Londoners get a chance to help build a dry stone wall at 'Hill'

Emma Alsop will be exhibiting photographs like this self-portrait as well as helping visitors to Copeland Gallery in Peckham to build a dry stone wall in Derbyshire limestone.

Londoners will have a chance to help build a dry stone wall in Longcliffe Quarries' Derbyshire limestone between 21 February and 3 March when an exhibition called 'Hill' is staged at Copeland Gallery in Peckham.

'Hill' is the story of one Derbyshire hill told in photography, moving image, sculpture, poetry, sound – and a dry stone wall.

The exhibition includes the photographs of Derbyshire artist Kate Bellis, who has spent the past 20 years documenting the relationships between rural communities and the land around them.

Kate’s images capture the working life of the hill – including farming and quarrying – as well as images of the community that lives in the shelter of the hill. 

Writer and broadcaster Matthew Parris has said of the exhibition: “Extraordinary, because this is not artsy-fartsy stuff; not sweet; sometimes brutal; fitfully tender. Showing birth and death on the hill’s surface and the long hard history of mining and quarrying beneath it. I was tremendously moved.”

Alongside Kate’s photographs, the exhibition will house a full-sized friesian dairy cow made from the hill itself using Longcliffe limestone and coal dust by sculptor Sally Matthews.

And the 6m-long dry stone wall is being built by Derbyshire quarryman and farmer Nick Wilson and his partner Emma Alsop, a shepherd, whose portraits also form part of the exhibition. 

The wall will be partially buiilt by the start of the exhibition and will be completed during it, with a bit of help from visitors to the gallery. For most (if not all) of them it will be an unique experience.

It is hoped the wall will bring a strong rural community together with an equally strong urban community, uniting rather dividing. The artists note that is a rare accomplishment for walls, which normally divide rather than unite.

The Project is supported by the Arts Council and Longcliffe Quarries.

Robert Shields, Chairman of Longcliffe Group Ltd, said: “Longcliffe is a family business with a strong sense of place and local community. Although local products (including our limestone) are consumed nation-wide, the world of the Derbyshire uplands remains relatively hidden. So we are hugely proud to be able support Kate’s exhibition and help provide people with a glimpse of life in this beautiful part of the country.”