The love just grows and grows for Old Oswestry hillfort.
Shropshire councillors may have voted to throw open its ancient landscape to development, but defiant residents will be scaling its ramparts on Valentine’s Day in a hug of protection for the Iron Age icon.
Following the success of last year’s inaugural hug, campaign group HOOOH is staging a weekend of events embracing the archaeology and landscape of one of Britain’s most celebrated hillforts.
Running February 13 and 14, the Old Oswestry Hug Weekend will include a heritage seminar, craft workshops, art exhibitions, music event, as well as a mass hug of the hillfort itself.
Expanding on its well-received seminar in 2014, HOOOH will be hosting a full day symposium in Oswestry’s Memorial Hall on Saturday 13 February. Invited speakers will explore Old Oswestry’s multi-faceted archaeology and heritage landscape as well as modern-day planning threats to it.
The hillfort hug will take place from 1pm on Sunday 14 February, culminating in a procession along the ramparts with lights and drums. It attracted over 450 people last year and was supported by a national social media campaign, #hugyourheritage, created by the Council of British Archaeology.
HOOOH is also delighted to announce that the hug event is being supported by a number of local artists with an exciting series of exhibitions under the banner ‘Artists Hugging Old Oswestry Hillfort’ (AHH!).
Members of art groups, Inside Out Art and Borderland Visual Arts, are busy creating artwork, including paintings, sculpture, textiles and jewellery, inspired by the 3,000-year-old monument and its landscape. Many will be on display in time for the hug weekend.
From February 1 to April 4, Oswestry’s Heritage & Visitor Centre will be showing an exhibition of AHH! work entitled ‘Views of, and on, Old Oswestry Hillfort’.
Oswestry arts venue, Hermon, will also be showcasing a number of AHH! installations during February and will be hosting drum and light-making workshops on February 6 and 13. It is also staging ‘Hillfort Live’, an evening of ‘hillfort-centric’ music and performance on February 13 from 7.30pm.
A third exhibition will run at Oswestry’s Willow Gallery from April 23 to May 21, incorporating photos and film of this year’s hug.
Campaigner Dr George Nash said: “This is yet again another extremely visual display by the people of Shropshire and the Borderlands showing their support for this iconic monument. Let’s hope Shropshire Council with its new leader can see and hear what the people are saying, which is simply ‘No’ to development.”
Llanarmon-based artist Diana Baur, spokesperson for AHH!, said: “Local artists are making works that reference the hillfort, visually expressing its importance for future generations and the fight to protect its setting. Plans are being laid for the exhibition to then travel further afield linking to other areas where our national heritage is threatened.”
HOOOH is campaigning against the reassignment of the hillfort’s eastern hinterland – and heart of Oswestry’s heritage gateway – for an estate of 117 houses. Despite overwhelming opposition and calls from the highest echelons of British archaeology to reject the development, it was recently approved by Shropshire Council on the SAMDev local plan.