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Dorset AONB – Dorset

Maiden Castle

Following in the footsteps of our ancestors, hundreds of people gathered to celebrate at this ancient hillfort in the heart of Dorset AONB.

Maiden Castle is one of the largest Iron Age hillforts in Europe. Its huge ramparts once gave shelter and safety to hundreds of residents, with archaeological evidence revealing a Roman temple built in the 4th century CE and Neolithic enclosure from about 3500 BCE.

Forming a bridge across 5000 years of history, over 500 Lumenators from Dorset and beyond came together as one community. There was dancing and making, creativity and learning. Then, as the midsummer sun began to set, they processed through Maiden Castle’s multiple ramparts, gathering near an ancient dewpond to celebrate this extraordinary landscape.

Event Notebook

Our Creative Team drew inspiration from the long and varied history of Maiden Castle. Writer and poet Zakiya McKenzie wrote a new poem, Old Journey (Maiden Castle), that drew on research visits to the site and Dorset Museum.

Track made by Isaiah Dreads with words performed by Zakiya McKenzie

Music made for the event with a poem read by Zakiya McKenzie

Group of young people, white, black and Asian, sit in a semi-circle in the grass in front of posters and tents

Lumenators used Augmented Reality and QR codes to experience the work of second-year BA (Hons) Interior Architecture and BA (Hons) Graphic Design students from Arts University Bournemouth. The project was inspired by the themes of Green Space Dark Skies.

This place sprawls across time
Telling the tale of ground
Packed and bound by those who placed
Evergreen stories within reach
Stories in safe keep
Across rampart and mound
With bounty beneath
We dig
for old fragments
and assemble them until night
Dark sky maps starscape above
We follow the light
Of nature
They came holding tradition in their hands
Leaving showpiece of wonder
A people enhanced

As fair Maiden Castle climbs higher and higher
The pace of feet is the sound of centuries
In the place of this feat
myth and archaeology meet
the air at the peak, since green space begun
Joins us in breath with Celtic Durotrigans
Intrigue feeds and keeps the beat
of hearts long tethered to this beacon

for when the millennia are like chaff
thrashing away with sand
does Neolithic dust feel any different in your hand
when parched and crusted over
as much as a hundred scores ago
does Iron Age rock bring you closer to bone
Do grassy ditches hide what we now want to know
and is there more than museum in hidden barrow
Does the water spring where for centuries it flowed
As we skip across the stream of time like a river-stone

What if now our story is to love
Before our story is told in tales
What if the meaning of today is no more than being in love’s shade?
Go light the night and sing the same song!
Follow the moon to where it began
Find the path that keeps you together
Keep the fort when hearts are weathered
For before what will be left, there is beauty still
and struggle at intervals for peace
The land opens ahead as hiding place for
these living memories

Zakiya McKenzie
Old Journey (Maiden Castle)

Producer and rapper Isaiah Dreads grew up in the shadow of Maiden Castle. He used this knowledge to find and record natural sounds, which he then mixed to create much of the music that our Lumenators heard during the day.

Drawing this all together on the day was choreographer and artistic director of Akademi, Subathra Subramaniam. The movement she created for the Lumenators took much of its inspiration from Zakiya’s poem.  Suba wanted to create a space where people could be together and share something collective through movement.

A group of Lumenators dancing

The Music Tent hosted sets from Bristol DJ JORB, along with DJ Ol Lee, winner of Dorset’s Street in the Park competition. Lumenators got an exclusive performance by our Musical Director, Isaiah Dreads as well as lots of opportunity to dance.

I was interested in ritual and how a traditional Bharatanatyam Natyam dance movement could bring people together in a quiet, meditative, collective way that could take in the landscape, the earth and history under our feet, as well as the dark skies.  The shapes were informed by the archaeology of the space, teardrops, water and circles of community. It was important that people also had the time and space to look up at the dark skies and appreciate the stars.

Subathra Subramaniam
Artistic Director, Akademi
People sat on colourful crates and a person in a wheelchair sat in front of a tent labelled Talking Tent

Dorset AONB’s Talking Tent provided a space for Lumenators to learn more about the history and nature of the area. Experts were on-hand to suggest new places to visit, or other ways to engage with nature, outdoors or at home.


A young Lumenator smiles as she holds up her Geolight glowing red at dusk

The final movement involved all groups coming together to make a tear drop. Our group was right in the centre. At the end we all clapped to say thank you. We both felt privileged to be there, especially as we’d never done anything like this before, with so many people being part of something bigger and celebrating nature together, in particular our local magical hillfort. The whole experience was different, exciting and moving.

Emily & William
People First in Dorset
Black woman in colourful headband crafting with glue and cardboard with a young black girl holding a paper butterfly

Dr Emilie Giles from Arts University Bournemouth, along with a group of students, ran drop-in workshops during the afternoon, giving Lumenators the opportunity for crafting using creative technology and e-textiles.

Morning fog over various fields and meadows in Dorset

About Dorset AONB

One of the oldest AONBs in the UK, the Dorset AONB celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2019. It is the fifth largest AONB, making almost half of the county of Dorset a nationally important protected landscape.

As you travel from Lyme Regis on the AONB’s western edge to Poole Harbour in the east, you’ll encounter ever changing landscapes. The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site forms the coastal edge of the AONB, with chalk downland, lowland heath and clay vales inland. With this wonderful range of landscapes comes an amazing mix of wildlife – the Dorset AONB supports over 80% of all British mammal species, 48% of bird species and 70% of butterfly species.

The unspoilt nature of the AONB not only supports wildlife, but has ensured many thousands of years of history can be read in the landscape. Corfe Castle, St Catherine’s Chapel and the hillforts and round barrows of the South Dorset Ridgeway are among the historical highlights that are easy to explore. Over the centuries, Dorset’s landscapes have inspired poets, authors, scientists and artists, many of whom have left a rich legacy of cultural associations, the best known of these is Thomas Hardy. The Dorset landscape continues to be a source of inspiration to the vibrant arts community here today. Indeed, the Dorset AONB is unusual in that it contains many thriving market and coastal towns within its boundary, including Bridport, Lyme Regis, Beaminster and Swanage – meaning that over 70,000 people have outstanding landscapes right on their doorsteps.

We’d like to thank all the groups who participated:

  • 13th Weymouth Guides
  • Allsort’d
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Big4Littlemoor
  • Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole Indian Community
  • Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole Looked-after Children and their foster families
  • Chapelhay community members
  • Dorchester Islamic Centre
  • Dorset Blind
  • Grace the Space
  • The Parks Foundation Parks in Mind group
  • People First Dorset
  • Dancers from The Remix, Weymouth College, Dorset Youth Dance, Bridport Youth Dance, Movers and Shakers, and Stagecoach Dorchester.
  • Aeolian Sound Sculptures by Dan Fox
  • Flags by Wendy Meadley and banners by Chris Alton
  • DJ sets by DJ JORB and DJ Ol Lee
  • Augmented Reality Installations and E-Textile Workshops by Students & Staff from Arts University Bournemouth Graphic Design and Interior Architecture, and AUB Human
  • Dorset AONB Talking Tent lead by Tom Munro, Sue Dampney, with Steve Wallis (Dorset Council)

Thanks to our partners who supported this event:

  • English Heritage
  • Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Arts University Bournemouth
  • Dorset Council
  • Dorchester Town Council
  • Weymouth College

Event produced by Activate Performing Arts

Photography by Phil Young and Jayne Jackson