WASSA - A feast of folklore, fiction and fact

Sketch of the Wassa crusty pie

The Great Hall is the site of a new art installation bringing together a cast of historical and mythical characters associated with the building and its local area, including George Washington, the first president of the United States.

Named after the Anglo-Saxon family of Wass, it was created by artists Lindsey Mendick and Dominic Watson. Made mainly of papier-mâché and ceramics it takes the form of a fantasy medieval feast attended by guests plucked from local folklore fiction and fact…

Dominic Watson explains: “As you enter the Old Hall, which dates back to the 13th century, you’ll be faced with a grand banquet table laden with pies, jellies and drinks. Seated at the table are a group of colourful characters who all have a link with Washington Old Hall, over its hundreds of years of history.

“The installation is partly based on fact but it’s also steeped in stories and half-truths which have been passed down through generations and which we’ve learnt about as we’ve researched the Hall and the town of Washington.”

Look who’s coming to dinner…

The most well-known person at the table is George Washington, the first president of the USA, whose ancestral home was at Washington Old Hall. Opposite him at the head of the table sits a sculpture of Fred Hill, the local historian and schoolmaster who played a key role in saving Washington Old Hall from ruin in the early 20th century and who penned his own book of local stories called Fact, Fiction and Folklore.

And on the table, amongst the feast of food and drink and set inside a jelly, is a sculpture of the Pickled Parson whose body, according to local legend, was preserved in salt by his wife in order to convince parishioners that he was still alive and they should continue to pay his family their annual tithes.

During the creation of the installation, Mendick and Watson worked with local residents and school pupils to learn more about the stories and legends people hear while growing up in the town. “I think that the people we met will recognise their own input in parts of the artwork,” said Lindsey Mendick. “Talking to local residents really informed our work and gave us extra insight into the stories which are the most important to people here.”

WASSA is part of Meeting Point, a year-long project led by contemporary art specialists Arts&Heritage (www.artsandheritage.org.uk). WASSA will run until October 2022.

Leading UK and international artists have partnered with six museums in Yorkshire, the North West and the North East to produce new artworks inspired by the museums and their collections.

Funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund, Meeting Point presents artworks in unexpected places and supports small and medium scale museums to commission artists, who will create a piece of work in response to the venue.

Join the conversation on social media by using #MeetingPoint

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