelyn’s ability to make the Lithophone cut from the quarry, come alive somehow linking us with the quarry-men of an earlier era who understood the ring of the stone, and with the ancient creatures whose remains formed it. The exhibition really makes it clear just how much the trust has done to regenerate the island’s quarries.”

Rob Russell Deputy Head Teacher Royal Manor Arts College, soon to be part of the new Portland Academy; “The benefits of the project for the community are huge and the timing is perfect. The largest school on the island is a specialist Arts College, the coastline is now a world heritage site, the historical significance of Portland Stone is without equal and the Olympic Games are on the horizon. The success of a community is closely linked to its cultural wealth, its educational provision and respect for its history; the PSQT is promoting all of these” Art Critic and writer John K. Grande writes about Portland: “The PQST encapsulates the ongoing evolution of human values, as a response to our material history, the interventions made on a landscape, and the eventual relocation of past ideologies of development, towards a reversal and renewal process. (…) A new landscape is an old landscape with a new vision.”

Weymouth & Portland Borough Council

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