Harrogate artist creates blockbuster exhibition about threat to bees

Harrogate/Knaresborough artist Laney Birkhead who has created the environmentally-friendly installation piece, Swarm.
Harrogate/Knaresborough artist Laney Birkhead who has created the environmentally-friendly installation piece, Swarm.

Outside of the occasional Hockney or Hirst, few exhibitions make an impact on the general public, as opposed to art lovers, and even fewer still inspire anyone to action on important issues.

Such an exhibition is Swarm by environmentally-conscious Harrogate artist Laney Birkhead, writes Graham Chalmers.

Her installation piece of 126 huge hexagonal sheets made of natural calico was a huge hit recently during a lengthy run at The Moors National Park Centre in Danby.

As the title suggests, this giant, enveloping print of 50,000 bees has an educational purpose - to spread the word about the plight of our bees in general and the environment in general.

Laney said: “I got this mad idea and it’s blossomed. Gardeners came. Botanists came. Other artists came. Schoolchildren came. Whole swathes of differerent people came.

“Lots of ordinary people came up and talked to me, not only about the show but also the documentary film we ran and the threat to the bees, themselves.

“The exhibition was successful on so many levels. Other exhibitors said it was the best thing they’d seen at the national park centre.”

A truly community-based project, Swarm also featured related pieces by other well-known local artists.

Constructing the installation piece, which followed workshops Laney held with pupils in schools across North Yorkshire, involved help from four or five volunteers - her own “worker bees”, says a grateful Laney .

This talented Harrogate artist, who until now has been better known for her landscapes, is keen to maximise the impact of Swarm’s great success.

This weekend will see teh show move to Sunny Bank Mill in Farsley.

It’s a new context but, once again, Laney’s lovely calico prints will be the centrepiece of an exhibition featuring a range of other local artists.

Names include Harrogate film-maker Helen Petts, Markington printmaker Pam Grimmond, Pateley Bridge photographer Paul Harris, Pateley Bridge printmaker Gill Kitrk, Harrogate stained glass-maker Caryl Hallett, Knaresborough basket maker Sherry Doyal, Harrogate ceramics maker Anna Whitehouse, Harrogate silver jewellery-maker Janet Yeun Yau and Harrogate copper jewellery-maker Barbara Cassell.

Swarm: Laney Birkhead, Sunny Bank Mill, Farsley. October 22-November 20.