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Teenage takeover at Wordsworth House

Albatross by Pierre Baelen Greenpeace

A group of teenage curators are staging a takeover at Cockermouth’s Wordsworth House and Garden, the childhood home of nature poet William Wordsworth, to share their hopes and fears for the natural environment.

Taking their cue from William’s role in motivating the founders of the National Trust and the global conservation movement, the youngsters have created ‘Under Northern Skies’, a powerful new exhibition highlighting the ways in which we humans are damaging the world around us.

The exhibition includes a selection of original illustrations by artist Gustave Doré for ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, written by Wordsworth’s fellow Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and published in their co-authored volume The Lyrical Ballads.

There is also a full-sized taxidermy albatross. One of the world’s largest birds, it was used by Coleridge to symbolise man’s arrogance towards nature and is under threat today from pollution and destructive fishing practices.

Vicky Wilkinson, a National Trust volunteering and participation consultant, said: “The Rime is a poem with a universal theme: the fragile bond between ourselves and the world in which we live. In it, a sailor shoots an albatross that has guided his ship to safety, with devastating consequences.

“The youth curators have been really inspiring to work with and have interpreted the poem as a powerful environmental warning, with special relevance for our polluted seas. The exhibition includes installations assembled from plastic gathered at local beach cleans.”

Wordsworth House visitor experience manager Zoe Gilbert added: “We’re thrilled to be working with the young curators, who have chosen creative and thought-provoking ways to highlight questions closely linked to the issues that concerned William throughout his life.”

‘Under Northern Skies’ is open from Saturday to Thursday, 11am to 4pm, until 3 November. Entry is free with admission to the house and garden.

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