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The Gypsum Spirit of the Thornborough Henges

Video Performance/Film


Arts&Heritage Winter Commission supported by English Heritage

Thornborough Henges, Ripon, England

December 2023


2023’s winter commission comes from Olana Light, a multidisciplinary artist based in Hampshire: “The Gypsum Spirit of the Thornborough Henges”

After considering many Neolithic sites across the country, Light chose to make her performance to camera at Thornborough Henges, North Yorkshire. This atmospheric cluster of monuments is located above the river Ure and was installed around 4,500 years ago. The site consists of three circular henges, each surrounded by earthen banks, which are thought to be part of a ritual landscape. People have gathered, many traveling some distance, at the henges for ceremonies and funeral rituals for at least 2,000 years. The earthworks form part of the most important concentration of Neolithic monuments in the North of England and are looked after by English Heritage.

Evidence also suggests that Thornborogh Henges may at one point have been covered in a locally mined mineral called gypsum which would have glowed a striking brilliant white, potentially visible for miles around. For the A&H 2023 Winter Digital Commission, Olana Light explores the lost heritage of this landscape through reimagining this phenomenon in the present day. Her speculations about this mineral manifests in the form of a ‘Gypsum Spirit’; Light herself performing in a series of wearable sculptures made from and referencing the mineral. The artist has devised her own rituals at Thornborough’s southern henge at the cusp of the 2023 Winter Solstice.


Photo Credit: Olana Light

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