I heard some rather unusual news lately that Hawnby in North Yorkshire has become the first village in England to swap its streetlights and more than 100 other outdoor lights for dark skies-friendly lighting, in an attempt to cut light pollution and allow residents and visitors to see the stars. There are a few other villages in Wales and Scotland that have converted street lights to become dark sky friendly but Hawnby has gone even further by converting both street and external building lighting when the project completes later in 2023.
It’s a fact that, over the centuries, the night sky has been the inspiration for thousands of pieces of art, poetry and prose which we are still able to enjoy today. It’s a shame that streetlights are depriving us of this nightly opportunity for inspiration! Unless you are a resident of Hawnby, in which case, a rare treat awaits!
Spring is an excellent time to star gaze; the temperature is creeping up but the nights are still long enough to ensure that darkness envelopes our land well before bedtime. What about planning an evening to soak up inspiration from the night sky in the next few weeks? You could do this by yourself or with a loved one, or gather together family or friends. Even within a city, you will be able to see some of the night display, but if you can make your way out into the countryside, the spectacle will be all the more breathtaking. Obviously, the further you get from light pollution, the more you are going to see. You could pack up a bag with hot drinks and delicious snacks, wrap up warmly and take some extra layers or cosy rugs. You might like to grab a book or download an app which will help you interpret what you are seeing in the sky above. Depending on the spot you find, you may even be able to light a fire and roast marshmallows, or take a camp stove to warm some soup. The incredible display you will see as you gaze above is completely free, so make the most of it!
Still not convinced? If like me, you need plenty of encouragement to leave your warm home for a wild and probably chilly outdoor space, here’s a taster of what you might see if you venture out to survey the spring night sky. The star constellations of Ursa Major (the Great Bear) and Leo can be seen very clearly, and if you time it right, you might just catch a meteor shower. Look out for the Lyrid Meteor Shower which will be visible 14-30 April and peaking on 22-23 April. On April 11 you can see a pairing of two celestial beauties – Venus and the Pleiades star cluster. Venus will be easy to see with the naked eye as a brilliant star like object high in the southwestern sky. If you are away from light pollution you’ll be able to locate the Pleiades – they are the tight grouping of stars near Venus. The Pleiades actually consists of a grouping of around 3000 stars but the nine brightest are the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology and their parents.
And don’t forget, any intrepid early risers, you can always watch the planets of Mars, Saturn, Venus and Jupiter appear before the early morning light gradually chases out the darkness and the dawn awakens us to a fresh new day.
Stargazing is a great way of getting a fresh perspective on life and when you are looking for fresh creative inspiration, it really helps! The facts of our universe are awe inspiring in themselves. We are just one minuscule planet in our tiny solar system, itself part of the Milky Way which is one of the smaller galaxies. (The Milky Way is only 100,000 light years across!) It is estimated there are about 350,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe. One light year is six trillion miles. This vast expanse of space is beyond our comprehension, yet as we contemplate it and allow the sheer magnificence of the universe to seep into our soul, we cannot help but gain a different perspective on our own lives and challenges. Maybe star gazing could be prescribed regularly for our mental well being…
Possibly the most famous painting inspired by the night sky is Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. It is especially interesting to know the circumstances which preceded the painting of this masterpiece. Vincent Van Gogh struggled with mental health issues for much of his life, and spent some time as an adult in an asylum. In those days these were generally places where movement was greatly restricted, but due to his good behaviour he was allowed a fair amount of freedom during which he could roam the countryside with his brother and paint. “Starry Night” was, however, painted during an emotionally low period, reflected in the blue tones. He painted the sky as seen from his bedroom window, but the background was part imaginary. He did not think it was very good; a lesson all crafters can take hope from!
Of course it is not only artists who can take inspiration from the night sky, but crafters of all mediums. It makes a great theme for crocheted blankets, pottery mugs or even wooden hanging decorations. Or, what about a set of bath bombs on the starry night theme, or a beautiful children’s mobile?
If, however, you are pondering an art exhibition, a night sky theme could really capture the imagination of your audience. There are numerous articles giving good advice on the practicalities of organising a show, but jere are a few tips:
- It may pay to think out of the box when it comes to finding a venue. The traditional galleries could be expensive whereas other venues might be better priced as well as offering a more interesting location.
- Gather a team around you with whom you can collaborate.
- Ensure you advertise well, both on social media and in local papers/flyers.
- And of course, know the community you are aiming to draw in; this will impact both the venue and the marketing.
You will also need to consider art exhibition insurance. When running to a tight budget, you might question whether this is really necessary, but here’s why art exhibition insurance is well worth the small investment. It will cover you for all those accidents which you can’t predict and therefore plan against; for damage to your art work in transit and in situ; for any unforeseen mishaps of injury to clients while in the exhibition space. It will include both public and product liability insurance. Having the correct insurance in place is part of setting yourself on a good footing. Once it’s there you don’t need to worry about those unpredictable events which, although unlikely, can steal your thinking space. Instead, you can focus on the planning and smooth running of the event itself. So, pick up the phone now and talk to one of our experienced and friendly team members. As a family run business specialising in crafting insurance we can ensure you get the best art exhibition insurance package for your unique needs at a reasonable price.
Head out this spring and join the villagers in Hawnby be inspired by the splendour of the night sky.