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Moving Into the North

February 22, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, Wondrous Cities

This is Make Your Own Liverpool, a very short film that Sam Meech, who is working on the Wondrous Place theatre production, made with a group of migrant children who had only recently arrived in the city.

The film embodies a great, simple process of drawing out how the city looks when it’s new.

The whole of the Wondrous Place blog has been that process, of seeing places again for the first time, or seeing new layers, like Hayley Flynn’s buildings that were never built. (read more here )

The guides through that process have sometimes been people who have lived there their whole lives.

Others have been people who have moved to cities in the North and stayed, going through a process of becoming from that place. That process led to Chrissy Brand finding the Manchester Businesswoman of the Year 1773, the story of the Working Class Movement Library and the man of a thousand gigs. (read more here )

Blackberry Buns Resize

It led to Natalie Bradbury’s recipes for vegetarian Eccles cakes and urban blackberry picking. (read more here )

And Degna Stone describing passing through, falling in love, and staying. (read more here )

“It isn’t important where you come from, what matters is where we are going together”. That’s a quote from Bashir Ahmad, a Scottish National Party politician who was born in Amritsar and moved to Glasgow when he was 21.

And there is a nice phrase that people in Madrid use: “If you are in Madrid you are from Madrid.”

We could recylce that and make it our own, I’m sure Madrid won’t mind.

If you’re in the North, you are from the North.

Avatar of Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson has been using mobile phones for creative participation for more than 10 years, and his work includes the Guardian’s SMS poetry competition; City Poems in Leeds and Antwerp, commended in the British Interactive Media Awards, and Free All Monsters! a game for children, families and even grown ups, using a Monstervision Machine, a monster spotter’s guide and the Fluffy Orange Pencil Case.

How do new buildings get to be old?

February 14, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, Wondrous Cities

The north of England isn’t short of fantastic 19th and early 20th century architecture.

Some of it is grand civic buildings like St Georges Hall in Liverpool.

A photo of St Georges Hall

St Georges Hall

Others are the abandoned industrial buildings which have become a sort of new natural resource in the northern landscape like water power or coal.

These old buildings can be re-purposed into loft apartments or cheap space for new kinds of business, for example Bates Mill in Huddersfield, still run by the same family who owned it as a woollen mill.

We look at the grand civic buildings and think “no one would ever knock them down.” But of course some were, for example Huddersfield’s Piece Hall. If only it had been kept, like the one in neighbouring Halifax, it might also be getting a £7 million grant.

Over the last ten or twelve years there has been a boom in new civic and commercial buildings, such as the Sage in Newcastle. These have often been built as part of a regeneration strategy, following the model of the Guggenheim in Bilbao.

photo of the Sage, Gateshead

The Sage is fantastic, and it will never be knocked down, but has the regeneration of northern city centres cost us some new favourite buildings that might have grown to a noble and well-loved old age?

In Sheffield, Missy Tassles wrote about the “hole in the road”, a subway below a roundabout that had a fish tank in the wall. It’s hard to think of anything more wondrous than than that.

The Hole In The Road

The Hole In The Road

Maybe subways could never escape from their sinister feel of 1970′s horror films, but Wondrous Place posts from Missy, Dan Feeney and Sid Fletcher, about Park Hill flats and Castle Market, gave such a strong feeling that the people who built the best things in the second half of the 20th century really did try and do justice to the history, geography and people of Sheffield.

I can’t wait to go to Sheffield again, and I’ll walk round it with different eyes. With so much care going into some new buildings of the last 50 years, would it be a shame if they weren’t around long enough to become old ones.


Photo credits: uknow-uk and Alexi Parkin on Flickr

Avatar of Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson has been using mobile phones for creative participation for more than 10 years, and his work includes the Guardian’s SMS poetry competition; City Poems in Leeds and Antwerp, commended in the British Interactive Media Awards, and Free All Monsters! a game for children, families and even grown ups, using a Monstervision Machine, a monster spotter’s guide and the Fluffy Orange Pencil Case.

It’s Mint Up North: Julia Darling and Sheree Mack

February 1, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Julia Darling

I replace poetry with a perfect

understanding of the offside rule.

My voice becomes smoke, drifts

to the ceiling and swirls until

it sails through the door,

joins the mist that forms

on the street ‘round midnight.

Now even though I’d been caught up in the excitement of the creativity of the people I’d met in Fenham, it took a little while longer for me to find my own thing. I might have pottered along indefinitely, but luckily I met two people who helped me to reconnect with the ambitions that I had when I was much much younger. I’m very happy to introduce to you [drum roll please]…

Julia Darling

Julia was an inspirational poet, playwright, novelist. She was also writer in residence when I first started working at Live Theatre in 2001. I loved the spirit of the plays she wrote, her poetry was elegant, vivid and real. And you’ve got to love a woman who writes a play called Doughnuts Like Fanny’s haven’t you?

When I first met her I wasn’t writing (apart from drunken scrawls in a notebook and we all know that doesn’t count) but she just had a way of unlocking creativity in people. During the occasional conversations I had with her I tentatively mentioned that I sometimes thought about trying to write creatively. Just being around her gave me the confidence to voice that secret ambition, her gentle words of encouragement settled at the back of my mind where they slowly kept repeating themselves until I started to think about starting to write. It’d take a little while longer for me to actually write anything that I wanted to show anyone, but that kept me going for a little while.

Her blog can be found on her website here where you find out much more about her.

You can also read her Manifesto for a New City, a ‘manifesto of the disgruntled of Newcastle’ written almost ten years ago and which seems surprisingly apt at a time when Newcastle is threatened with the closure of vital facilities and 100% cuts to arts budgets.

Degna Stone reading Julia Darling’s ‘Indelible, Miraculous’.

Featured image: Julia Darling.


Sheree Mack

Sheree Mack - Image by Alistair Cook

Sheree Mack – Image by Alistair Cook












Sheree was writer in residence at the Lit & Phil in 2007, when she organised a series of master classes with the poet Anthony Joseph, and it was there that I really started to write. Pretty badly at first and then a bit less shit as time went on. After six months it got to the point where I knew I’d be happy to read one of my poems at the launch of Sepia Souls, the anthology produced in December 2007 to celebrate the project. It could have been easy to just put the poems I’d written in a bottom drawer and forget them, but there’s something about Sheree – once she sees that you’ve got an interest in something she’ll nurture and support you until that interest becomes a passion.

Now, I had hoped to get some time with Sheree to chat about her relationship with the North East but between the snow and the fact that she is one busy poet I just didn’t get a chance to do that. Luckily someone else had already managed to catch up with her, so if you follow this link you can read Nicola Moore’s interview with Sheree.

Sheree Mack was born in Bradford to a Trinidadian father and a Geordie mother of Bajan and Ghanaian heritage. She has lived in Newcastle from the age of ten. Married with two children, she works as a freelance writer and lecturer for the Open University and has recently completed her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Family Album is her first full collection.

_ _ _ _

That’s it from me then. I’d just like to thank Chris for asking me to take part in this blog – I’m an erratic blogger at the best of times so it’s been nice to have this focus to get me going. Thanks to all the guest curators who’ve made ‘A Wondrous Place’ such a fascinating read. Also, thanks to everyone mentioned in this blog for making the North East such a brilliant place to live, especially Kate Hodgkinson who let me sit in her gorgeous studio drinking tea and eating Tunnock’s teacakes.

Avatar of Degna Stone

Degna Stone

Degna Stone visited Newcastle during the Summer of 1999 and never went home. She is a Midlander in self-imposed exile. Degna performs regularly at venues across the North East and has appeared at StAnza International Poetry Festival and Durham Book Festival. She has worked with Apples and Snakes, English PEN and New Writing North to deliver creative writing workshops for adults and young people. She blogs, ever so occasionally, over at and In 2010 she won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North and her debut chapbook 'Between the Floorboards' was published by ID on Tyne Press. She was selected for Verb New Voices, a BBC/ACE spoken word development programme, which culminated in the performance of her poem sequence 'Songs from Whenever' on BBC Radio 3's The Verb. Her second pamphlet will be published by Red Squirrel Press in the spring. She’s just finished an MA in Creative Writing at Newcastle University and is co-editor of 'Bucher’s Dog', a new biannual poetry magazine. She’s tried her hand at stand up comedy, film making and theatre directing but poetry is what she knows best. Visit