The Newton Tree Party set out to uncover Isaac Newton’s family connections in the Lincolnshire landscape. We wanted to retrace the footpaths and routes that Newton would walked between different villages, family houses and buildings over 300 years ago. Now in the 21st Century the Newton Tree Party celebrates these routes and their stories through walks, creative events and social media.
A special workshop in Colsterworth Village Hall helped kick start the project in February 2014. The session aimed to use local knowledge to retrace the branches of the Newton family tree and to identify how they related to the landscape. Community members, local historians and Newton family descendants were invited to bring stories, photographs and maps and to share local knowledge. Historian and Newton descendant Russell Newton also shared his unique research from his forthcoming book Mr Newton’s New Perspective.
Long distance walk specialists, Ali Pretty and Richard White were brought in to work with the local community to help design and lead the walks. Ali & Richard lead long distance walks that creatively explore the history of landscapes by inviting participants to record thoughts and reflections through visual arts and digital media. Audiences from around the world can track and interact with the routes and walkers through various social media platforms – a perfect combination for the Newton Tree Party!
From the meeting in Colsterworth 10 key locations were identified, each with a significant story to tell about Newton, whether it was his place of birth, a house where he spent time on his research, or a walking route to see an uncle or attend school.
The Grantham Museum expanded the project by heading up a successful Arts Council bid that supported Richard and Ali’s creative work in the community. This enabled Ali & Richard to offer silk banner and digital media workshops that would integrate into the walks. Community members were invited to help design flags that would reflect key locations in the Newton Footsteps story and to provide a multi-media backdrop to the walks that would enable remote contributions and discussions on platforms such as Twitter, Flickr, Social Hiking, Facebook and the project blog.
The final Newton’s Footsteps walks were held over a two-day period during the Gravity Fields Festival in September 2014. Colourful flags were presented to community bearers along the route and the walkers were greeted by the local community along their way. Audiences from around the world were invited to join the walks through social media platforms and comments and questions came in from places as far afield as India and Australia. You can see how the story unfolded through these platforms:
Ali & Richard: www.facebook.com/nowwearewalking
Social Hiking: http://www.shareyouradventure.com/
Richard White @walknowlive
We would like to extend warm thanks and appreciation to all those that took part, here’s to a reunion in 2016!