“The creative exploration of landscapes through music, painting, poetry, and dance opens up the experience of landscape beyond the world of science and policy and helps us better understand our place in the world. With better understanding comes better stewardship; the basis of a more sustainable future”

- Art in the Landscape Strategy, National Association for AONBs

This connection between landscape and people has been the motivation behind over 15 years of working with arts organisation and artists, exploring and celebrating the outstanding landscapes of the Dorset AONB. Working alongside Activate, Artsreach, The Arts Development Company and many individual artists has been an inspirational way of engaging thousands of people in our work. Here are just a few of the wonderful projects we have been involved in …

Wayfaring - And Now: Inside Out Dorset 2016, Activate (c) Tony Gill

Following the success of Wayfaring (Inside Out Dorset, Activate, And Now:), we joined forces with Activate, the National Association for AONBs and 3 other AONBs with the Life Cycles and Landscapes project. This  journey of exploration, inspired by the present landscape and ancient routes of the Icknield Way encouraged 1000’s of people to look at these landscapes, and their lives within it, with fresh eyes.

We are now active partners in the national Art in the Landscape initiative, seeking to widen and deepen the connections between people and nature. The initiative got off to a flying start in September 2019 with the new poem Fugitives by poet laureate Simon Armitage, to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the legislation that brought our ‘Natural Health Service’ into being.

In 2022, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Arts Council England, representing their commitments to working together to nurture new links between arts and cultural organisations, and England’s 34 AONBs.

Barrow, And Now: Inside Out Dorset 2014, Activate Photo: Tony Gill

Extraordinary Events in Extraordinary Places

The Inside Out Dorset festival has been bringing incredible performance art to the heart of our landscapes in Dorset thanks to the work of Activate Performing Arts. We’ve been lucky enough to partner with them for many festivals, bringing crowds to hill tops and hidden valleys throughout the AONB. READ MORE

Your Seasons of Stories

Your Seasons of Stories project, supported by Arts Council England, supported 4 artists to work with community groups to co-create a beautifully written, illustrated and filmed mix of creative writing and art activities.

They are available as downloadable activity booklets, art, templates and short films and also as a free limited edition box of resources. This project, aimed at older people and people living with dementia, was built on the success of the Season of Stories books.

Ridgeway Singers & band (c) Roland Tarr, Artsreach

Celebrating the Landscape through Song

Artsreach specialise in bringing high quality performances of live theatre, music, dance and family shows to the heart of rural communities across Dorset. The Ridgeway Singers project was just one of the many opportunities they have conjured up to get people out and about in the landscapes over the years. READ MORE about this and their other South Dorset Ridgeway projects.

Celebrating 60 years

With support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we embarked on celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Dorset AONB in a truly creative way. With Lorna Rees leading the way in September, over 150 people showed their love of these outstanding landscapes with a Giant heart to kick off the celebrations.

Talking Tent

Our 60th anniversary Talking Tent project, led by a storyteller and landscape poet, aimed to capture seasonal connections and personal relationships with the landscape past, present and future. The Talking Tent pitched up – virtually and for real – across Dorset, gathering collective stories, memories and hopes for the future. Supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund.

South Dorset Ridgeway captured in film

The Arts Development Company captured the spirit of place with ‘The Land of Bone and Stone’ film. Featuring 11 year old school girl Charlotte, the film swoops through this ancient landscape, with music by Dorset based duo Ninebarrow (commissioned by Artsreach). VIEW FILM & READ MORE

Bringing Myths & Legends to Life

Storyteller Martin Maudsley worked with local school children and illustrators to bring the myths and legends of the ancient South Dorset Ridgeway landscape to life. Compiled into a bespoke Teacher Pack, the myths & legends have become the inspiration for creative writing as well as other curriculum-based subjects.

Hell Stone (c) Paul Haynes

Exploring the Landscape through Sound

The landscape is a tapestry of stories and sounds and Satsymph captured these in a series of apps for our South Dorset Ridgeway Landscape Partnership. New compositions were fused together with myths and legends of the area to produce these unique new soundscapes to explore. READ MORE

Tilly and Cliff, Jurassic Journey Project

Jurassic Journey

Coordinated by Artsreach, Jurassic Journey brought together the unique combination of photographer, musician, sculptor and poet to encourage people to see the Jurassic Coast through fresh eyes. Tilly and Cliff, created from flotsam and jetsam, were central to the inspiring journey! FIND OUT MORE

For more information about any of these projects, please contact Sue Dampney, Culture, Community & Learning Officer, Dorset AONB Team.