Bees Banquet !

This is a bit long, but there are nice pics and a link to Vimeo……..

Over a period of a few weeks Tyneside Beekeepers put together a day celebrating bees, what they eat, and how it relates to human food, and to pilot a new piece of art work as part of the Tyne and Wear Museum and Archive Services (TWAMS) “Try New Things” initiative run by Michael McHugh.

The art pieces were a collaboration between Barbara Keating and Sara Nabil and can be found after the images of the club at play. Many thanks to @FLIR for sponsorship ! Thanks to Matt Pound of Northumbria Uni, for pollen analysis, and to Arnia Hive Monitoring systems for the loan of monitors and advice on data interpretation.

We invited researchers, community orchard groups and gardeners. See the list below. We had a “Forage Hunt” pollen game, information….. and beekeepers all over the GNM (Hancock Museum. Tyne and Wear’s Natural History Museum) chatting with the public. Below are some shots of TBKA being their usual sensible selves….ahem, ahem….as if …!

Kids loved them ! We were joined by Friends of Saltwell Park, Saltwell Park Volunteer Gardeners, Jesmond Community Orchard, Wylam Community Orchard, ERIC (Environmental Records Information Centre), Walaa Elsayeh, researcher at Newcastle Uni Bee Lab and BBKA Trustee, and Al Robinson of Honest Graft.

The whole day was exhilarating, and such a great laugh for all of us. ! We are going to come back !


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Barbara Keating, New Media Artist and Chair of Tyneside Beekeepers, and Sara Nabil, Designer of Interactive Interiors, and PhD researcher at Newcastle University Open Lab ( collaborated to explore how Sara’s interactive pieces might work alongside Barbara’s installation.

I had hosted a “Paladar”,  or home restaurant, at the EAT ! festival directed by Simon Preston (, where dinner guests were immersed in the world of the beehive, it’s sounds, smells and images. The menu was all about what bees like to eat (And there was honey too). Over dinner conversation naturally turned to questions about the projected images of bees which covered the tablecloth and guests.


The recent work was conceived and shown during winter, when it it is not possible to open a hive and film it, so thermal imaging was the chosen medium. Flir Systems came up trumps with the loan of their top of the line T1030 HD video camera.

Having never done thermography before I was apprehensive, but a call from the European Marketing Director himself gave me a great start. They followed up with more support and training too !

The view was looking up into the cluster, with white shown as hot. The ambient temperature was minus 4 degrees C, and inside the hive over 30C. The Arnia hive monitoring system was not installed on the hive I filmed (Too cold to open and install), but the temperature from a hive where pollen samples were taken was used instead.

Audio was recorded by James McAleer, and was a revelation. So noisy and busy in the hive at night! ( I always make James work in the freezing cold somehow, oops, sorry for that mate).

The video was back projected into a hexagonal tube with a concealed custom made screeen, suspended above a hexagonal table ( made by Keith Philliskirk, Secretary of TBKA) , holding dipped beeswax bowls.  I cheated and had excellent help on the set up from Chris Durant, head of Production at Northern Stage, who constructed the hexagonal tube and rig for the test. We are working on a more elegant design.

The height of the tube conceals the image from the viewer at first glance, and it privileges a child’s view, making adults bend and kneel. It’s almost an altar.

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View the thermal imaging video here and turn up the volume !

Sara recorded voice over for the touch sensitive photo boards, with audience being offered headphones to listen to the stories of the bees (voiced by children as baby and young bees ). It was ver, very popular ! The wonderful images of the bees are by Simon Croson (Copyright remains with him).

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We are working to bring together all the elements we have experimented with to carry forward to a full project. Watch this space !

Many thanks to TWAMS, FLIR, Simon Croson, and everyone who took part. Hope to do it all again soon ! Tyneside Beekeepers Association, you rock !


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