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Extravaganza of music and light inside Lake District mountain

4th August 2015 Print
Honister Slate Mine

An iconic Lake District mountain and what lies within is to provide the inspiration for a live underground performance by a 44-piece orchestra and a unique light display designed by 'Paper Bridge' artist Steve Messam this September.

Honister Slate Mine, deep inside the mighty Fleetwith Pike, has been chosen by the award-winning Cobweb Orchestra as one of four subterranean venues across the North of England to host a special underground music and light extravaganza featuring their full-piece orchestra. 

The concert at Honister will feature music from regional composers, as well as showcasing one of four specially commissioned pieces from Cobweb's composer-in-residence Michael Betteridge. The 900 year old Honister Slate Mine will host the third in the series of concerts on Sunday 20 September 2015 and the music will reflect the individual qualities of this unique Lake District location. The other three performances are taking place at York Nuclear Bunker, Cleveland Ironstone Museum and another location yet to be revealed. 

Artist Steve Messam – the man behind the Lake District's hugely popular Paper Bridge – has also designed site-specific light installations to complement the recitals. The underground light display at Honister will be a large-scale, immersive experience inspired by the geology of the mountain and the way slate splits readily in straight lines. 

Artist Steve Messam says, “This is all about experimenting with the format of a classical performance. Think of it as an orchestra playing music of the north. Inside a light installation. Underground. What's not to like? An orchestra playing underground is interesting and unusual. Adding a visual element with shards of light projected from the roof to the floor of the mine transforms it into something amazing!”

The Cobweb Orchestra's Creative Director, Andy Jackson, says, “When the idea of performing orchestral concerts underground emerged as a possibility, one of our members, Barbara Griffin, did the ground work and Honister emerged as one of the obvious locations to enjoy the hidden world beneath our feet. What we've come up with is a live art event which is part concert and part art installation. Using the funding we have a unique opportunity for the Cobweb Orchestra to bring a new dimension to this exceptional place.”

Co-owner of Honister Slate Mine, Joe Weir, says, “The acoustics in the mine are outstanding.  We've previously had performances from smaller groups and solo musicians down there, including the renowned saxophone player Snake Davies, but this is the first time we've done anything on this scale. It's a special place with a unique atmosphere, so we're really looking forward to seeing and hearing what this innovative orchestra come up with. Steve Messam's innovative light display will add another very special dimension as well.”  

The Cobweb Orchestra is a community-based network of music groups throughout northern England and was the original 'flashmob' orchestra. Their project has been supported using funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, in order to explore the underground heritage and culture of the Northern counties with a musical twist. 

The concert at Honister Slate Mine will get underway at 6pm on Sunday 20 September 2015, with an audience of up to 80 people. Tickets cost £25, for more information, visit

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Honister Slate Mine