The Museum of the Moon is heading to Dorset

Museum of the Moon at Cork Midsummer Festival 2017 [POSS OPENNG IMAGE? }

Museum of the Moon at Cork Midsummer Festival 2017 [POSS OPENNG IMAGE? } - Credit: Archant

Over four weekends, thousands of people will enjoy a magical lunar experience at the Museum of the Moon without leaving Dorset

Museum of the Moon presented in The Old Royal Observatory Gardens, Greenwich Park

Museum of the Moon presented in The Old Royal Observatory Gardens, Greenwich Park - Credit: Archant

This July marks 50 years since astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon. Dorset will be celebrating the anniversary of that "giant leap for mankind' with its very own lunar sensation in the form of British installation artist Luke Jerram's internationally-acclaimed Museum of the Moon.

This monumental seven-metre sculpture, created using high-definition NASA imagery of the moon's surface, has toured the world stunning audiences with its astonishing scale detail. But this will be its first visit to Dorset.

Described as "a mesmerising fusion of lunar visuals, moonlight and surround sound audio", this otherworld experience will be moving from site to site across the county over four weekends, so more people can enjoy this indoor/outdoor artwork.

It will be part of the Dorset Moon project happening near the war memorial in Bournemouth's Central Gardens (28 - 30 June), followed by Sherborne Abbey (5 - 7 July) and then Nothe Fort in Weymouth (12 - 14 July). Its final appearance is at the Moonbury Rings event in Dorchester (19 - 21 July).

Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building at the University

Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon in the Great Hall of the Wills Memorial Building at the University of Bristol - Credit: Archant

The brains behind the Dorset Moon project are the creative bosses of three different arts festivals: Andrea Francis, director of Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival; Kate Wood, the executive director of Activate which produces the Inside Out Dorset Festival and Alan Rogers, executive director of b-side who produce a multimedia arts festival.

Combining their talents they set about establishing a programme that would bring Luke Jerram's moon to the three strikingly different locations, providing an exciting hook for visitors and residents alike and drawing them to parts of the county they may not have experienced before.

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"It was a way of looking at the use cultural activities to drive up economic impact, to create new audiences and draw attention to both urban and rural locations in Dorset" says Andrea Francis. "The county is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and coastline, high profile food producers and tourist attractions so this was about building on what Dorset already has to offer."

Kate Wood, who has seen Jerram's Museum of the Moon installation in a number of different settings across Europe, is particularly excited about the Dorset locations lined up for it. "You have to see it to really understand how it works so differently in indoor and outdoor settings," she says.

"We have three incredibly different locations - there's the stunning architecture of Sherborne Abbey; the trees, water and grass in the Central Gardens in Bournemouth; and then the historic surroundings of Nothe Fort. Each venue will offer a very different experience."

There is however, says Kate, one common experience the irresistible urge to take selfies with the moon. "It happens everywhere it appears," she laughs, "and we will, definitely be encouraging it."

Internally illuminated, and featuring a soundscape created by Ivor Novello Award and BAFTA-winning composer Dan Jones, this lunar installation also presents a hyper-realistic representation of the moon's surface with every centimetre depicting five kilometres of the actual moonscape.

For Alan Rogers the project provides a pleasing connection with his early experiences of Dorset's arts scene more than a decade ago, when he became Arts Development Officer for the former Weymouth and Portland Borough Council.

"Luke Jerram was the first artist who came knocking at my door with some projects back in 2007. He was produced for a number of years by one of b-side's former directors, Carolyn Black, so there are lots of local connections."

Alan points out that the Nothe Fort weekend neatly coincides with the Dorset Seafood Festival in Weymouth and offers visitors, who may not be naturally drawn to an arts event, the chance to add a visit to the moon alongside their foodie experience.

The appeal of the moon - our heavenly twin made of the same cosmic material as Earth - remains timeless and enduring. Tens of thousands of years before the 1969 Apollo 11 mission landed a man on its surface, the moon fascinated, terrified and inspired our ancestors.

It has been honoured as a fertility symbol, revered for its pull on our oceans and is endlessly associated with love and romance; on the darker side it has generated myths about madness, monsters and werewolves. Over the centuries it has inspired artists, poets, scientists, writers and musicians the world over.

The mystical power of the moon on our creative imaginations even became apparent when we invited the arts bosses behind the Dorset project to take part in a photo shoot.

With limited time we sought out the nearest approximation to a sci-fi backdrop or lunar surface - the concrete shadow of an urban flyover. The threesome - Andrea, Alan and, standing in for Kate who couldn't make it, Dom Kippin, the project's lead producer - soon imagined they had slipped into a gravity-free zone. As they posed, thinking about the moon, they seemed to almost be floating.

Alongside each Museum of the Moon installation, each location will also offer its own programme of associated events. They include performance pieces, sound-works, dance, a silent disco, choirs, a virtual reality piece, and there's even the opportunity to experience yoga under the moon.


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