Luke Fowler with Ilam Park and Ilam Hall: Ilam Actual (version)

Project Info


  • Luke Fowler
  • Alex Hetherington
  • Lee Patterson


  • National Trust Ilam Park
  • YHA Ilam Hall
  • Arts Council England
  • Arts&Heritage

Young people have worked with Turner Prize-shortlisted artist and filmmaker, Luke Fowler, to make Ilam Actual (version): a series of short film and sound pieces, in partnership with the National Trust’s Ilam Park and YHA Ilam Hall in the Peak District, as part of Arts&Heritage’s Meeting Point programme.

Ilam Actual (version) was produced with the Soft Touch Arts group over a single weekend. It is composed of a series of non-narrative ‘actuality films’ and sound recordings made by each participant, under the guidance of Luke Fowler, experimental filmmaker Alex Hetherington and sound artist Lee Patterson. The term ‘actuality films’ refers to a type of proto-documentary inspired by early cinema pioneers in which a silent film is composed within a single, unedited shot. Together the participants worked to ‘re-frame’ the landscape using different microphones and film equipment.  When developing the project Fowler was inspired by the Lumiere brothers, by the joy and simplicity of their early films. In these there is no camera movement or editing. Fowler was interested in slowing down looking and the act of filming for the Soft Touch Arts group – allowing them to reflect on and engage with the environment of Ilam Park, the YHA Youth Hostel Ilam Hall, and the surrounding landscape of the Peak District.

Each single-shot film runs continuously for 40 seconds with no editing, reflecting the methods used in ‘actuality films’ – a type of proto-documentary inspired by early cinema pioneers in which a silent film is composed within a single, unedited take.

“What inspires me about this place – Ilam Park and Hall – is the manufactured nature of the landscape and the house, the threshold between what is natural and what is artificial, and the palimpsest of different eras. You can read any landscape through different lenses, which is what I’m encouraging these young filmmakers to do – deconstructing what we can see and hear to think about the interconnections between the house, occupants and nature.”

– Luke Fowler

The films and sounds were shot over the course of a weekend at Ilam Park and the youth hostel, with Lee Patterson supporting the young people through the process of recording a series of sound ‘actualities’, reframing Ilam’s landscape though recordings, while Luke Fowler and Alex Hetherington enabled the creation of the films. The ‘interconnections’ Fowler speaks of are reflected in these ‘actualities’, overlapping the voices of the young people, Fowler, Hethertington and Patterson, with the sounds of the environment from birdsong and sheep to the running water within the grounds.

Both Ilam Park and Hall were bequeathed to the National Trust on the condition that the hall became a youth hostel; a gift which has enabled tens of thousands of people to access the countryside, who may not otherwise have been able to.

Fiona Harrower, National Trust, said:

“It’s been an amazing opportunity to work with Luke, Alex and Lee in this way, to see this place in a different light and push the boundaries of how we use contemporary art to tell the stories of Ilam Park, its youth hostel and landscapes.”

Alison Stevens, Associate Director of Impact, YHA (England & Wales), said:

“We’re delighted to be involved with the project. As well as creating a unique piece of sensory art, it’s enabled us to give young people a fantastic opportunity. Collaboration is absolutely key to YHA. Each year we aim to reach more than 500,000 young people […] and give them opportunities to connect to the outdoors and heritage, but we recognise we can’t do this alone so working with organisations and programmes like Meeting Point is very important to what we do. We’re very excited by the creation of the project with Luke and also by the legacy it will leave, which we hope will encourage more people to come here and connect with the landscape and heritage of Ilam.”

This project is part of Arts&Heritage’s Meeting Point programme. Four cultural organisations – the RSC, National Trust and YHA, and Museum X – have taken part in a year-long artist-led research project to explore how artists can expand our understanding of heritage. Thank you also to The Modern Institute who supported the commission.

Find out more about Luke Fowler’s process of making Ilam Actual (version). Fowler discusses his process, working with Alex Hetherington and Lee Patterson, and what he wanted the young people to get from the project. We also hear from YHA and National Trust representatives about the history of the space itself.

The National Trust is a conservation charity founded in 1895 by three people: Octavia Hill, Sir Robert Hunter and Hardwicke Rawnsley, who saw the importance of the nation’s heritage and open spaces and wanted to preserve them for everyone to enjoy. Today, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the National Trust continues to look after places so people and nature can thrive.

YHA (England & Wales) is a leading youth charity with a 93-year history of making travel and adventure accessible to all, especially young people. Operating more than 150 locations throughout England and Wales, YHA offers a unique range of affordable accommodation including youth hostels, camping and cabins in rural, coastal and city locations.

Through its social enterprise model, revenue from YHA’s hostel accommodation is directed towards its social purpose.

Established in 1930, YHA’s charitable objective remains as relevant in 2023 as it was in 1930 – ‘To help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, and appreciation of the cultural values of towns and cities, particularly by providing youth hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels, and thus to promote their health, recreation and education.’

For ThisisTomorrow, David Toop interviewed Luke Fowler about Ilam Actual (version, focusing on his process of working with fellow artists, getting the young people to respond to the environment and filming on their own terms.

You can read the interview here.

The Artist

Luke Fowler

Born 1978, Glasgow; lives and works in Glasgow. Scottish artist, filmmaker and musician Luke Fowler (1978) has developed a practice that is, at the same time, singular and collaborative, poetic and political, structural and documentary, archival and deeply human. With an emphasis on communities of people, outward thinkers and the history of the left, his 16mm films tell the stories of alternative movements in Britain, from psychiatry to photography to music to education. Whilst some of his early films dealt with music and musicians as subjects, in later works sound itself becomes a key concern. (Maria Palacios Cruz).


Alex Hetherington

Alex Hetherington is a visual artist who works with 16mm film. Recent shows include SEEN AND NOT SEEN, with Scott Caruth, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow June–July 2022 and Sister Films for CCA ANNEX, March 2023. He often acts as a Director of Photography on other artists’ film productions most recently with Hannan Jones, Ayla Dmyterko, Rachel McBrinn, George Finlay Ramsay, Wendy Kirkup and Annie Crabtree. He has recently presented 16mm film workshops with Cooper Gallery, Dundee for Chimera, Nashashibi/Skaer November 2022 and Deveron Projects, Huntly for In the Shadow of the Hand (Sarah Forrest and Virginia Hutchison), January 2023. He occasionally writes about film and the moving image with published texts on artists like Karen Cunningham, Collective Edinburgh, Savinder Bual, PEER, London, Laida Lertxundi and Margaret Salmon, both This is Tomorrow and recent films by Rosalind Nashashibi, for Cample Line, Dumfries.


Lee Patterson

Through using sound recording to train his ears, Patterson has developed a dual practice that includes live performance and fixed works. By exploiting chemical and mechanical synthesis, he has created a range of amplified devices and processes that produce or uncover complex sound in unexpected places. From rock chalk to springs, from burning nuts to aquatic life and insect chants inside plants, he eavesdrops upon and makes a novelty of playing objects and situations otherwise considered mute. His collaborators have included Mika Vainio, Jennifer Walshe, Vanessa Rossetto, David Toop, Rhodri Davies and John Butcher, Greg Pope, Benedict Drew, Luke Fowler, Lucio Capece, Rie Nakajima, Angharad Davies, Keith Rowe, John Tilbury, Xavier Charles and Tetsuya Umeda. His works have featured on UK television, BBC Radios 3, 4 and 6, Resonance FM and on radio stations worldwide. He lives and works in Prestwich, Manchester, UK.