Artists in Lockdown

In the summer of 2020, Discover Dearne and Barnsley Museums launched an exciting new project #ArtistsInLockdown, which brought back together three local artists and an artist partnership to produce pieces of work during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The project’s aim was to engage audiences regularly via social media with our artists as they continued to work through lockdown. The project was funded by Arts Council, England.

All the artists had previously worked on the hugely successful River Dearne Artist Commissions which was part of Discover Dearne’s previous project, the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership. Click HERE to view the River Dearne project and find out more about each artist.

When the project started, we were moving out of lockdown but as we all know, we went on to experience two further lockdowns in November and then again in January 2021 which continued until July 2021.  This delayed the project which was due to be completed by the end of 2020.

Each artist experienced lockdown differently but a common theme was how they all began to experiment with new techniques, art forms and approaches and had time to try new ideas and learn new skills.

Find out about their journeys below

Dan Jones

During lockdown, sculptor Dan Jones produced an intricate metal screen to be installed at Worsbrough Mill and Country Park. The screen replaced the old metal bird hide which was in a prominent position on site but attracted anti-social behaviour and was in a bad state of repair.  It was recognised that a screen of some kind was still needed so visitors to the site could watch the birds on the reservoir without disturbing them.

Dan set about the task of designing a screen which was creative and beautiful to look at but also robust enough to withstand any future vandalism.

Dan’s original screen design

His designs included wildlife and plants found in and around the reservoir including the tiny harvest mouse which is a very special resident of the country park.

Dan chose steel to make the whole screen from because of its strength and versatility. Measuring 4m x 2m it needed to be strong and not flex due to its size.  He created the bulrushes first,  each cut and welded precisely to form larger than life size replicas.  

Then came the twisted stems, leaves and nest which would sit atop the screen.

The working life of a sculptor is often a solitary one, so the pandemic didn’t have a massive impact on his ability to carry on working.  Dan works close to where he lives in the Dearne Valley and was able to continue to create his sculptures throughout lockdown as his work is all undertaken outside in a rural location.  Fortunately, he was really busy throughout.

The main issue for Dan was sourcing material but he had the foresight to order in advance of the second lockdown so he had the materials at hand to continue as winter approached and we headed for lockdown number two.

Battling the elements and the pandemic didn’t stop Dan, who completed the screen just before Christmas 2020. He wasn’t able to install the screen until February due to lockdown restrictions and the weather.

By mid-February there was a good weather window, so installation started on site.  First came the concrete footings and then the steel poles to mount the screen onto.  It was February half term for many local schools, so Dan drew quite a crowd as he poured cement and finally fixed the finished screen.

The screen is a beautiful addition to the Country Park. Improvements continue on this wonderful Barnsley Museum site.

To find out more about Dan and his work check out his website or his Instagram

Hayley Youell, James Lockey and Andy Seward 

The artistic team of Hayley Youell, Andy Seward and Jim Lockey created a series of three short vignettes inspired by stories and reflections of how lockdown impacted the nature of: and our relationship with the River Dearne.   These shorts were released digitally via Discover Dearne and Barnsley Museum’s social media channels.  The artworks combined audio/visual content from their past River Dearne project ‘Of the River‘ , the wonderfully moving film produced in 2018 with new material captured between June-August 2020. These included natural, found sounds of the Dearne Valley, interviews, original music and film. 

‘A walk with John’ was the partnership’s first work which was filmed at the height of Summer 2020.  Local Dearne resident and birding enthusiast John Law took us for a walk along the River Dearne near Adwick washlands in Barnsley.  He shared his knowledge of nature, pointing out various plants, flowers and birds as he wandered along the riverbank.   John also shared his thoughts on the pandemic and how nature has helped people throughout lockdown.

Join John as he shows off the delights of the River Dearne.

The River Dearne – An alternative view, is the second piece presented by Hayley, Andy and Jim. A hypnotic short abstract film of the River Dearne features sounds provided by Thurnscoe Harmonic Male Voice Choir and the ancient water wheel at Wortley Top Forge.  The film was created as we approached winter and the second lockdown and it has a very different, darker feel to the first film.

The final film takes us on a meditative journey along the river.  The partnership collaborated with artist Rachel Howfield Massey to produce the immersive and hypnotic experience. Rachel promotes the benefits of nature and creativity through her practice Other Ways to Walk

She explores wellbeing and our connection with rivers and gently guides us through this immersive and relaxing film.  It’s a journey of hope as we moved out of lockdown in July 2021, a year after the Artist in Lockdown project began.

Patrick Murphy

Patrick is an artist, designer and curator and hails from Barnsley. Patrick took inspiration for this project from his daily walks around his village in the Dearne Valley. Patrick’s main focus were the nearby flood plains which he has walked for over 20 years but has recently felt more connected to them during lockdown.  For many years a small herd of horses have grazed this area and often follow Patrick on his daily walk.  In flood, these horses seek out higher ground and are often see gathered together on small pockets of raised land, cut off and isolated.  Feelings that lockdown evoked.

Patrick started the project by creating ‘Fieldnote’, a series of artworks which featured in his first fascinating #Artistinlockdown blog Fieldnotes 1 ‘Between Grass and Sky’ which captured his thoughts and feelings during those unprecedented times.

click on the image to read Patrick’s blog

The blog also featured some of his beautifully intricate drawings of birds whose songs have brought great comfort to Patrick as he adjusts to working at home in isolation, as well as some really poignant poems.

As the project developed, Patrick concentrated on creating the ‘Dearne Valley Horse’ which took him on an exciting equine journey. Inspired by his local horses and the Dala horses of Sweden, find out how the project evolved by reading Patrick’s second blog Fieldnotes 2. Both blogs are a real insight into the mind of an artist and the creative processes they go through.

Click on the image to read Patrick’s second blog

The blog also features Message in a Bottle, a wonderful film shot earlier this year for Barnsley Museums in which Patrick speaks about his lockdown journey and how this project has helped him through it.

Patrick has successfully produced a series of beautiful glazed horses which you can see in his second blog. These will be available to purchase in early 2022 but to avoid disappointment, you can pre-order them on his online shop HERE

To read more about Patrick and his work, visit his website or Instagram

Louise Wright

During lockdown, artist Louise found comfort in her garden and was inspired by the wildlife and plants she was interacting with whilst creating a new nature garden.  She discovered that the time she had at home because of lockdown gave her the freedom to try new things, without the normal pressure of daily life and was able to experiment with a new body of work. 

Louise with Patch and Banjo

Being at home, Louise really appreciated receiving things through the post from friends and family and she wanted to be able to do the same as part of this project.  She wanted to share her work and the joy of a parcel arriving at the door with as many people as possible, so she decided to create limited edition lino cut prints to give away free to 10 lucky recipients. She produced the beautifully intricate Sparrow and Wisteria (both found in her garden) print.

Sparrow and Wisteria

The response was incredible so she decided to do another give away at the end of August and then one at the end of September. The August print was a bee-autiful buff-tailed bumble bee inspired by her Grandma’s love of Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) which bees and butterflies love.  With over 80 entrants into the free draw, it was clear that our humble bumble is a much loved little creature.

Bee print process

Louise has majestic oak trees in her back garden and these inspired her final print give away. With more of an autumnal feel, Louise produced a lino cut of an oak leaf and again, these proved really popular and the reach on social media was really good. It seemed like it wasn’t only Louise who liked receiving things through the post.

Oak leaf print

Louise realised when she moved into her new home there were no sparrows in her garden.  Over time she managed to coax them in and spent time drawing the lovely little birds in great detail.  This led her to sketch many other visitors to her garden and so she decided to showcase them all in a little sketch book, a garden journal which would chart her time through lockdown.

Click on the little book to discover what’s inside

When asked about the project when it was finished, Louise said “this project made such a big difference to me in lockdown and has continued to support me through this year too. When everything was so negative and bleak it was the small things that would give some cheer and comfort. It felt extra special to receive something nice the post from family and friends and I wanted to be able to do this for other people. It was important for me to share some of my good fortune and spread a little joy in the form of making prints to give away to the community.

Toi find out more about Louise and her art please visit her website and why not follow her in Instagram


Discover Dearne and Barnsley Museums would like to give a massive thank you to all these wonderful artists for their hard work and creativity through this unprecedented and difficult time. They have each responded and delivered thought provoking and relevant work which has engaged people during lockdown. Their resilience has shown that nothing can stifle the creative mind.

From L-R – Hayley Youell, Dan Jones, Patrick Murphy and Louise Wright

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