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Birthday guest blog: A Walk Through Nottingham’s Underworld

All pictures Joanna Dacombe

Today we welcome back guest blogger Joanna Dacombe and colleague Laura-Jade Klee to tell us about their latest really-rather-exciting venture beneath Nottingham.

All pictures Joanna Dacombe

Last year I wrote a blog post for Creative Nottingham about a new collaboration I had started with Laura-Jade Klee, called Sidelong, inspired by Nottingham and ideas about the experience of walking. I wrote a post about our first successful Nottingham project, Dream Walking, a night walk in the dark streets.

This year, our collaboration has developed further and we have created another walk inspired by our investigations into Nottingham’s unique caves. Our project is running throughout September and October, with other events and publications planned for later in the year. Laura-Jade explains more about this project:

As we walk the streets of Nottingham there is another world of caves beneath us, concealing lost histories, bygone cultures, and secret activity. Despite having over 450 caves, more man-made caves than any other English city, many are not publicly accessible or their heritage is unknown or overlooked. Our initial intrigue in exploring these hidden spaces came from conversations by local Nottingham people who loved to recall mysterious cave stories heard second-hand. Although the physical cave space may be inaccessible, the myths and legends have an important role in defining Nottingham’s identity- especially relevant to a city known and cherished for its fictional hero, Robin Hood.

Sidelong is a collaboration between artist/curators Jo Dacombe and Laura-Jade Klée, which explores how curated walks can highlight the undiscovered in the everyday. Inspired by Nottingham’s landscape, ‘A Walk Through the Underworld’ is a series of participatory led-walks that weave between underground and over-ground settings, merging facts with fiction. The walk contains unexpected surprises: installation art, performances, art interventions, and fabricated objects disguised as “lost relics.” Situated in caves and along the route, these artworks somehow cast the chambers in a new light, revealing cave myths or the multitude of their uses throughout history. The experience invites speculation and encourages the myth-making process. You may ask; why would a cave have a cosmic ray lab, a 3,000 year old druid temple, or an underground herb garden? Well, your guess is as good as ours!

Sidelong has been working alongside Nottingham-based writer, Wayne Burrows, who has reimagined cave myths and legends to create a piece of fictional writing. His text continually evolves in response to ‘A Walk Through the Underworld’ encompassing imaginative ideas presented by participants. As well as reading extracts within the caves, the full text will be available in Sidelong’s latest publication.

Sidelong’s forthcoming publication is due to go on sale early December. It will reflect the experience of our walks, where fact and fiction intertwine and become inseparable. The publication will feature photographic reproductions of cave art installations, a collection of myths surrounding Nottingham caves, and other written and artistic contributions from Sidelong, participants, and Wayne Burrows. Recordings taken from the walk will be made into a sound-piece following the events, which will be accessible through our blog sidelonguk.blogspot.co.uk.

‘A Walk Through the Underworld’ was supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and through Brewhouse Yard, Nottingham Castle, Paul Smith and The Salutation Inn who gave us permission to use their venues.