Interview: Amanda Drago, Creative Producer at Art in the Barn

Running directly along the line of Hadrian’s Wall, and between Greenhead and Gilsland, you will find Green Croft – an 18th century farmstead, comprising a cottage, threshing barn, byre and several outbuildings. As part of Great Northumberland, Green Croft presents Art in the Barn – a temporary art exhibition featuring the works of contemporary artists, Kit Haigh and Imogen Cloët.

“Both artists have very strong links with Northumberland, yet are award-winning artists in their respective fields,” says Amanda Drago, Creative Producer at Art in the Barn.

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Kit Haigh is best-known for his work with Northumbrian piper, Kathryn Tickell, as well as for composing the soundtrack to the BAFTA & Emmy Award-winning documentary, The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off. Kit’s installation, entitled Fall of Iron, takes inspiration from the barn itself: an ancient, but still functioning, wrought iron latch and keep on one of the barn doors; sounds from within the fabric of the building.

Imogen Cloët has spent the past 10 years creating a body of work that responds directly to heritage sites, with commissions including English Heritage and National Trust properties, such as Belsay Hall, Cragside and Seaton Deleval Hall. Imogen is also an Associate Artist for Northumberland-based theatre company, November Club, who also feature as part of the Great Northumberland programme. Imogen’s installation, Meto, explores the ideas of wheat, harvest, layers of time, and the themes of death and renewal associated with agriculture and the circle of life.

“Both artists have an artistic practice where they immerse themselves in the history and stories of the site in which they work,” Amanda reveals. “This enables them to create work that people can connect with on an immediate, and on a deeper level.”

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The installations will be set up in The Threshing Barn – a wonderful building, which Amanda and Kit hope to eventually transform into an artistic retreat space. “About 12 years ago, my husband and I had a vision to set up an artist’s retreat in a rural location,” Amanda says. “We found Green Croft, and all the elements were there: it had the space; the outbuildings, and we loved the view of Walltown Crags, as well as its location on Hardrian’s Wall National Trail.”

What Amanda hadn’t bargained for, however, was that Hadrian’s Wall runs directly underneath the courtyard. And so, began a lengthy pre-planning and planning process. “Whilst the process continues, I wanted to showcase The Threshing Barn in its original state,” Amanda says, continuing, “By commissioning two, unique temporary installations, we are able to share with the public and local community, the change in the use of the space, from agricultural to artistic, whilst still honouring its past.”

Approximately 25,000 people walked past the doors of Green Croft last year, often with their heads down, and with an itinerary to keep to. But, with Art in the Barn, Amanda wanted to create something that stops people in their tracks. “I wanted to produce something that surprises people with the unexpected; that makes them stop for a moment, and reflect on their surroundings,” Amanda agrees.

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Art in the Barn is only accessible by foot, and so the idea is for visitors to make Green Croft part of their exploration of the Northumbrian landscape. “We have a number of excellent Roman Forts and Museums close by, as well as Birdoswald, Northumberland National Park, and The Sill,” Amanda asserts.

Why not plan a fun-filled day, incorporating all that Green Croft has to offer? There’s even a pop-up café, Bait Box, allowing visitors to feel refreshed, revived and inspired for the day ahead.