Experience Creswell Crags like never before

Alan James Burns, creator of Entirely Hollow Aside of the Dark, which is at Creswell Crags next week.
Alan James Burns, creator of Entirely Hollow Aside of the Dark, which is at Creswell Crags next week.

An immersive sound installation in darkness is bringing a whole new experience for visitors to Creswell Crags’ caves next week when the pitch-black caves become the setting for an audio artwork by visual and environmental artist Alan James Burns.

The installation, called Entirely Hollow Aside of the Dark, takes visitors inside one of the caves at Creswell Crags after dark – the exclusive experiences run at 8.45pm and 10pm from Tuesday, September 3 to Saturday, September 7 – where they hear a unique soundscape that the artist says personifies the voice of Mother Earth as she struggles with her worsening mental health, brought on by the human distressing of her body.

In the darkness, an audible inner dialogue echoing Mother Earth’s thoughts and regrets unfold and a symphony of choreographed sounds shifts around the cave mirroring processes of the human mind.

The ever-shifting audio brings the dark cave to life, breathing and talking as participants stand within it.

Alan, who is hoping to repeat the sell-out success of his Entirely Hollow Aside from the Dark tour in Ireland, said: “This is a remarkable experience, which actually starts as visitors arrive at the visitor centre in the dark, and by torchlight make their way down to the cave in near silence except for the sounds of wildlife and water flowing into the lake.

“This almost ritualistic approach to traversing the site prepares the participant for the absolute darkness in the cave, which by its very nature, can be a bit unnerving and disorientating.

"Once in the darkness, the dank aroma of moist earth and natural cave sounds create a remarkable atmosphere, where the mind is receptive to the soundscape and story that follows.

“I’d hope that people leave in a reflective mood about their own mental dialogues as well as our impact on Mother Earth and how we can maintain healthy relationship with both.

"Entirely hHollaw Aside of the Dark simultaneously aims to break down the stigma surrounding mental health and encourage environmental sustainability.

"There is a clear environmental message threaded throughout the installation – which is one of the reasons I chose Creswell Crags, as a Site of Special Scientific Interest - and that’s something we take incredibly seriously as creatives, too.

" Wherever possible, minimising the impact of this installation on the environment, we are transporting the kit and team here without resorting to high-polluting air travel, as well as the entire team adopting a plant-based diet for the project.”

The darkness provides visual sensory deprivation, which prompts the participant to focus on other senses like hearing and smell, intensifying the perception of the sound.

Created by Alan in collaboration with writer Sue Rainsford and sound editor Ian Dunphy, the poignancy of the message is heightened by the choice of cave in which visitors will experience the installation: this is the same cave where that UK’s largest discovery of ‘witch marks’ in the country was discovered just last year, by the entrance to a hole that generations may have considered to be a gateway to the underworld.

Paul Baker, executive director at Creswell Crags, said: “These apotropaic marks were scratched and carved into stone to ward off evil or misfortune, so it is likely that generations of local families visited over many years – an ancient ritual of its own.

“This discovery made headlines across the world, and we are delighted that it has inspired Alan to share his work with us and our visitors.

"This promises to be an intense and thought-provoking audio experience, with a limited number of participants on each tour, so we’d encourage early booking before it sells out.”

The event is only suitable for over 16s, and is not suitable for anyone with claustrophobia or fear of the dark.

Appropriate sturdy footwear and outdoor clothing suitable for the weather conditions on the day is advised and torches will be provided.

The accompanying audio presentation lasts around 20 minutes, with the whole visit expected to take around 40 minutes.

Tickets for the event are £8 and can be booked online here.