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  • Durham OnAir

North East artists to transform historic estate into a land of enchantment

One of the North East’s leading heritage attractions is promising to light up

Christmas with the return of a popular festive light trail, showcasing ambitious new outdoor artworks by regional artists.

Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment will take visitors on a captivating journey

around Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, a 500-acre country estate,

historic house, park and gardens on the outskirts of Durham City.

Its grand Georgian country house, gardens and prestigious St Cuthbert’s Chapel, will

all be illuminated and enlivened by festive music, choral song and creative light-art

installations on select weekends throughout December.

Lucy Jenkins, director of culture and heritage at Ushaw Historic House, said: “Ushaw

is delighted to reveal new artistic commissions and creative partnerships for its third

Illuminating Ushaw Christmas light experience.

This year’s theme is Land of Enchantment and we are thrilled to exhibit new works

by North East artists celebrating the mystery and beauty of our natural world as well

as the magical feelings of joy the festive season brings.”

Among the highlights of Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment are a

mesmerising dome filled with glimmering stars, each individually designed by local

school children, a luminous garden of floating flower heads, a vast pulsing network of

Mycelium – the elaborate root structures of mushrooms and fungi – and a huge

rabbit sculpture crafted from metal and willow; using techniques that date back

almost five thousand years.

St Cuthbert's, Ushaw’s most celebrated Gothic chapel, will also be decorated and

illuminated from floor to ceiling, for the first time ever, creating a spectacular focal

point for the hour-long trail. Choirs and musicians will perform Christmas carols in

the iconic chapel at various times throughout the evenings.

Illuminating Ushaw – Artistic Commissions

Catching Stars is a co-created installation by celebrated light artists Mick

Stephenson and Stuart Langley recreating the enchanting feeling of gazing at starry

night skies.

This dome-shaped artwork is located at the centre of Ushaw’s gardens and will be

filled with hundreds of suspended and illuminated stars, all individually designed by

children from North East schools. To celebrate sustainability, each star has been cut

from birch wood and will be returned to the child who created it at the end of the


Mycelium has been created by Stevie Thompson, a former electrician turned fibre-

optic light installation artist, from South Shields. Thompson has created a pulsing

animated network of mycelium, the root structures of mushroom and fungi, that will

move, twinkle and change colours as if it were alive and communicating with those

watching. Giant mushrooms will stem and grow from the network with illuminated

caps of different shapes and styles.

“I launched Custom Fibre Optics in 2019, after many years working as an electrician.

Since then, I’ve created ambitious light installations in private residential homes,

luxury vehicles and healthcare settings for sensory rooms but this is my first major

cultural showing and I’m delighted to be partnering with Ushaw to bring wonder and

amazement to North East communities this Christmas,” said Thompson.

Ushaw Rabbit is a large-scale sculpture by husband-and-wife team Ruth and Tim

Thompson from Tynedale in Northumberland.

Ruth is a traditional wicker artist, the earliest known form of furniture making, with

techniques dating back to Ancient Egypt. Ruth has taken inspiration from Ushaw’s

heraldic coat of arms to create a two metre by two metre rabbit in the formal

gardens, crafted from metal and willow and illuminated with fibre optics designed by


Nearby, in Ushaw’s peace garden is Winter in Bloom by Anna Harding and James

Shepherd, from Bishop Auckland. Eight giant flower heads will appear illuminated

and floating above Ushaw’s expansive gardens, recreating the enchanting colour

and joy of warmer months.

Each flower head is one metre in diameter and mounted on a two-metre black post,

so that its stem cannot be seen after dark.

Other festive scenes on the light trail include:

● Santa Claus flying his sleigh projected onto Ushaw’s copse of yew trees

● Christmas music playing as visitors move around the one-hour trail route

● Seasonal Selfie Station – opportunity to take selfies with your loved ones with

Ushaw’s illuminated Historic House as the backdrop

Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment is supported by headline sponsor Urban

BASE, one of North East England’s leading estate agencies and property managers,

and takes place on the following dates.

- Saturday 3rd Sunday 4th December

- Saturday 10th; Sunday 11th December

- Friday 16th , Saturday 17 th, Sunday 18th December

Jan Dale, director of Urban BASE said: "It’s an absolute privilege for Urban BASE to

offer support Illuminating Ushaw: Land of Enchantment and for the North East to

once again showcase its talented artists and cultural venues. We can’t wait to see it

and share it with our Urban BASE team and clients in Durham too.”

Tickets cost from £10 to £12, booking is essential. Event timings are from 4.30pm to

6.30pm and the trail closes at 8pm.

For more on how to book, visit:


“Illuminating Ushaw is a ticketed experience and booking is essential. It’s the North

East’s best value Christmas Light Trail and based on the success of previous years,

there’s likely to be huge demand. If people aren’t able to make the dates or miss out

on tickets, then Ushaw is also running a great value and family friendly programme

of festive activities throughout November and December,” added Jenkins.

For a full list of 2022 Christmas events and activities at Ushaw Historic House,

Chapels and Gardens, see Notes to Editors or visit:



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