Why do you not see as many sparrows in your garden? Why are our native birds declining? What can we do to help? These questions and more are explored in a new and exciting exhibition of textiles and mixed media pieces now on display at the National Trust’s Nunnington Hall, near Helmsley.

‘Stolen from the Skies’ is a multimedia art exhibition co-created by North Yorkshire textile art group Decora. It features various artistic interpretations of the impact we have on birds, from the loss of natural habitats through environmental pollution, to being driven to extinction for sport.

The artists have explored the main causes of extinction, and what we can do to protect our bird populations. The multiroom-exhibition takes visitors to the hall on a journey to meet endangered, and extinct birds. This includes 159 extinct and 461 endangered species of bird which visitors can study on a variety of textile mediums: chemises, embroideries, wall hangings, 3D sculptures, and other sensory decorations. The display also features provocative information on the topic of extinction, what species are listed, and the steps we can take to prevent their further endangerment.

Decora is a group of 12 textile artists from North Yorkshire who work together regularly, forming in 2013 during their City and Guilds Diploma course in Textile Art and Embroidery. The difficulties of 2020 challenged their collaborative working; however, it did not hinder the creation of a thought-provoking exhibition.

The exhibition began to take shape in 2019 after the artist’s found inspiration from the National Trust’s 2016 “State of Our Nation” report; detailing the decline of over half of the United Kingdom’s native bird species*. Hosting the exhibition in Nunnington Hall was the perfect setting. For over three years the members would meet monthly, setting up social media webchats during the nation’s lockdowns in an effort to consistently share ideas, and keep in contact. ‘Stolen from the Skies’ served as a distraction during unprecedented times, working towards a specific goal with the importance of nature and the value of birds at Decora’s and the exhibition’s core.

Kelsey Ellington, Visitor Experience Officer, says:  

“Stolen from the Skies is a wonderful exhibition, showcasing the artists’ strengths in reflecting the visual textures of birds through a variety of art mediums. There are plenty of works that culminate to capture the natural beauty of our winged friends, and in doing so, tell the audience a story of not only the anxieties of endangerment, but of resilience in unprecedented times. This exhibition fuses together the wilful spirit of nature, and our own nation’s spirit as we face challenging times for our own, and other species on this planet.”


Stolen from the skies is on display at Nunnington Hall from now until 30 October. The Hall is open daily from 10.30am – 5pm (last admission 4.15pm). For more information, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall or call 01439 748283.

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