If you had peeked through the doors of Taunton’s Creative Innovation Centre on the 21st October last year you would have witnessed a very unusual birthday party and overheard the guests singing happy birthday to a certain ‘Ess-Tee-See.’ The guest of honour was not present, nor could he have been, as the S.T.C in question was Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

The evening was also the opening night for the Imagined Worlds exhibition, which successfully brought together The Friends of Coleridge Society, contemporary poets from across the globe and Somerset artists to celebrate the bicentenary of the publication of Coleridge’s visionary poem Kubla Khan.

If you missed the exhibition in Taunton, you will be pleased to learn that you now have the opportunity to visit it in Bath at the Royal United Hospital where it opened on the 19th January and runs until late April.

Curated by Jon England for Somerset Art Works the show features a diverse range of media including print, paint, words and photography, reflecting the many disciplines of the artists participating. It is fascinating to see where the journey to Coleridge’s imaginary world has led each individual artist. Some have stayed very true to the original lines of text and created traditional illustrations. Others like Adam Grose have literally captured the Somerset landscape that so inspired Coleridge’s work and strong working ethic – the two are so intrinsically entwined. You may read about Adam’s contemporary approach on a previous SAW blog post entitled IMAGINED WORLDS: Adam Grose.

Lyn Mowat’s gouache painting is all about the celebration – entitled honestly and effectively ‘A Dress for Kubla Khan’s Party.’ Its striking colour combination of scarlet with turquoise and the simplicity of form caught my eye from the other side of the gallery exclaiming fun and naivety with a whoop of colour! Lyn explained that she has explored the use of garments in her work previously to denote ‘states of being’ but for this painting was visualising ‘the stately pleasure-dome and the grand balls that would be held there and that led me to imagine what I would wear!’

The event at the CICCIC premiered a selection of films which unfortunately are not able to view at the current RUH exhibition. The main billing was created by Somerset Film and initiated via a proposal from Ian Enters of The Friends of Coleridge Society – in fact the entire Kubla Khan celebrations were enabled by the dedication of Ian in partnership with SAW’s Carol Carey and their successful grant applications.

A Further Fragment by the poet technologist Christopher Jelley explores his artistic response and treads tentatively in an ‘imagined world’ that could all too easily disappear on waking or blinking…

As part of the celebrations Ian Enters wished to inspire and connect a younger generation with the Romantic poet. Somerset Art Works InspirED initiative was well placed to deliver this request and paired writers and artists Alice Maddicott and Christopher Jelley within Somerset schools. The successful workshops encouraged the pupils to explore and re-imagine the landscape of Xanadu and you can eavesdrop on their enthusiastic interpretations encouraged by Christopher Jelley at Parkfield Primary School below:

It is wonderful that Coleridge’s text from two centuries ago continues to inspire contemporary artists, writers, poets and thinkers. The legacy of his writing is also a celebration of our varied county from the caves at Cheddar to the gnarled, stunted oaks of Culbone. I hope that the children who have been introduced to his life and work will view their immediate landscape with fresh eyes and imagine it anew. Do go view the work currently on display as we all are capable of looking at Somerset in a more Romantic light.

Exhibition details and future locations:

BATH: Royal United Hospital
19 January – 28 April 2017
Open 12 hours a day – 7 days a week
NETHER STOWEY: Coleridge Cottage,
4 May – 22 May 2017
Thursdays to Mondays 11am – 5pm

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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley

FEATURED IMAGE: Detail of Sacred River by artist & print-maker Bronwen Bradshaw

FILM & AUDIO CREDITS: with thanks to Somerset Film, Richard Tomlinson of Ignite Somerset and Christopher Jelley


Published on January 20, 2017 // Davina Jelley