Orford Ness: Former Cold War weapons testing site in Suffolk to host live gigs later this summer

Orford Ness in Suffolk will host literary and music gig in September. Ness
Credit: National Trust
Orford Ness, which will host the gig Ness Speaks: Words and Music in September, is known for its abundance of wildlife. Credit: National Trust

A former Cold War weapons testing site is to host a literary and music gig later this year, dedicated to the area's "unique" landscape.

Orford Ness on the Suffolk coast was used during both world wars and into the nuclear age, but has since been left to nature and is home to an abundance of wildlife such as wading birds, hares, Chinese water deer and precious vegetated shingle.

In September, author Robert Macfarlane, and Hayden Thorpe, best known as the frontman of indie pop band Wild Beasts, will perform in a series of gigs called Ness Speaks: Words and Music.

The event will feature an acoustic performance by Thorpe which will put to music Macfarlane's 2019 book 'Ness' which is set in and inspired by the landscape and history of the site.

The pagodas at Orford Ness were used as testing labs during the research and development of the atomic bomb. Credit: National Trust

There will also be a question-and-answer session and reading from Macfarlane.

The author said: “Orford Ness has long been a place of transformation and mutation, so it makes perfect and exciting sense to me to see my own words about the site taken up and transfigured into music by Hayden Thorpe.

"I can’t wait to hear it performed in full, in situ."

Thorpe said: “Visiting Orford Ness with Robert Macfarlane is like being guided through his Graceland.

“Strange beauty is made by creating work as ambitious as it is unlikely".

Robert Macfarlane (left) and Hayden Thorpe (right) will be performing at Orford Ness in September. Credit: National Trust

The event builds on previous artistic collaborations at Orford Ness.

In 2021, the National Trust teamed up with Artangel to produce Afterness, an exhibition which featured work by a collection of international artists.

Glen Pearce, Orford Ness property operations manager, said: “The unique landscape and fascinating, often secretive history of Orford Ness has inspired countless artists and writers across many different genres, and we’re delighted to bring so many of them together in the same space this September.

“We hope Orford Ness fascinates our visitors whenever they visit, but we’re sure this will be something unique and offer something different, even for those who may have visited before.”

Ness Speaks: Words And Music will take place on Saturday and Sunday, 28 and 29 September.

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