Songs on the Summits 1918-2018

Archive photo of people gathered on Great Gable Summit in 1923

Throughout 2018 we're commemorating the gift of twelve summits to the nation as a war memorial after the Great War, through a special 'leave no trace' arts project of a song cycle performed and recorded on the top of Great Gable and the other Lake District fells.

'The World's Greatest War Memorial'

At the end of the First World War the Fell and Rock Climbing Club created what was described as ‘The World’s Greatest War Memorial’ by giving 12 mountain summits to the nation with the words ‘we dedicate this space of hills to freedom’.

One hundred years after the ‘war to end all wars’ finished, we are commemorating the extraordinary vision of their gift with a rather special project, called:

'The fellowship of hill, and wind, and sunshine'

To mark the breathtaking vision and generosity of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club’s gift to the nation, we’re working on an arts project during 2018, as part of the Trust New Art programme funded by Arts Council England.

Informed by the mountaineering principle of ‘leave no trace’ we’re working with Mouthful –  leading professional musicians from the North of England – and amateur singers drawn from community choirs in Cumbria. Together we'll create a 'singing picnic' at Peace How – a tiny hill at the south end of Derwent Water which was given to the National Trust in 1917 so that servicemen from the trenches could experience peace and tranquillity.

We're also recruiting singers to learn, perform and record a series of songs on each of the 12 summits dedicated as war memorials by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club.

" [they] surrendered their part in the fellowship of hill, and wind, and sunshine, that the freedom of this land, the freedom of our spirit, should endure."
- Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Cumbrian songwriter, musician and teacher Dave Camlin has created a new arrangement of the moving speech by poet, climber and FRCC member Geoffrey Winthrop Young that was ‘declaimed in a trumpet voice’ on the summit of Great Gable at the dedication ceremony. The song will form part of the song cycle.

Stand with us in 2018 as we re-dedicate this space of hills to freedom

Five different ways you can get involved

An innovative research project into the impact of special places

The project will also form part of a research partnership with the University of York who will record one of the mountain-top performances in virtual reality.

The virtual reality recording will then be installed at Keswick Museum and Art Gallery so that people who are unable to walk to the summits themselves will also be able to join in the project by singing 'with' the choir in virtual reality.

All participants will be asked to complete some surveys to research the impact that group singing in these special outdoor spaces has on people's sense of place, and to find out whether that impact can be replicated by singing with a virtual choir. This part of the project , is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The Great Gift

Every year, hundreds of people brave the November wind and rain by climbing to the summit of Great Gable on Remembrance Sunday. The mountain has become a deeply symbolic place for the outdoor community.

Few people know that it was not just Great Gable that was given to us to care for on behalf of the nation, but all the land above the 1,500ft contour line surrounding the peak – including 12 summits in total, that stretch out on either side of Sty Head Tarn.

The war memorial gift was the largest area that had ever been given to the Trust at the time
section of map from FRCC archive showing the gifted land

The start of an avalanche

At the time, it was the largest gift of land that had ever been placed in the care of the National Trust, for the benefit of the people of Britain forever.

The gift of the 12 peaks to the Trust by the Fell and Rock Climbing Club was made in 1923. They are Lingmell, Broad Crag, Great End, Seathwaite Fell, Allen Crags, Glaramara, Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Base Brown, Brandreth and Grey Knotts. 

The donation triggered a series of endowments to the Trust and a marked a transformational moment in the nation’s relationship with beautiful landscapes, paving the way for the formation of the first national park.

Now the National Trust cares for nearly 20% of the Lake District national park, which is visited by 15 million people each year.