How far back to you go? Individually, we have always been drawn to the outdoors, inquisitive about the small things and the bigger picture, and compelled to work in our own art forms. That kind of thing begins in childhood. But partnerships come about later. We met in 2009 and soon realised how much common ground we shared and wanted to explore together.
It might have been a single moment, on a crag high above a central Lake District valley, when we realised we wanted to do something collaboratively. More likely, it was a string of moments and conversations outdoors that combined to bring about our first collaborative project. Our notebooks contain doodlings and mindmaps drawn on planes, in pubs (perfect brainstorming spaces) on hillsides, in the kitchen. Some ideas become active projects, some lie in wait for the right time.
Our name comes from a poem by Anne Stevenson that opens with the lines ‘Somewhere nowhere in Utah’. The poem inspired Harriet to write back in the 1980s and its presentation of landscape and storying the land is perfect for us. We like the way it implies that a remote place may seem like nowhere (‘in the middle of nowhere’), until you get there, and then it’s somewhere (‘now-here’). We have used the last words of the poem as our twitter name: @butnorain.
We had the great pleasure of meeting Anne Stevenson in the summer of 2015. It felt right and proper for her to be the first person to feature in our ‘In Conversation’ series.
We carried out our first collaborative project, just a small one, in 2011, when we invited a group of creative practitioners to join us at the Cylinders Estate in the Langdale Valley for a weekend of sharing food, ideas and debate while wrapping the skeleton of a long-dead oak tree in fine-spun herdwick wool.
Around the same time, plans for a longer project were in full flow and in 2012 we embarked on Land Keepers, an exploration into upland farming in Cumbria – this kept us busy for two years while we worked alongside farmers, chatted with environmental specialists, walked the fells, and brought together a collection of images and writing that toured the UK. We loved what we were doing, we met some great people, learnt a huge amount, and knew we would carry on working together.
Land Keepers led us into a debate about the difficulty of meeting a variety of demands in the uplands of Cumbria, where finding a working balance between farming and biodiversity is an ongoing task. Many of the issues we discussed have global resonance and our projects always look into the challenge of valuing and protecting biodiversity as well as human cultures. If that sounds a bit serious, it is, but it doesn’t undermine the fundamental guiding force of the work we do on our own and with other people – get out, discover, learn, enjoy, and feel connected. This is a common thread in all that we do and our projects stem from feet-on and hands-on engagement with the world around us.