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Rock Solid? 2 Exhibition “Beautiful, witty, yet unsettling.”




Dismantling Rock Solid? 2 on Monday 1st July after a popular exhibition at Kendal Museum alongside an Art Trail through the town.


Below is an excellent briefing about the exhibition -which can also be read in original format at Nuclear Free Local Authorities


NFLA Policy

Briefing No. 300

Date: 1 July 2024

Subject: ‘Beautiful, witty, yet unsettling’: Nuclear exhibits shown at Rock Solid 2 at Kendal Museum


  1. Introduction: Author NFLA Secretary Richard Outram was kindly invited by the organiser of Rock Solid 2, Marianne Birkby, a Cumbrian artist and anti-nuclear campaigner, to join radiation expert Dr Ian Fairlie in opening the exhibition at Kendal Museum on 10 May. On that evening Richard took several photographs specifically of display items relating to the nuclear industry and anti- nuclear activity; these were admittedly sometimes taken in haste, in a crowded venue and on a handheld Tablet so they are not of pristine quality; nonetheless it was felt that they might be of interest and value to other campaigners working to oppose nuclear power projects.

  2. Rock Solid 2: Marianne plays an instrumental role in local campaign groups Radiation Free Lakeland / Lakes against the Nuclear Dump in opposing plans to impose a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) upon Cumbria. This could be located by the coast in Mid- or South-Copeland to receive Britain’s legacy and future most toxic radioactive waste, which would be transferred from the Sellafield nuclear complex and buried in tunnels beneath the Irish Sea. Rock Solid 2 was hosted to showcase the past and present impact of the nuclear industry on Cumbria, and to raise awareness of the GDF. Marianne described the exhibition as “a must see for all those who love Cumbria.” She explained that it was “a unique celebration of Lakeland's jewel-like geology, landscape, flora, and fauna seen through the lens of a 'quixotic' plan to bury atomic wastes deep under the Cumbrian coast and the sea. Altogether 20 artists have produced artworks including comic books, installations, sculpture, and multi-media in a vibrant and thought-provoking exhibition.” The exhibition garnered significant positive coverage in the media and, despite access being limited only to weekends, was visited by hundreds of art lovers during its six-week residency. Kendal Museum also hosted a ‘Nature Recovery in Kendal’ conference taking place during the residency and Marianne was able to interact with some of the participants and speakers who were able to see the work in the exhibition space. The launch evening was attended by sixty persons, a number that the museum curator attested was the highest to date at any exhibition launch. One attendee memorable described the exhibition as “beautiful, witty and yet unsettling.

Amongst those exhibiting works in a range of mediums were the winner of the John Moore’s Painting Prize, guest artist Martin Greenland; internationally renowned mountain painter Julian Cooper; record producer Russell Mills; Lake Artist Society award winners Kate Bentley and Andrea Pentecost; Steve Wallis; Irene Rogan; Fiona Clucas; Julian Cooper; Russell Mills; and Marianne herself. Artists spent time looking at the Museum’s natural history collection for inspiration.

The link to the exhibition brochure can be found at https://simplebooklet.com/thecatalogue#page=1


Above: Artist Martin Greenland speaking about his work at the launch event.

Marianne also had the inspired idea to create a related Art Trail through Kendal. Thousands of people stopped to admire artworks in fourteen shop windows. Marianne said of this: “Many people stopped to appreciate the artworks which included a stunning painting by guest artist Martin Greenland in Waterstones alongside a beautiful sculpture by Danny Clahane. We were delighted that big high street names such as Waterstones and Wilkinson Cameras took part alongside individual shops such as Ivy Bank Home and Gift and Hair Bazaar”.


A video about the art trail can be viewed on You Tube at


2 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

Above: Marianne hanging the outside advertising banner to the exterior of the venue.


Below: amongst the favorable publicity the exhibition received was this piece in the prestigious Cumbria Life:


3 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024




The exhibition included the following introductory display.


4 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024


3. Rock Solid 1:

The launch of the Rock Solid 2 exhibition came exactly twelve years to the day after a prestigious Rock Solid lecture had been hosted at The Box, also a part of the Kendal Museum.

5 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024


4. Nuclear industry propaganda:

Above: Uranium mining spun positive and benign in the 1950s’; no reference to the immense suffering and exploitation caused to Indigenous communities by this activity.

6 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024



Above: a colouring book ‘GDF Heroes’ produced by Nuclear Waste Services to engage young children accompanying their parents to consultation events. The book caused outrage, and prompted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, by depicting dangerous elements of the GDF as childlike, harmless, and manageable.

7 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

5. Campaigners’ Materials:

Allies in popular culture

Terry Jones: In late 1979 and in the early 1980s, Parliament looked at various sites for the burial of radioactive waste not in Cumbria. Some of the sites were large areas including the ‘Worcester Basin’, which stretched across Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. Friends of the Earth Evesham decided to organise a ‘Spot the Dump’ competition. The prize for the winner was a poem specifically written by Monty Python comedian Terry Jones.

8 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

Blinky the Fish: The Simpsons repeatedly highlighted the risks associated with nuclear power, including creating a mutated three-eyed fish Blinky merchandised as a wind-up toy:

9 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024




"The Code Killers" by Ace Hoffman was made available as a print on demand book for RockSolid2

https://rocksolid2.blogspot.com/2024/04 /the-code-killers-by-ace-hoffman.html


Local campaigns: Millom and Haverigg are both locations in West Cumbria which are threatened by a possible GDF. Local activists have formed Millom and District against the Nuclear Waste Dump to galvanize opposition. Here is a campaigner’s t-shirt and an innovative poster using humour to illustrate the likely negative impact of the GDF on tourism.

10 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

6. Works specifically relating to opposition to nuclear:

By Irene Rogan:

11 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

Irene also produced a video shown to the backdrop of the introductory segment and iconic theme of Star Wars Episode 4, the original movie of the franchise released in 1977 (and seen by the author on his 11th birthday).

Below: Alongside the video screen hung Marianne Birkby’s own painting ‘Wainwright and the Next Wave’ depicting the famous author (and honorary curator of Kendal Museum) standing at the beginning of his famous Coast to Coast walk at St Bees where radioactive wastes continue to return to the beaches from "historic" wastes. The same area is in the frame for burial of heat generating nuclear wastes. Wainwright referred to Sellafield in one of his guides to the Western Lakes as an ‘atomic carbuncle’.

Below: Irene also produced some mini-nuclear waste dumps in the style of drinks cans. Ian was clearly enamored by referencing them warmly in his talk at the launch:

12 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

By Geoff Reid:

By Steve Wallis:

13 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024



14 –A414 (NB300) – Nuclear exhibits shown at the Rock Solid 2 exhibition at Kendal Museum – July 2024

7. Accompanying talk:

On the day following the launch, Dr Ian Fairlie and Richard Outram, gave a talk with the title ‘Don’t waste Cumbria on the impact of radiation on people and our natural environment and the potential impact of any Geological Disposal Facility.

This meeting was filmed by the Curator of the Museum, and this can now be viewed on You Tube at:

Thanks are given to Marianne Birkby for her assistance in producing this briefing. Author: Richard Outram. 1 July 2024


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