Photo Essay: Documenting conversations with a landscape on a poignant weekend.

Photographer Jerome Whittingham documents a unique artistic experience during Armistice weekend.

Spurn is a National Nature Reserve, remarkable for its wildlife and its heritage. Managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, it is an excellent place to observe migrating birds.

A message pops into my inbox, it’s from artist Lou Hazelwood: “Just wondering if you’d be up for documenting a performance at Spurn? We need some awesome photos. It’s to be kept quiet at mo, but will be a string quartet playing in a tunnel.”

Lou, and fellow artist Marcel Craven, were appointed artists in residence at Spurn Point national nature reserve by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Their brief, entitled ‘Conversations with Landscapes’, is to create artwork, in any format, that responds to Spurn’s changing landscape and its heritage.

Artist Lou Hazelwood. Sadly, due to illness, fellow artist in residence Marcel Craven was unable to join us. I’ll be catching up with Marcel another time.

Lou says: “We were really intrigued by the placement, desolation, history, timelessness, and something about Spurn that attracts conflict – this idea that people try to defend the indefensible, because Spurn moves, it’s a sandy bank and is always in movement and transition. There’s something timeless about it and that really interests me, that you could be at any point in history because at the desolate points of Spurn there’s nothing that acts as a marker, to define your sense of time and ultimately where in the historical timeline you are.”

Visitors to Spurn are transported along the 3-mile sandy spit by Unimog, an ex-military vehicle which also acts as a hide and observation point. It’s a functional rather than comfortable way to travel.


The Unimog travels at its own pace, slowly but reassuringly. There is plenty of time to take in the linear landscape.


Lou leads the team to our unique location at the end of Spurn point. String quartet members are: Adhel Cadle, David Constantine, Rebecca Draper & Rebecca Stone, with musical arranger/conductor Russell Plows.


A briefing from Andy Mason, Heritage Officer at Spurn for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, ensures our safety before we venture underground.

Andy Mason, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Heritage Officer at Spurn: “We find that Spurn is not just about the wildlife, it’s about the history, it’s about its context, where it is, its remoteness, it’s evocative, it’s an evocative place.”


The performance space, tunnels under the former Port War Signal Station, a fortified military base, part of the Humber defence scheme implemented in 1915.


The history of this place is written on its walls. There was a real sense that we were sharing in history, not just adding to it, during our afternoon underground. Easy to be lost in the moment, lost in time.


Lou adds to her artistic record, ‘film is not dead’ she says, as the musicians begin to atune to the performance space.


Musicians Adhel Cadle and David Constantine.


Musicians Rebecca Draper and Rebecca Stone.

Rebecca Draper, musician: “It was really peaceful and calming. It was really dark. It was interesting. There was graffiti on the wall, written in the middle of the first world war. Just being in that place, it’s imbued with history. There was a particularly lewd poem on the wall, just seeing the way that soldiers kept their spirits up and stuff. It is quite, I don’t really know the word I’m looking for.”

Musical arranger and conductor Russell Plows.


Compositions inspired by World War One ‘sound mirrors’, and the composition of concrete, were performed by the string quartet, and recorded for future release.

That we were underground at such a significant location, responding to Spurn’s heritage during such a poignant weekend, created an incredible sense of remembrance, instilled with an unspoken reverence.  It’s an event I’m privileged to have participated in, a photographic assignment like none other I’ve undertaken.

Lou concludes: “At some points during the rehearsals and the performances I nipped into the other underground rooms, and you just get this sense, you could hear the conversations that were continuing, and you could hear people approach, and you would imagine yourself within that space. Those sounds resonate, I think, within the present day, and within the musical scores Marcel and I have created.”

Explore more of these artist’s work here:

Lou Hazelwood

Marcel Craven

Spurn Point – a residency. Artists’ blog.

Learn more about Spurn on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s website:

Spurn National Nature Reserve.

[Jerome Whittingham, photographer – for Lou Hazelwood & Marcel Craven]