HERD united communities through music and spectacle in a week-long sheep-filled extravaganza 

An estimated 15,000 people joined us in St George’s Square on Sunday 16 July for the euphoric finale of HERD, while thousands more encountered the musical sheep, broadcasting evocative soundscapes across Kirklees during the preceding week.

HERD, a large-scale sonic art project orchestrated by composer Orlando Gough and produced by arts production company Artichoke, as part of Kirklees Year of Music 2023, delivered an awe-inspiring finale to the week-long odyssey that has seen 23 musical sheep sculptures broadcasting soundscapes across the Kirklees district.

Boliyaan group, led by Swarnjit Kaur, featuring Hardeep Sahota in St George’s Square performing in the finale on 16 July. Photo by Studio Bokehgo

This epic event culminated in Huddersfield’s St George’s Square this past Sunday 16 July as thousands gathered for an immersive day of sound and music, featuring professional local musicians and soloists from a variety of musical genres and around 350 community musicians. Positioned around the square and loaded with speakers, the sheep sculptures effectively created a surround-sound environment that the audience could hear from wherever they stood.

Whether you stumbled upon a singing sheep while walking your dog or travelling to work, or if you set out on a mission to find all 23 of the HERD, thank you for being part of this once-in-a-lifetime event. If you visited, please let us know what you thought here.

Ted, the sheep dog meets Ludd in Meltham on 13 July. HERD 2023. Photo by Matthew Andrews

With special appearances by Seyed Mohammedreza Beladi, Jaydev Mistry, Bryony Griffiths and Alice Jones, with Rob Bradley, Noah Burton, Martin Chung, Thabo Mkwananzi, Ruby Wood, Supriya Nagajaran, Sunil Kaliyan and Testament and performances from gospel, choral, and school choirs, to beatboxing and tabla, Carnatic singing, brass bands, Bhangra and Boliyaan, the grand finale featured five specially commissioned “future songs” for Kirklees, composed by local musicians and Orlando Gough.

Thabo Mkwananzi, St George’s Square performing in the finale on 16 July. HERD 2023. Photo by Matthew Andrews

18 months in the making, HERD has forged deep connections within the community, participants and passers-by alike. The monumental work intertwined the industrial and cultural narratives of Kirklees and paid homage to its rich musical heritage and its historical ties to the textiles industry. At the heart of the project, the 23 handcrafted musical sheep sculptures, wove together tales of movement, sound, industry, and labour, symbolising the enduring significance of the wool trade for Yorkshire and its people. Watch our HERD: The Inspiration film to hear HERD Director, Orlando Gough, and Director of Movement, Charlie Morrissey, as they share the story behind the project.

Kindra visits East Bierly Primary to sing with the schoolchildren
Kindra visits East Bierly Primary to sing with the schoolchildren on 12 July 2023. HERD 2023. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Throughout the week, passers-by across Kirklees had stumbled upon the sheep broadcasting original soundscapes into the landscape, leading them on an epic sonic journey around Kirklees’ rich musical culture. The diverse range of soundscapes were commissioned from local sound artists, and expertly mixed by Orlando Gough and sound designers Sebastian Frost and John Del’Nero. They drew together found sounds from Kirklees past and present, with recordings of the musical performances. Read or listen to our interview with HERD Sound Designers, Sebastian Frost and John Del’Nero to discover how we made the sheep sing.

Orlando and Charlie lying on the grass with Fethera the sheep at Emley.
Orlando and Charlie with Fethera at Emley on 13 July. HERD 2023. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Sunday’s event was the culmination of a truly epic journey to tell the story of an extraordinarily rich and diverse local musical culture and showcase the beautiful landscape and towns of Kirklees. We quickly realised that sheep had a central part to play in this story, having driven the wool trade and enticed people from all over the world into the area over the centuries. From the team of local makers who worked with fabricators Dave Young and Jane Gaffikin to realise the sheep sculptures, to the wonderful sound artists, soloists and musicians who worked with local community choirs, bands and schoolchildren to make this project happen, HERD is a brilliant example of hugely talented professional artists and musicians working together with people from the local community to create something truly extraordinary.” – Helen Marriage, CEO/Artistic Director of Artichoke

I always like to make work that encompasses all kinds of different types of music and make connections between musicians who don’t normally work together. HERD was my dream commission. It was an honour to be able to work with so many great musicians from different cultures, all local to the area, and to have them working together in exciting ways. And we couldn’t have done it without the wonderful participation of all the local community singers, school choirs and brass bands. Thanks also to Charlie Morrissey for his directorial support and wonderful choreography and of course to Kirklees Year of Music for the opportunity. It’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever worked on and I’m so grateful to everyone who took part.” – Orlando Gough, composer and creator of HERD 

It’s not often that sheep surprise people, but HERD has amazed, amused, and entertained people from across Kirklees and beyond. The project has brought together our diverse musical communities, put smiles on children’s faces and shown the world a glimpse of our fantastic local towns and villages. It’s just one of many fantastic events as part of Kirklees Year of Music, and I hope everyone will take time to check out what else is coming up.” – Cllr Shabir Pandor, Leader of the council

“It was wonderful to see communities come together for the unique HERD finale this weekend. Culture doesn’t just enrich our lives – it drives growth and creates opportunities for people throughout our region to thrive. I was happy to support this initiative, and the wider Kirklees Year of Music celebrations, which are helping us to build a stronger, brighter West Yorkshire.” – Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin

It was great to see – and hear! – the fantastic talent of local artists, singers and musicians in Huddersfield on Sunday. This was the culmination of 18 months of activity bringing together people and communities across the borough, rooted in the distinctive character of Kirklees and celebrating its diverse and thriving music scene.  We were so pleased to support the HERD project and the 2023 Year of Music in Kirklees – one of the Arts Council’s Priority Places.” – Sarah Maxfield, Area Director North at Arts Council England

We are absolutely delighted to have supported Sing & Sew as part of HERD, a fantastic project that celebrated the important cultural and industrial heritage of Kirklees by working with local young people, and contributing to an amazing year of activity. We know heritage can play a huge role in instilling pride in communities, and this project is a wonderful example of how that can be done.” – Helen Featherstone, Director England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Bumfitt at Castle Hill
Bumfitt at Castle Hill on 12 July. HERD 2023. Photo by Matthew Andrews

Help us keep making projects like HERD happen by making a one-off donation today. Any amount you give will make a real difference to our work, no matter how large or small.

If you visited HERD or have been following the story from home, join the conversation and share your snaps of sheep in the wild on social media with #HERD2023. Follow @ArtichokeTrust on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok for our latest news.

Visit herd-kirklees.co.uk to find out more.

HERD is produced by Artichoke as part of Kirklees Year of Music. The project is supported by Kirklees CouncilArts Council EnglandNational Lottery Heritage FundWest Yorkshire Combined AuthorityCanal and River TrustOne Community and Leonard Curtis.