The Scarecrow Conference

The project draws on the ancient pagan tradition of building a scarecrow, pinning hopes, dreams and aspirations to it. The scarecrow is then burned so that it and the wishes are returned to the earth in a ritual celebration of renewal and fertility.

Heterogloss, a collective of artists, writers, designers based in Middlesbrough had been using bus shelters and bus journeys as a source for creativity for several years. They had produced bookworks, live performances, temporary and permanent installations and have facilitated workshops in schools and youth clubs as well as with university students.

Scarecrow Conference would integrate the ancient pagan ritual with the contemporary observations of bus shelters and journeys.

Heterogloss worked with a number of community groups. Through a series of visual art and creative writing workshops each group would design and construct its own contemporary scarecrow based on their own interests, concerns and responses to their environment. They would also pin specifically designed labels of text (hopes and dreams, thoughts, worries and stresses) to it.

On 5 November each group took the scarecrow on a bus journey to Skinningrove Fire Festival, or Saltburn Festival of Light, photographing it at the bus station, at stops and shelters, in queues and seated on the bus. Other passengers would be invited to add their own strips of text to the scarecrow en route.

The scarecrows would be assembled at the festival site, paraded and burned as part of the celebrations.

The photographic journeys and examples of the texts were collated and edited into a bookwork to showcase the project and the benefits it has had to the participating groups.


Borough Council Funders and Northern Arts