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Durham teacher Beth Ross lights up for Lumiere festival

Durham City teacher Beth Ross' creation will make up part of the Lumiere celebrations in Durham this week

Simon Greener Artist Beth Ross in the library at Durham Cathedral
Artist Beth Ross in the library at Durham Cathedral

A creative mum thought pigs might fly before her art work would be famous, but Beth Ross would be advised to get some protective headgear now her illuminating take on ancient sayings is to be shown at the much-anticipated Lumiere festival in Durham this week.

Beth, a teacher from Durham City, was inspired to create the work, which will be projected on to buildings during the popular light festival, after stumbling on The Durham Proverbs, a collection of 46 medieval proverbs considered to have been used to document everyday business of the people of Anglo-Saxon England.

Three of them have been used by the mother-of-two, in her piece, I Haven’t Changed My Mind in a Thousand Years’ which makes up part of the festival’s BRILLIANT local commissioning scheme and will see the proverbs recreated in large, bright neon light.

Beth, who teaches at Durham School, seized the chance to be part of Lumiere after winning one of four commissions from festival producers, Artichoke.

She was one of many local artists who had thrown their bright ideas – using light as a medium – into the ring in the hope of being shown alongside a raft of new atmospheric light sculptures and installations at the four-day event.

Beth has spent months working on her own installation, after she found the 11th Century collection of proverbs at Durham Cathedral.

She says: “I can quite a few ideas when I saw the invitation for submissions.

“When I was researching one of them, it was by chance that I came across Durham Proverbs and it really struck a chord with me, it’s amazing because there are so many sayings that are still relevant today.”

Beth requested to see the text and went on to translate the sayings, which are written in Latin and Old English.

She said: “It took a lot of research but once I had the translations it was clear that people aren’t all that different in what we say and that really resonated with me.”

After deciding on which of the three proverbs she wanted to use, Beth had the innovative idea to present them in her young son’s handwriting.

“He’s just started learning to write, so it’s very exciting for him and for us.

“It also links back to my teaching past and also provides a link back to the handwritten manuscript which is 1,000 years old.”

In terms of choosing which proverbs to light up, Beth says: “I didn’t want to go down a predictable route, and I think it’s far more interesting to hear things that people said so long ago yet it still makes sense for us today,” she said.

Having lived in Durham since 2004, Beth has long been a fan of Lumiere, which has returned to the city every other year since its debut in 2009.

“When the call went out for people to apply for Lumiere I was so excited, because I’ve been every year and it’s quite something to see all the lights in the November darkness.

“Because I’m at the beginning of my artistic career, to be able to have an idea and see it through to a finished piece is going to be amazing.”


Lumiere runs from November 14 to 17. For more information, visit www.lumiere-festival.com

Ellie House


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