THE biennial international arts festival Inside Out Dorset returns this month with a programme of free-to-attend art installations and performances across the county.

Inside Out Dorset opens with Luke Jerram’s astonishing installation Gaia at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest in Ringwood where the seven-metre scale model of Earth will nestle overhead on the Tree Top Trail.

Made using NASA photography, it offers an opportunity to see our planet as an astronaut would view it from space.

“There’s something uniquely inspiring about seeing Gaia presented like this in the heart of a working forest,” said Inside Out Dorset co-artistic directors Kate Wood and Bill Gee.

She added: “The installation sets the tone for this year’s Inside Out Dorset and chimes with the festival themes of sustainability, land use and lifecycles, human and environmental – Gaia is something we can all relate to, physically and emotionally.

“With the relaxing of Covid restrictions and the success of the vaccine roll out, our sense of hope is re-energised and, we think, reflected across the Inside Out Dorset programme.”

The festival, hosted by Dorchester-based outdoor arts producer Activate, will run over two successive weekends from September 17 to September 26.

Bournemouth Echo: Poole and Christchurch - Lifted, Mimbre. Photo credit: Ben Hopper

After the opening weekend at Moors Valley, Gaia moves to the ancient landscape of the Marshwood Vale on the Symondsbury Estate, near Bridport, from September 24 to September 26.

In both locations Gaia is accompanied by an artwork trail of site-specific events and performances responding to the climate emergency and our use of the land.

Elsewhere, there’s a full programme of outdoor circus events in Poole’s Lower High Street and Quay and at The Quomps in Christchurch on September 17 and 18 respectively.

Highlights include an explosive show with captivating images and live music following a day in the life of Willord the gardener and Mimbre’s Lifted, a collaborative acrobatic display between choreographers Gary Clarke, Yi-Chun Liu from Peeping Tom, and HURyCAN.

Bournemouth Echo: The after-dark parade show Sense of Unity will make its way through Weymouth. Picture: Sarah Hickson

Maps and walkthrough films for each site can be found on the festival website and there are audio-visual descriptions for each artwork, as well as relaxed performances.

On-site, Access Volunteers will provide active stewarding and assistance, while accessible conveniences will include a Changing Places toilet.