Meeting Point2: Hexham Old Gaol

Dawn Bothwell, production photo for This Liberty © Kit Haigh

A cinematic and audio installation inspired by the oldest purpose-built prison in England, Hexham Old Gaol, by artist Matt Stokes in collaboration with musician Richard Dawson.

  • Facts

    Title This Liberty
    Historical Sites Hexham Old Gaol
    Lead Artists Matt Stokes in collaboration with Richard Dawson
    Artwork Installation Film and Audio
    Partners / Stakeholders Hexham Old Gaol, Woodhorn Charitable Trust, Arts&Heritage and Arts Council England
    Budget £10,000.00
    Development 6 Months
    Dates 22 August - 8 December 2017
  • Description


    Richard Dawson and George Unthank © Kit Haigh

    The project is part of the Meeting Point2 project led by Arts&Heritage. It supports ten new contemporary art installations at museums across the North East, North West and Yorkshire during 2017. Meeting Point2 is funded by Arts Council England Museum Resilience Fund.

    Drawing from traditional border ballads, which were typically sung unaccompanied and used to tell stories, This Liberty consists of five new songs, each telling the story of a different character associated with the 687-year-old building.

    Matt Stokes explains: “Each ballad will be sung by a person representing the contemporary equivalent of one of the people who had links with the Gaol – for example, a song about Hexham’s first gaoler, who was a barber by profession, will be sung by someone embodying a present-day barber.  

    “Each character will then be set within current surroundings, creating parallels between both the past and present, and socio-political climates of the times.” 

    The characters whose stories are told through the ballads are: John de Cawood, the first gaoler of Hexham who took up his post in 1332; a petty criminal, typical of many who were imprisoned there; a wealthy prisoner based on a notorious border reiver called Gerard ‘Topping’ Charlton who was imprisoned in the 1530s; a local citizen who visited the gaol and gave money or food to poor inmates; and a priest who would have looked after the spiritual needs of the prisoners.

    Singers are Trev Gibb, Richard Dawson, George Unthank, Marry Waterson and Dawn Bothwell.

    Watch a film about the inspiration behind This Liberty 


    • Raise the profile of the site within the locality 
    • Draw attention to the sites rich history and the value of this historical asset within the town 
    • Provide a platform whereby future programming can be developed 


    Arts&Heritage is supporting the ten participating museums throughout the process, sharing knowledge of presenting contemporary art projects and commissions in non-traditional art spaces.

    A networking event between the participating museums and 70 artists from across the UK took place at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and visits to artists’ studios were arranged. Museum teams also met with peers at other properties to learn how they successfully delivered contemporary art projects at their museums and heritage sites.

    All museums developed their own Artist’s Brief. Following the networking event artists were invited to send in an expression of interest to museums that interested therm.

    Four artists were shortlisted by each museum to draw up a more detailed proposal and were paid £500 each


    Marry Waterson, production photo This Liberty © Kit Haigh

    Information to follow


    • £10,000 to include all materials, travel and installation costs
    • £1000 towards learning and outreach
    • £500 paid to each of four artists shortlisted
  • Audience Engagement


    A marketing campaign for the Meeting Point2 project is being led and delivered by Emma Pybus and David Brookbanks.

    The Meeting Point2 project was documented by Jonathan Turner and Peter Spence


    Richard Dawson and Dawn Bothwell © Kit Haigh

  • Artist Information

    Richard Dawson, Matt Stokes and George Unthank, production photo This Liberty © Kit Haigh

    Matt Stokes is an artist whose works begin with an immersive research process that explores the history and social structures of the place he is working in, resulting in the production of films, installations and events. These outcomes hold collaboration at the centre of both their formation and philosophy, often being made directly with people from the communities they are celebrating. Stokes has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally, including solo exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery (London), CAAC (Seville, Spain), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead), Kunsthalle Fridericianum (Kassel, Germany) and De Hallen (Haarlem, Netherlands). He is represented by Workplace Gallery, London/Gateshead and Markus Lüttgen, Cologne.