Dazzling new artwork that is a mobile observatory takes LEEDS 2023 to the stars and back: Heather Peak and Ivan Morison’s ‘Moon Palace’ embarks on an epic tour of the city, inspired by Leeds-born, Father of Civil Engineering, John Smeaton.
A new commission from leading artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison has been revealed in Leeds before embarking on a 4-month tour of the city, as part of the LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture celebrations.
Images can be downloaded here.
‘Moon Palace’ is both a striking social sculpture and accessible mobile observatory, based on an original idea by East Leeds Project and inspired by the legacy of John Smeaton, and the observatory he had in East Leeds. Each element of the interior and exterior of ‘Moon Palace’, formerly a school bus, has been designed to spark audiences’ curiosity and stimulate their observational skills with a collision of creativity, art and science, inspiring visitors to look afresh at the world around them.
Credit - Charles Emerson
‘Moon Palace’ and its tour also kickstarts Smeaton300, a programme of events by creative duo Foxglove that celebrate the life, legacy and influences of the man who coined the phrase Civil Engineering, John Smeaton, up to his 300th birthday in 2024. An East Leeds Project and LEEDS 2023 co-production, ‘Moon Palace’ has been commissioned by Foxglove and LEEDS 2023 for Smeaton300 and supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The work of collaborative artists Peak and Morison transcends divisions between art, architecture, theatre and activism. Together with East Leeds Project, Peak and Morison have assembled a team of artists and scientists to create ‘Moon Palace’, with support and expertise from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds and Leeds Astronomical Society. ‘Moon Palace’ will make an eye-catching arrival as it tours the city, with a dazzling exterior hand-airbrushed by artist Kiaran Davies and a sonic soundscape that will be created during the tour by Alex de Little.
Its interior is a fantastical, multi-sensory, tactile space evoking the surface of an imaginary planet, including: wood panelling using timber from Peak and Morison’s forest in west Wales; upcycled bus seating; printed silk screens; porcelain lunar lampshades; alien-looking mugs and a sculptural teapot will be put to use in the ‘kitchen zone’.
Credit - Charles Emerson
One huge and one small dome on the roof make way for a powerful telescope and a radio dish to enable ‘Moon Palace’ to function as an astronomical observatory. Audiences will be able to view the galaxy on a clear night and use the radio telescope built by students and staff from the School of Physics and Astronomy which will look at signals comings from different celestial objects from across the Universe.
Starting in East Leeds where life-long astronomer John Smeaton made the observations that continue to shape today’s world, including the oak trees that informed the design of the Eddystone Lighthouse, artists and scientists will lead audiences through daytime drop-in sessions and night-time galaxy-gazing events.
Ivan Morison and Heather Peak Credit - Charles Emerson
Moon Palace is made possible by LEEDS 2023, Leeds City Council, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, Bruntwood, Burberry, Scottish Power Foundation and First Bus.
For further information and interviews please contact Anita Morris Associates | firstname.lastname@example.org / 07976 584592
‘MOON PALACE’ TOUR: August to November 2023
Friday 4th August | Fearnville Fields LS8 3LF | 12:00-18:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Saturday 5th August | Royal Armouries LS10 1LT | 12:00-18:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Sunday 6th August | Royal Armouries LS10 1LT | First session: 22:00-23:30, Second session: 00:00-01:30 | Tickets required.
Saturday 12th August | Seacroft Festiva LS14 | 11:00-17:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Saturday 24th August | Fearnville Fields LS14 6SL | First session: 22:00-23:30, Second session: 00:00-01:30 | Tickets required.
Saturday 9th September | Victoria Square LS1 3AA | 12:00-18:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Saturday 9th September | After Dark Sessions | Victoria Square LS1 3AA | First session: 21:00-22:30, Second session: 23:00-00:30 | Tickets required.
Saturday 30th September | White Rose Shopping Centre LS11 8LU |11:00-17:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Saturday 21st October | Orionid Meteor Shower Gazing at Potternewton Park LS7 4HA |18:00-21:00 | Free entry, drop in. Bring your own telescope.
Sunday 22nd October | Royal Armouries LS10 1LT | First session: 19:30-21:00 (Relaxed), Second session: 21:30-23:00 | Tickets required.
Tuesday 24th October | Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People LS9 7DP | First Session: 19:30 - 21:00 (with BSL), Second Session: 21:30 - 23:00 (with Audio Described) | Tickets required.
Saturday 28th of October | Whinmoor Library LS14 2DF |12:00-18:00 | Free entry, drop in.
Tuesday 21st of November | University of Leeds LS2 9JT |13:00-17:00 | Free entry, drop in.
‘Moon Palace’ will also be visiting Otley, Farnley, Wetherby, Rothwell and other Leeds wards. Keep an eye on www.leeds2023.co.uk where more dates will be added.
LEEDS 2023's ambition is to deliver a transformational year of creative experiences connecting and benefiting people now and into the future. The planned programme will celebrate and transform the City’s identity locally, nationally and internationally – creating a lasting legacy of economic and social impact.
LEEDS 2023 is run by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity set up in 2019 by Leeds City Council as part of its Culture Strategy and as a response to the cancellation of the UK's participation in the European Capital of Culture competition.
Leeds City Council recognises in a number of its key strategies the difference culture and creativity can make to a city and its citizens, and is the principal funder of LEEDS 2023. www.leeds2023.co.uk
Artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison have established an ambitious collaborative practice that transcends traditional divisions between art, architecture, theatre and activism.
Their work is often performance-based and site-specific, existing as one-off events, social projects, or large-scale installations and buildings in public spaces. In particular, they are known for their architectural structures that relate to ideas of escape, play, shelter and refuge, the transformation of the modern city, and the function of civic communities.
The East Leeds Project is a visual arts organisation based in Gipton and working with art as a social action.
Foxglove is Jane Earnshaw and Abby Dix-Mason, creators, commissioners and producers of arts projects for over 20 years. Jane and Abby have collaborated with artists and communities to produce work in parks, shopping centres, universities, swimming pools, museums, public spaces, bridges, castles, festivals, canals, playgrounds, libraries, schools, train stations and traditional arts venues.
Alex De Little is a sonic artist and researcher with bases in Leeds and London, UK. His practice encompasses installation, composition, performance and workshops; it is concerned with the interrogation of listening as a practice of world-making -a way of thinking into and through environments, notions of self, and social relations.
About The National Lottery Heritage Fund Using money raised by The National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.
Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.
The School of Physics and Astronomy research activity covers the following main areas: Star and planetary system formation; Spintronics in condensed matter; Experimental biophysics and bio-nanoscience; Dynamics of polymers and complex fluids; and Quantum information theory and its applications. We are applying our collective expertise to the development of sustainable energy harvesting and storage, and towards translation into healthcare and medicine. Our research, with wider economic impact, includes the development of functionalised nano-materials for use in photo-voltaics and in the catalysis of methanol oxidation, the micro-bubble delivery of medication to cancerous tissue, and quantum sensing applications for medical imaging.
Leeds Astronomical Society: Astronomy is arguably the oldest science & it is accessible by all. Leeds Astronomical society was formed in 1859 and is the oldest surviving amateur Astronomy group in England with a membership of about 50 people.
John Smeaton. John Smeaton’s life begins and ends in Leeds yet reaches around the globe. A self-taught engineer, inventor and collaborator, Smeaton is recognised as the father of civil engineering in the UK. He was a modest character who didn’t like to boast but the truth remains that he stopped London Bridge from falling down, built the most iconic lighthouse in the world and is name checked on NASA’s website.
Smeaton300: The Art of Engineering
An original idea developed by Foxglove, enabled by Leeds City Council in partnership with LEEDS 2023, Smeaton 300 is a creative programme of events, talks and debates by artists, scientists, engineers, designers and anyone who wants to get playful with engineering. The programme begins in 2023, Leeds Year of Culture and completes during the tricentenary of John Smeaton’s birth in 2024.
The blueprint for lighthouses, waterwheels, bridges, ports, canals, observatories and windmills are all part of John Smeaton’s incredible legacy and he is acknowledged as the father of civil engineering in the UK.