As the Yorkshire Sculpture Park marks two months of closure, staff take a look back at some of their favourite memories

It has now been two months since YSP closed its gates, to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

YSP is a very special place to many people in Wakefield and beyond, and as this difficult time passes, we look forward to being able to welcome you back again when it is safe to do so. 

We are busy planning a controlled, phased reopening, which places great emphasis on the health and safety of our visitors, staff and volunteers. 

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While the gates remain closed, a core team are planning for the future, continuing to care for the Park, and keeping in touch with our supporters. We are also using this time for reflection and gratitude, with the team recalling some fantastic moments. 

Peter Murray, Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture ParkPeter Murray, Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Peter Murray, Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Founding Director Peter Murray has been delving into the YSP archive, shining a light on his memories of the last 40 years of YSP, taking inspiration from the connected worlds of poetry and sculpture.

Here he reflects on a poignant exhibition from the early ‘90’s: “In 1992 Clare Lilley and I organised a Barry Flanagan exhibition and Clare telephoned the Irish poet, playwright and translator Seamus Heaney to ask if, for the publication, we could use his poem The Names of the Hare, which is a 13th century poem he had translated from Middle English.

“The poem is said to be a ritual to be recited by a hunter on his first encounter with a hare, and the 77 different names given to the hare in the poem were supposed, on recital, to deliver it to the hunter’s power.

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“He loved the idea. I hope you enjoy the words and images from these two wonderful artists who had a strong affection for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.” 

The poem begins:

“The man the hare has met

will never be the better of it

except he lay down on the land

what he carries in his hand -

be it staff or be it bow -

and bless him with this elbow

and come out with this litany

with devotion and sincerity

to speak the praises of the hare.

Then the man will better fare.”

Fast forwarding to almost two decades later to 2011 – the park’s Director of Programme Clare Lilley recalls a favourite of many of YSP’s visitors – a major exhibition of work by Jaume Plensa.

The exhibition was vast – filling the Underground Gallery and surrounding gardens with an extraordinary body of work, encouraging tactile and sensory exploration.

It included a 50-metre curtain of poetry made of suspended steel letters, large illuminated sculptures in the landscape, and engraved gongs that visitors could strike to fill the gallery with sound.

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“Oriented on north-south and east-west trajectories, the project was an exceptional physical, emotional and psychological journey that many visitors continue to hold deep in their memories. 

“For those with faith, for those without, and for all those in between, Plensa offers gifts – he would call them ‘messages in a bottle’ – that give a sense of the best versions of ourselves, of human possibility and potential, of open doors to states of being.

“His sculptures allow us to breathe more easily, love more deeply.”  

If you have a memory of YSP that you would like to share, you can post it on social media using the hashtag #YSPMemory and the team will see it.

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We very much looking forward to welcoming staff, visitors and volunteers back to the Park to create many more. 

Stay safe and well.  

What are your favourite memories of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park?

Follow the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on Instagram or Facebook for the latest updates, or to submit your own memories to the #YSPMemories campaign.

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