Dawyck Garden Takes Poetic Licence

Words are at the core of what’s happening at Dawyck Botanic Garden, near Peebles, this autumn as visitors are invited to engage with the environment through the language of poetry and song. As Gerry Loose continues to greet visitors during his month as Poet in Residence, the Garden also pays homage to the lyrics of the song-writing legend Bob Dylan, through the soul-searching outdoor exhibition Hard Rain: Whole Earth?

Seven years after he introduced the world to Hard Rain, the penetrating exhibition inspired by the Dylan classic A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, the leading environmental photographer Mark Edwards has returned to Dawyck with this powerful follow-up. From the original stark display of images portraying a planet suffering at the hands of man, he now responds to requests from thousands of people around the world for a display presenting solutions to the challenges caused by the impact of politics, industrialisation, and globalisation.

The idea for Hard Rain came to Edwards when he was lost in the Sahara desert, in 1969. He was rescued by a Tuareg nomad who took him to his people and played him the Dylan song. As lyrics spoke of “sad forests”, “dead oceans”, “where the people are many and their hands are all empty”, Edwards decided he would illustrate each line of the song. In the subsequent decades, he travelled around the world on photographic assignments that allowed him to capture photographs true to Dylan’s prophetic words. The result is a graphic illustration of our headlong collision with nature.

Running at Dawyck until Saturday, November 30, Hard Rain: Whole Earth? Updates the original by combining the hard-hitting images and powerful text with illustrations of how governments, businesses and individuals are striving towards sustainable development. It includes a section specially dedicated to What Scotland Is Doing, showcasing a range of projects around the country.

Supported by the People’s Postcode Lottery, the exhibition also seeks to elicit immediate responses from visitors. A touch-screen monitor in the visitor centre allows everyone to join the debate and answer the challenge: What’ll You Do Now?

Hard Rain: Whole Earth? began its tour of the four Gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) at Edinburgh last summer. RBGE’s  Head of Interpretation and Curator of Hard Rain: Whole Earth? Alan Bennell, said it was singularly appropriate that RBGE, with its international outreach and conservation role, should host the exhibition in Scotland: “After witnessing the responses motivated by the previous Hard Rain show in 2007, there was never any doubt we should present the sequel Hard Rain: Whole Earth? to our visitors”, he commented. “This stunning, unforgettable display cannot fail to inspire and engage everyone who sees it. For Mark Edwards, the urgency of articulating our headlong collision with nature has become an almost evangelical mission: the Hard Rain project aims to rouse its audience into addressing the excessively negative impact we are all having on our environment”.

While its message remains stark, Edwards has described Hard Rain:Whole Earth? as a “100-metre banner of hope, tempered with concern that we are not moving fast enough to scale up proven solutions. Everything is set to take sustainable development centre-stage, but we hesitate. We do not yet suffer fully from the pollution we spew out, so we pretend to be negotiating towards a sustainable world; we pretend we are making progress. We must not keep pretending until it is too late”.

While Dawyck visitors have until the end of November to experience Hard Rain:Whole Earth? they have just two more weeks to meet Gerry Loose, who is visiting as part of the Royal Botanic Garden’s wider Walking With Poets project. A diverse range of events happening until the end of this month range from a Seasonal Walk: poems of autumn: colours, scents and poems to Insect Day: Making and reading poems with additional discussion and drop in session concentrating on garden insects. Gerry’s residency ends with Renga Poetry: a collaborative poem-making session based on the ancient Japanese art of the poetry of love, the seasons, wildlife and plants.

For more information call Dawyck on 01721 760 254 or visit www.rgbe.org.uk/dawyck.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)