An angel for the north-west?

The tourist board website Go Lakes ran an entertaining April Fool featuring the Cucumbria, a building to rival the London Gherkin as part of plans to turn Carlisle into the new financial hub of the north.


The Cucumbria April Fool

But joking apart, Cumbria – indeed, the entire north west – truly does need and deserve a new iconic monument. Maybe it would be a functional building like the Gherkin; maybe it would be “just” a structural work of art, our own Angel of the North West. Whatever its form and purpose, design has to be at the heart of the project.

Anthony Gormley’s monumental Angel of the North is 20 years old this year. According to Gormley, the significance of an angel was three-fold: first, to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners worked for two centuries; second, to grasp the transition from an industrial to an information age, and third, to serve as a focus for our evolving hopes and fears.

angel of the north

After initial resistance and controversy, the Angel is now well loved, and is considered to be a landmark for North East England. It’s been listed by one organisation as an “Icon of England”, often used in film and television to represent Tyneside.

So taking that as a point of inspiration, what should we want for an icon of North West England? Along with Gateshead, Falkirk has two, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park has loads of them. Here in the Lakes we do have Grizedale, the UK’s first forest for sculpture.

But as we are catapulted into the limelight on an international stage, shouldn’t we be celebrating our new UNESCO World Heritage status with our own beautiful sculpture?

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, says awareness about the county’s “unique” offering must be raised. Cumbria is one of the “most exciting and creative places” in the country – but more must be done to help locals appreciate what is on their doorstep.

“Cumbria’s natural environmental riches continue to provide the inspiration and how they should be blended with the talents of contemporary artists training locally. There are strong economic benefits to investing in arts and culture,” he added.
With an area rich in art and culture it seems like a very natural and appropriate case to make. Renowned artists and sculptors have lived and breathed the drama of the Lake District for hundreds of years and thought it the best place for their life’s work.

Ruskin, Coleridge, Wordsworth; artists like Beatrix Potter, the Heaton Coopers, Ophelia Gordon Bell, and then Kurt Schwitters, Josefina de Vasconcellos, Andy Goldsworthy and Anthony Gormley, have graced our countryside with inspirational creativity.

The Great Place: Lakes and Dales project which aims to create a “sustainable, resilient, creative community and economy, which will retain and attract younger people and business to the area to influence, support and create our future economy” identifies that areas rich in arts and culture are preferred habitats for young people and families to live in.

It will take more than just architectural and artistic innovation. Twenty years ago the Gormley masterpiece cost £800,000 to construct, with most of the project funding provided by the National Lottery. We need investment, along with a competition to find the most startling and dynamic piece of work worthy of our region.

My own inspirations from around the world includes Anish Kapoor with his simple and monumental pieces. This could be a modern interpretation of the Bowder Stone with reflections of the landscape. Or perhaps an environmental statement in reaction to plastic waste, or a beautiful figure rising up out of a lake.

bowder stone

The Bowder Stone: inspiration for sculptural artists?

Controversial? Yes, of course. But inspirational art often is and it goes with the territory of being on a world stage.


Goodbye man cave, hello she-shed

Ever since Katy Brown helped Calamity Jane to transform her cabin in the woods outside Deadwood City, women have been drawn to small spaces.

And yet the garden shed or summerhouse remains stubbornly a male accessory. How often do you see on TV property programmes the male partner enticed with the promise of his own man-cave at the bottom of the garden.

Why should it be only the man who needs an escape from the house? It’s not as if he needs a break from the household chores. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, equality is not having much impact on the domestic front. Women still do more housework and childcare than men, especially between the ages of 26 and 35.The ONS said that, when it came to unpaid chores at home, women were doing almost 40% more than men on average. Men averaged 16 hours a week helping out at home compared with 26 by women, with those on maternity leave doing the most.

So it’s clearly women who actually NEED that refuge, that multi-purpose, multi-functional space at the end of the garden. It’s a woman-cave that needs to be designed.

And lo! Here is the Fidget Design Chic She-Shed coming up. It’s small but perfectly formed, a structure with a stargazing glass roof, sleeping deck, summer house, workshop, bike store and log store all in Eco SIPS panels*.

shed design

Here I will sit and gaze at the trees in the garden, like Japanese ‘Forest Bathing’. Close my eyes and listen to the bird song coming from the beech hedge. Create and paint my art canvases. Play my favourite tunes. Up-cycle my latest furniture-find into something of style and beauty (and make a big mess!).

forest bathing

I’ll sunbathe and read a book with a cool refreshing Mojito in hand. Escape on the bike into the hills and return to the warmth of the Biofuel Eco stove, switch on the LED mood lighting powered by the solar roof tiles, drink tea and eat nibbles, while watching the sun set, the trees turning into silhouettes and the bats flying. Snuggle up in a cosy down duvet on the sleep deck and watch the stars and space station fly over. Use my iPad to track the stars.

Yes, it’s only at the design stage. But hey, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?


*SIPS (Structural Insulated Panels) Eco Panels are an advanced form of pre-insulated frame that are an evolution of timber-frame, offering all of the benefits of a quick, off-site form of construction, with the solidity of other forms of construction.  SIPs are high quality, environmentally friendly, highly insulated and very quick to erect.


Food for thought in the kitchen

In the final part of an occasional series about mindfulness, we head to the kitchen for immersive therapy

The kitchen is the most important social room in your house, and the best place to encourage friends and family to open up and talk it through.

Whatever the issues, talking is good. Really good. And it’s amazing the number of people who have been there, understand and genuinely do care about you. So invite friends around, cook food together, share dinner, share problems. Share some wine, but not too much, and cut out the caffeine after 3pm. That includes, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, coke and other fizzy drinks. There are plenty of wonderful herbal drinks and teas around now.


Make your kitchen a focal social point in your home. Eat with the family around the table (in the kitchen or dining room) rather than with a tray in front of the TV. That’s how the Italians do it, and they understand the value of family dynamics and talking through problems.

Acknowledge what’s happening in your life and take little steps which can lead to big and positive changes. I’ve been on a journey that’s brought me to this point, a life event that has actually unlocked me. I feel I know myself so much better, accept my boundaries, know when I need to step back, make changes and where I want to head next in my life journey.

There are many ways of dealing with and treating the symptoms of anxiety, cares and worries, both naturally and with medication and you have to open your mind and find what works best for you. If there is one word I can sum all this up with, it’s ‘immersive’. Be immersive. I think it’s a better descriptive word than mindfulness.

teatwoel and apron1

Loving life in the kitchen with mug (above) , apron and tea towel from Alison’s Love District range



Loving life in the kitchen with mug (above) , apron and tea towel from Alison’s Love District range