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Stone Frigate

Matt Stokes, March 2015

A Live Action Role Play by Matt Stokes

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Artist Matt Stokes explored the forgotten wartime history of Kielder though Stone Frigate, a Live Action Role Play (LARP) that involved 30 participants and a purpose built 1942 barrack hut.

Stone Frigate was funded by Arts Council England and Northumberland County Council Community Chest. 

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During World War 2 Royal Naval personnel were helped on the road to recovery at a little-known rehabilitation centre at Kielder. In March 2015, this period was explored through a form of immersive performance known as Live Action Role Play or LARP. Over an intensive weekend, 30 people explored the story of Kielder’s HMS Standard – a unique naval rehabilitation centre for service personnel diagnosed with a variety of psychiatric conditions.

HMS Standard, which was in use between 1942 and 1945, was based at a disused labour camp in Lewisburn, established by the Ministry of Labour prior to the Second World War. The Royal Navy took the camp over in 1941, concerned by the number of men suffering from behavioural problems and worked to help the men return to active service, using forward thinking therapies based on fresh air, exercise and physical work.

The LARP event, titled Stone Frigate (a term given to onshore Royal Navy bases), was a project by Northeast-based artist Matt Stokes and commissioned by Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust through its Art & Architecture programme.

During the LARP, which took place in late March 2015, participants returned to this era and lived in character for the duration of the event, acting out the story as it developed and serving as their own audience.

Participants came from across the country and also from Europe to take part in the LARP. A team of volunteers worked tirelessly with the preparation and behind the scenes during the event.

Matt also organised a public presentation at Kielder Castle vintage vehicle show later in 2015 where he went back into character to present the project to interested visitors

Matt was originally commissioned with a brief to develop ideas for a project that investigated some less well know element of Kielder's communities, landscape, history or heritage. Extensive research and a number of visits to Kielder resulted in a proposal to develop a project based on the Royal Navy's temporary WW2 rehabilitation unit HMS Standard that occupied an old 1930s Ministry of Works labour camp at Lewisburn.

As research progressed Matt proposed to stage the project as a LARP (Live Action Role Play), specifically a Nordic LARP, a form of larping more common in Scandinavian countries that rather than being fantasy based, draws on more socially or historically rooted subject matter.

Several visits to bothies in Kielder Forest led to a decision to use Wainhope bothy as the setting for the LARP. Wainhope is unusual in thatalthough within the forest, it sits within a large bowl of open land that has never been planted, and therefore retains some of the feel of how the forest would have looked during the period that the LARP would be set.

Plans for a 1942 barrack hut were sourced by Matt from which he would create the main buiding where much of the action would take place and the Calvert Trust Kielder offered a large shed where the hut could be constructed out of the winter weather.


Once complete, the hut was dismantled into a series of large panels that were then transported to Wainhope and reassembled ready for the LARP to begin.