The Festival of Lying


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. We contacted four of the previous champion liars. The project explored the connection between art as artifice and illusion and lying and tale-telling.



Four of us (Simon Poulter, Nina Pope, Karen Guthrie and me) worked collaboratively over a period of a year spending time at Grizedale Arts. During that time we did a lot of research and work – some of it became projects, some of it didn’t.

The Festival of Lying 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. It was funny organising it because the minute you mentioned lying, people thought you were joking, so the planning of the event had this strange un-real aspect to it, complemented by a petrol shortage which minimised the live audience on the day! The presentations were compèred by an estate agent , there was a panel discussion and a performance by an Elvis impersonator, and at the end all the liars — John, Cliff, Howard and Jimmy — performed their lies.

The following year Nina Pope, Karen Guthrie and I returned to the Lake District and took part ourselves in the lying competition . It was good to stay in contact and was quite terrifying to actually do the performing! John graham won the cup again…

We produced the website during the project 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.





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)