Derek Eland is going to be artist in residence at an unusual place: Mount Everest Base Camp. 

Derek has worked in extreme locations before. In 2011 he spent four weeks in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, living with British troops at frontline army bases.

Part of his work entailed recording their stories in a ‘Diary Room’ project.

A similar principle will apply in Nepal next April and May: 17,700 ft above sea level.

He says: “It seems fitting that as I was Britain’s last official war artist that I should, as far as I know, be the first artist in residence at Base Camp.

“It’s a project I’ve been planning for years and the earthquake this year [which killed at least 22 people in April] seems to make it more important.

“After Afghanistan I knew that the Diary Room approach was completely unique and had a global reach so I’ve been thinking for a few years about the next big thing involving the same approach.”

Derek plans to construct a Diary Room at Base Camp and spend a month trying to understand what Everest means to people of various nationalities.

“In particular I want to explore themes of spirituality, ambition and conservation. I’m also planning to provide an online version of the Base Camp Diary Room which can be seen, and perhaps commented on, by people globally in real time.”

The resulting work will tour in Nepal, the UK and the USA. Derek hopes a book will result, as with Diary Room Afghanistan. He also plans to use film and photography to contextualise the Diary Room comments.

“I have, for example, a Vest Pocket Kodak Model B, similar to that lost with Mallory and Irvine on Everest in 1924, and want to take photographs there with this camera.

“As with any residency there is a certain amount of the unknown in terms of what will result. This also makes it exciting and unpredictable. The most important aspect for me is to engage with people at the Base Camp ‘village’ about why they are there and what this place means.

“My Everest interest goes back over the last 30 years from discovering the mystery of Mallory and Irvine to reading almost everything about the mountain and meeting a great many people connected to that place.”

Derek will also work with local artists in Nepal. He has already worked with Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre, helping to raise more than £7,000 for artists and their families following the earthquake.

He is now looking to raise funds for his own visit. He is seeking sponsorship from businesses and is raising funds by auctioning some of his work.

The auction takes place this weekend at his home in Carlisle city centre, 3 Hartington Place, which also serves as a pop-up gallery.

“I’m going to auction off 40 of my own pieces of art which I’ve kept over the last 15 years or so. They will have low reserves. The works go back to early watercolours of the Lakes, through paintings from Cumbria and Snowdonia to pieces developed during my Carlisle city and Hadrian’s Wall residencies.”

There is a preview tonight from 6-9pm. The auction will take place during Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm each day.

Visitors will be able to bid anonymously on pieces throughout the weekend. The highest bidders by 6pm on Sunday will have the work. Ten per cent of the proceeds will go to Doug Scott’s Cumbria-based charity Community Action Nepal, which helps the mountain people of Nepal.

Derek says: “The start is a terrifying place for me, but also exciting. The support of other people in making this happen will be critical.”