The Festival of Lying


Four of us (Simon Poulter, Nina Pope, Karen Guthrie and me) worked collaboratively over a period of a year. We were the first artists commissioned by Adam Sutherland and  Grizedale Arts



I had worked in Grizedale in 1991 ( when I made Map), with the director Bill Grant. The questions and tensions around what constitutes a socially engaged practice or public art were ongoing. This new work 10 years later explored and critiqued these issues. 

We were looking at local culture in the Lake District and at our position as artists from elsewhere arriving within it. We came across this event called ‘The Biggest Liar in the World Competition’ in the local paper, and contacted four of the previous champion liars. The Festival of Lying explored the connection between art as artifice and illusion, lying and tale-telling.

The Festival was a daylong event that referred to the touristic nature of the region and the fictionalised aspect of the Lake District. We had got additional funding from RALP lottery funds, which was interesting in a region full of festivals mostly centred round the tourist industry. We invited and scheduled presentations in the form of a conference with a diverse bunch of relevant  ‘liars’; an  Estate Agent, Journalist, Crop Circle Maker, Psychologist, Artists ….  there was a panel discussion and a performance by an Elvis impersonator, and at the end all the Biggest liars in the World — John, Cliff, Howard and Jimmy — performed their stories written about each of us.

The following year Nina Pope, Karen Guthrie and I returned to the Lake District and took part ourselves in the pub based ‘lying’ competition . It felt important to us to stay in contact and was quite terrifying to actually do the performing. John Graham (‘my’ liar) won the cup again…

We produced the website during the commission and also showed the work as an installation People from Off at the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh. The festival was screened as a real time 9 hour video projection, along with exhibits of the other projects – David Shuttleworth Rally Hopeful and Limo Day.





Anna Best with

Karen Guthrie
Nina Pope
Simon Poulter


Grizedale Arts, Lake District, UK


Performance research


The Arts Council New Media Projects Fund
Northern Arts Regional Arts Lottery Programme
Grizedale Arts
The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.



James Mason
Clifford Atkinson
Howard Christie
John Graham
Ralph Spours
Tim Wright
Rob Bevan
Rob Irving
Maurice Grosse
Pamela Schlatterer
Peter Lamont
Jon Ronson
Dave Bushell
Dr Richard Wiseman
Mark Wallinger
Graham Prest
Lewis Paul (camera)
Dominic Robson (sound & lighting)
Tim Olden (sound mix)
James Stevens (web cast)
Rupert Carey (video documentation)
Adam Sutherland
Audry Steeley
and all the staff at Grizedale
Paul Farrington (print design)
Tim & Matthew Olden (music)
Kate Brundrett (press/admin)
Sarah Heyworth (PR)