NORTHERN SPIRIT

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North East Wondrous Playlist

April 11, 2013 in Blog, TYNE AND WEAR

“Fog on the Tyne” Lindesfarne original @ABSCramlington

Big River…..a tribute to the history and heritage of the River Tyne @Gateshead_Ale

‘Local Hero’ its a tune that invades brain when coming across the river (view of the bridges),being on a beach or @ football @James_Sm1th

would have to be Left us to Burn by @MGStephenson ”http://daintees.bandcamp.com/track/left-us-to-burn …. Especially this week…@nwnclaire

Local Hero, Mark Knopfler – cos it makes the hairs on many a Geordie’s neck stand on end @AmandaScurr

From Liverpool to Newcastle.

March 28, 2013 in Blog, LIVERPOOL, TYNE AND WEAR

Jonathan-Greenbank-Collection-of-Things-2

Handwritten Postcard by Degna for the Wondrous Place mail art project

Jonathan Greenbank’s ‘Collection of Things’ for the Wondrous Place mail art project (top). This card was sent from Liverpool to Degna Stone in Newcastle, and she created ‘You Can’t Post Yourself Home’ (below), written in response to Jonathan’s art.

Click on the images to see larger versions or here and here.

You Can’t Post Yourself Home. Degna, Newcastle

March 18, 2013 in Blog, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Handwritten Postcard by Degna for the Wondrous Place mail art project

Degna’s response to Jonathan Greenbank’s Collection of Things sent from Liverpool to Newcastle.

There is a larger version of the image here.

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 deseeded.blogspot.co.uk and inadvertentlyteaching.blogspot.co.uk. 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 www.degnastone.com

It’s Mint Up North: Staying Here

January 31, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Kathryn's Studio

I met Kathryn Hodkinson when I first moved to Newcastle. She’s not from round here either, so when I was asked to curate this week on ‘A Wondrous Place’ I knew I wanted to chat to her about what made her stay.

Kathryn Hodgkinson: Newcastle has a particular relationship with the graduates that come up here to study and don’t leave again. There are strong courses, but as far as I can observe, people who’ve studied English and science and straight degrees, they do their degree and then go back to where they came from, or they’ll go and work in what’s perceived to be a more prosperous city. But up here people stay. And people stay when they don’t mean to stay like you did.

Degna Stone: I studied in Bristol and I felt completely disconnected from the art scene – I was vaguely aware of what was going on but I wasn’t really a part of it, it seemed more pushy and I had (and still do have) a massive inferiority complex and it seemed hard to make your way into it.

KH: There’s the whole street art movement kicked off by Banksy.  It’s being part of a group, so it feels more like there’s a persona that goes with being that particular type of creative person. Whereas I genuinely think up here there’s more room for complete individuals and people that don’t fit into a gang. If you get off the train it’s not full of swanky, cool people. It’s not…Shoreditch is an extreme example, but Bristol’s got a bit of that going on. There’s a way to fit in and a way not to fit in. I think in Newcastle it’s okay not to fit in, it’s easier somehow to forge your way as a complete individual. There is quite an established network, because it’s so small it’s easy to get around and to have a relative overview. There’s a lot more people doing things in little pockets and maybe that is about affording that kind of individuality and not having to be cool and being able to concentrate on what you actually do rather than how you look. I’m quite interested in the extent of people that do stay up here. There are little things popping up all the time like Heart Attack and Vine.

My involvement with Cobalt happened because the price of property is cheaper up here, or it was. It’s probably changed a bit now. There was certainly a time when it was cheaper than anywhere else, even big northern cities, way cheaper, and it’s meant that we do have a lot of studio groups that again give people opportunities. Brickworks, Mushroom Works, Lime Street, there’s Cobalt and then there’s a whole load of students from Northumbria who stayed and have taken over a massive office building.

DS: When did you decide you were staying?

KH: My external moderator from my degree had suggested that I applied to The Royal College of Art. I think she was called Elizabeth Swinburne and she called me to one side and said you should apply for the RCA, you’ll do well there, it will stretch you and you’ve got a good degree and we’d be happy to see an application from you. The RCA is the absolute pinnacle of an art career in this country and a bit of me was absolutely fascinated by this idea she’d put in my head and also really drawn to it and really flattered that she thought I could apply for it. But then I had this other side that was really aware that if I went to London I’d have no quality of life and that my need to earn money to put myself through that course would really inhibit my creativity. I’d worked at World Headquarters the whole way through my course up here, I hadn’t had any extra help and the grant wasn’t enough to live off so I’d worked really hard. I just had this sense that if I went to London I’d be really deeply stuck in a rat race.

I was living with a friend of mine called Laura Mundy, who’s brilliant, she’s moved to Leeds since, but she was really exciting to live with. She had a studio at Fusion and so I was meeting lots of creative people through her, I suppose, and she was really just excited about life and creativity. And I was excited about the opportunities in reach up here because you could live off so little and be able to do your thing. I was really, really excited about staying actually and I did very consciously think about this London/Newcastle opportunity.

DS: That’s what it seemed like to me when I arrived, there were a lot of artists and musicians staying around, just being really creative..

KH: Kathryn Williams was really good friends with Laura and her career was just taking off. She was doing gigs at the North Terrace and we’d go and see her, and Cath Campbell was playing cello. In those very first eighteen months it was really exciting hearing them: Laura Mundy would play the flute, Kath would sing and play guitar and Cath Campbell would play cello and they were all artists. I’d quite often find myself at people’s houses where there was some jamming session going on, beautiful music being made and people talking about what they were doing. There were jobs that would give you just enough money to get by. You didn’t need so much money because rent was so cheap. Then I saw a house on Gainsborough Grove that was 32 grand and I thought if I bought that my mortgage would be cheaper than my rent and I’d have a house…  so I suppose that’s when my roots really went down.

DS: I remember that, one of the first exhibitions I went to in Newcastle was at Holy Jesus Memorial Hospital when it was still derelict. It was really exciting that these people who I guess were my peers were just doing it and not waiting for things to happen for them.

KH: It’s funny you forget… thinking about it now I do recall this massive wave of excitement, a real ‘can do’. We can stay, we can set up galleries. Everybody was involved with VANE (Visual Arts North East) and that was a big deal. It’s great looking back on it; maybe you take it for granted or just stop thinking about it. Jo Coupe was doing amazing installations at the top of New Cross House, Tanya [Axford] was doing her green carpet, Paul and Miles were setting up Workplace, we were setting up Cobalt, Newcastle was going for Capital of Culture. And then the Baltic opened. I remember a fortnight just after it opened I was watching the bridge open and thinking something’s happened here. It felt like an international city. I do say to people, I live in this city where I can be on the beach in 20 minutes, I can be on Hadrian’s Wall in 15 minutes, my children can whoop in the hills as much as they want, we know a bunch of country folk living in yurts and living in cottages up in proper remote countryside and then we’ve got a world class, free, art gallery, and museums – The Discovery and The Hancock and The Sage. To have all those facilities in such a small city and to be able to access them all. People who don’t come up here don’t realise that. The one thing I do think is that our council don’t recognise what we’ve got at all.

Cobalt Studios

Cobalt Studios

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DS: If we have this 100% cut to the arts which says “D’you know what, it’s nice, but we don’t really need it”, how are you going to keep the people from leaving now?

KH: My work is all in regeneration. I deliberately stopped working in gallery spaces, and my own creative practice is about public places. I have a really profound belief that the public places we create have a real deep impact on the whole community, and the reason public art interests me is because it is for everyone.  It’s accessible because people just come across it. It’s absolutely vital that we have vibrant creative things happening right across cities – that includes all of the libraries and the art services. If you take that away you’re left with an empty shell. And in this city in particular, what they can’t see, that’s under their fucking noses, is a massive group of people that have committed to it and that are creative and that are fighting to give this city a touch of what Berlin’s got, a touch of what Bristol’s got and what London’s got. There’s an integrity to these people because it’s not a transient population, they stay here, they believe in this city. Around 2000, with the whole Capital of Culture and the NGI, there was a climate of recognition and that’s how Cobalt happened. There are masses of papers written about how artists regenerate areas. There’s lots of evidence of what the arts do for regeneration and for economies and they just don’t seem able to maximise on that. There’s something really special here.

Newcastle City Library

Newcastle City Library

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image: Kathryn Hodkinson’s studio.

 

 

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 deseeded.blogspot.co.uk and inadvertentlyteaching.blogspot.co.uk. 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 www.degnastone.com

It’s Mint Up North: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place

January 30, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

The Baltic

The first thing she does is rush to the sea,

fully clothed she runs too fast to be caught —

wet sand flashes like lights beneath her feet.

(Don’t let the title of this post fool you. I just wanted to shoehorn The Animals into this somehow.)

It was a good summer, not like the ones we’ve had for the past couple of years, the weather was kind. Sitting out on the roof at Graingerville while the traffic on the West Road oozed past, heading down to Jesmond Dene for a barbecue, listening to the peacocks in Pets’ Corner screeching and showing off, getting on the metro and slinking off to the coast on a whim. On a whim. I could be at the coast, the proper seaside, in 20 minutes.

That’s the unique thing about Newcastle, just how easy it is to get away. That might sound like a massively back-handed compliment, but no matter how much you love a place if you can’t escape it when you want to it’s going to drive you mental. You’ll drink more, or eat too much, or spend your spare time vegging in front of the TV. If the city boundaries start to feel like the walls of a very small, windowless room then the air is going to start to feel stale.

That first summer we drove out to Bamburgh and spent the night on the beach. I don’t know if we were allowed to be there but we stayed. It’s about 50 miles north of Newcastle on a coastline that them living in the North East have been trying to keep secret.  Crafty buggers. White sands and blue skies and stretches of beach with hardly anyone on them. Towards the end of the summer the room I’d be living in rent free would soon need a paying tenant. After that visit to Bamburgh, stopping off at Seahouses on the way home the next day for fish and chips, I knew I wanted to stay.

This place was just what I needed. It was easier to settle in. There was no hassle. I’d spent my final year at uni in Bristol in a haze of Jack Daniels and fluoxetine. Arriving in a northern town with almost no friends to find a welcoming group of people who have their eye on something other than pay cheques, something other than just working for the weekends was just the thing.

And then there’s the nightlife. Not the stuff of stag and hen legend but the places away from the Quayside and the Bigg Market. We headed for the pubs that had good beer, amazing music and relaxed atmospheres. The Tanners, The Telegraph, The Tyne, The Trent House… mmm, didn’t realise there was an alliterative thing going on there…  sorry about that…The Cumberland, The Bridge, The Forth, The Free Trade (which has the best view of the Tyne and it’s bridges ever) and The Head of Steam. We often topped the night off at the old World Headquarters – there was nowhere quite like it. The downstairs room was papered with a massive scene of Mohammed Ali visiting South Shields and on a good night (and every night there was a good night) you could barely move. Upstairs you never left the dancefloor –  the thing that made this place special was that the music was everything. Get that right and the chilled out vibe was a natural side effect. My favourite memory – dancing to Talking Heads as the room was warming up doing my best David Byrne moves to ‘Once in a Lifetime’

That was then of course. Now? Well, I fell in love and had kids. That’s the usual pattern isn’t it? And for me, this was the right place to do that. This place, this bit of the North has everything.

So these are the places I’m most likely to go now that my time’s not quite my own and I can’t spend days & nights just going from one place to the next. One pub to the next. One shop to the next. One museum to the next…well, maybe I can still do that last one with kids in tow.

So this is a super quick whirlwind tour of the places to go when you’ve done your bit for the propagation of the human race (or you’re babysitting for some other poor sap whose life is no longer their own)…

The Laing Art Gallery and the Baltic both have interactive areas where the kids can pretty much run wild whilst still somehow absorbing the art by osmosis. The Discovery Museum which is probably due an overhaul has got the quirkiest exhibitions (the story of Newcastle is a treat), lots of sciencey contraptions that you can mess on with and a geet big boat, The Turbinia, in the main hall. The Great North Museum is another favourite of ours. It has dinosaurs and mummies. What more could you want?

A Dinosaur in the Hancock "ROAR!"

A Dinosaur in the Hancock: “ROAR!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ouseburn is really great for kids. There’s a city farm there and you can take your kids into most of the pubs, Gavin Marshall (one of the first people I met in Newcastle) has just opened a new place, Ernest. He’s shifted his focus from making beautiful glass to creating a family friendly restaurant with good food, good atmosphere and good music.

Ernest

Ernest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s independent, it’s different and it’s just round the corner from Seven Stories, although I think it’s called the ‘National Centre for the Children’s Books’ now. It’s a magical place for kids and adults. Especially if you’re interested in the process behind writing for children. Lots of the exhibitions have correspondence from editors and publishers to their authors, sketch books, works in progress and early versions of the completed art work that ends up in finished books. You could lose yourself in the place while the kids explore the exhibitions playing dress up and weaving in and out of the displays.

Seven Stories

Seven Stories

 

 

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 deseeded.blogspot.co.uk and inadvertentlyteaching.blogspot.co.uk. 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 www.degnastone.com

It’s Mint Up North: Just Passing Through…

January 28, 2013 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Billy No Mates

I arrived (with less flourish)
just after the Angel came.
My first view of Newcastle,
the West Road at night —
the neon-lit tracks of a rollercoaster.

Given what’s going on in Newcastle at the moment, I will have to talk about the impact of the proposed cuts to arts funding and libraries at some point during my week’s curation of ‘A Wondrous Place’. But first off I’m going to let you know what’s kept me this far north for so long.

When I came to Newcastle in 1999 I knew one person. But that was okay because I wasn’t moving to Newcastle I was just visiting. For the summer. Then I’d be heading somewhere else. Nothing concrete, but I was sure the North East was just a stopover rather than a destination. I just needed some time away after a fairly disastrous third year at uni and Newcastle seemed far enough away to do that. It was definitely just temporary.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to find that it’s almost fourteen years since I found myself being driven along the West Road just as dusk darkened into night toward my new temporary home. A big old house sandwiched between a dentist’s and a youth hostel on Graingerville North. Apparently Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits used to live in that house back whenever it was likely that Mark Knopfler would’ve been skint enough to live in a run-down shared house in Arthur’s Hill.

I didn’t stay Billy-Nearly-No-Mates for long. Within minutes of arriving I’d doubled my Newcastle mates and after a cup of tea we headed out to meet some more. I was lucky. The one person I did know knew a lot of people. All still in their mid-twenties (or thereabouts) so the groups that had formed during uni hadn’t quite dissipated into nine-to-fives & parenthood. I just stumbled into a new ready-made group of friends that included musicians, artists, designers and makers.

Creative people were at the heart of my first interactions in Newcastle, the cultural revolution that had begun in the nineties meant that there were opportunities that kept them in the area rather than seeing them all head south. They set up their own studios and became part of the visual arts landscape and the music scene. So during this week I’ll introduce you to a couple of the people that influenced my decision to stay and let you know about some of the places that make this region such a brilliant place to be.

And to get things started I’ll answer last week’s guest curator Chrissy Brand’s question:

“If you were to host a festival to showcase north-eastern culture to the world, who and what would be on the bill?”

Newcastle Quayside

Newcastle Quayside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well to be honest I’m going to cheat a little on this one… I would probably get the brilliant Melanie Rashbrooke and John Challis at Trashed Organ to organise it for me. They put on arguably the most exciting and oh so very entertaining nights in Newcastle and they know just about every talented musician and spoken word artist in town and beyond.

When these guys started producing music and spoken word nights in 2010 it really shifted expectations. The nights are raucous, playful and eclectic. They’re very, very good. If you’re in town and Trashed Organ is on and you don’t go along – you’re a muppet.

So back to the festival… We’d have music, theatre and spoken word popping up around the city, but centring on the bourgeoning Ouseburn.

Obviously it’d be brilliant to have Maximo Park, Everything Everything and The Futureheads. If we could tempt the phenomenal Peter and David Brewis to cut short their break from Field Music activity I’d be immensely happy. Other must haves: The Baghdaddies, Matt Stalker and the Fables, Bridie Jackson and the Arbour, Kathryn Williams, Gem Andrews, The Unthanks, The Lake Poets and The Cornshed Sisters.

Newcastle is rife with fantastic poets and performers and if I tried to list them all I’d end up missing somebody off so I’ll leave that entirely in the capable hands of the Organ Grinders.

It’d be lovely to have a bit of theatre too so I’d ask Kate Craddock at GIFT to curate a programme of theatre – hopefully she’d invite Unfolding Theatre, Tender Buttons and Zendeh to produce well, whatever they wanted really as they’re all really exciting, innovative theatre companies.

So there you go. I hope you’d come along.

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 deseeded.blogspot.co.uk and inadvertentlyteaching.blogspot.co.uk. 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 www.degnastone.com

The Winning North, or, Newcastle and TV Talent Shows (What Secret Talents Have We Got and Who Voted For Christopher Maloney?)

December 20, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities, XMAS SPECIAL

James

In 2000, I dreamed of going into the Big Brother house. In the school common room at break, we’d talk about applying, look up the rules, the process, plan out our auditions. This was by no means the first reality TV we’d seen – Jack had a penchant for ‘The Real World’ in the nineties, mainly because no-one else we knew had seen it, and I’ve not forgotten the summer defined entirely by ‘Bug Juice’, an American documentary-style show about Summer Camp. It was something we lacked. I wanted it. Just as Jack wanted to live in a house like ‘The Real World’, then ‘Big Brother’. We grew up on the Isle of Wight, so we dreamed of going somewhere else, anywhere without a ferry journey separating us from civilization. Perhaps why that first dream saw us isolated with a select group of strangers in a prison-walled house. And each other.

We ended up in Newcastle, not really together, not much of the time, but now, more than ever, our reality TV fantasy is a threatening possibility. Location-wise, the region has spawned a slew of reality show winners. South Shields’ Joe McElderry has won two ITV reality shows, some of last year’s X Factor winners, Little Mix, were from Newcastle and South Shields, and this year’s winner, James Arthur, is from Saltburn, near Middlesborough. And, of course there’s Cheryl Cole and that orgasmic hair, which must be a wig at least half of the time, and a fucking good wig at that. In summary, we’re bloody good at winning things, presenting things once we’ve won them and covering other people’s songs.

Jack can’t dance and I can’t sing for shit. I don’t have a routine ready for ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, no marketable idea for ‘Dragon’s Den’, but people I work with are winning breakfast TV modelling competitions and singing down the phone for Simon Cowell. Often overlooked for bigger, more cosmopolitan cities with better funding and job prospects, what talent would Newcastle win with if it entered ‘Britain’s Got Talent’? On a TV contest, what would the city showcase, surprise us with, which could beat a dancing dog? Apart from, you know, glorified karaoke that pleasures Gary Barlow.

 

The Winning North

Jack says talent isn’t teeth bleach. I know this, hypnotised by straight lines, shine and post-brace rows. But we’re TV taught that talent hoop-jumps are makeovers, outfits free, celebrity endorsements and exposés at right times: when voting is low or over. My offering, small, like the Frankincense king, can’t gazump gold, or compete, even.

The people we meet are dexterous, apt, have uncategorisable talents, wouldn’t read the script that Cowell sets. I ask Jack who he knows, what he does that no-one’s noticed, and I can tell there’s blood behind his eyes, swilling, and he sips his can, but this is not one of his talents, no disrespect. He knows I’d five star him. He says, “I have this friend who knits every present, personally, so that it’s clothes you need or something you love – like sharks or dogs. I’m serious.” I ask for more.

“I know writers who can’t shout loud like some people or choose not to, drummers without permanent fixtures, critics with no platform, musicians in day jobs, models in the wrong location, really: there’s a force London move in careers and there shouldn’t be. We’re rich, really, momentarily, although the plug drain means there’s no priority and Nicole Scherzinger said we’re talentless when she came here and I’ve not believed an understood word from her mouth, but it hurts. And the funding goes, like a natural resource, a relic we’d museum-frame, Christian Slater.”

Jack asks what I know, who I know, who should’ve moon-stepped, could pinnacle it. But the list’s too long. There’s not one talent. But X Factor can’t be it. I watched it. I won’t fucking lie to you. I enjoy getting angry, and there’s so much to get vocal for: Gary Barlow’s hypocrisy, Louis’ bigotry, Tulisa’s delusions of grandeur.

The city, though, iconic, sure, but it’s celebration, that’s it’s talent. The people I know, in the North, know how to celebrate something: a new job, day off, birthday, anniversary, snow. Annie organised a parade, and John camped at Monument, and Ted made a blog to talk about change, and Kim had Christmas at her house. Events every night you could go to and absolute institutions: Tyneside, Hancock, Pink Lane. Links and ties and drinks and a trustable accent according to market research, fireworks, exhibitions in parks in winter and summer fairs and the Town Moor.

Organising’s not a personal pastime, not always, but it’s the talent of the city and the people in it. That flair that mean’s there’s complete love of place. And I didn’t feel that first, where I was. But now.

Pink Lane, Newcastle.

Image: The Forth Public House, Pink Lane (Andrew Curtis) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Avatar of Amy Mackelden

Amy Mackelden

Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Amy’s show, ‘The 8 Fatal Mistakes of Online Dating (and how to avoid them)’, is supported by Arts Council England

A Recommendation to the City

November 2, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Monsters

It makes my day when I get a letter or a postcard through the door. And it thrills me and shocks me when it is from someone I have not met yet. But most weeks, this happens because I am always – like now – putting it out there that “I love post” ; that you can write to me ; that you can submit a band review for my fanzine ‘Opinionated Geordie Monsters Review the Local Band Scene’; that I will write back or swap zines with you; and that I find one of the friendliest sides of human nature in the things we write to each other, one to one.

I think other people share that same sense. Of how the communication we do on paper is thoughtful, and committed, not halfhearted and not distracted by text messages or checking facebook or showing off in public. And how a letter is a message to YOU, that it has been especially created and dedicated and sent and carried to you. To and through your door. That, to me, is far more of a fillip than the other conventional ways of recognising each other – birthdays, for example, I simply do not celebrate. I don’t get them. But I will write to you.

For Turps see here.

For ‘Even Clean Hands Cause Damage’ see here.

For the other bands and venues mentioned, you are quite capable of google-searching yourself!

The Crack, Narc and Novel have online presences, but it’s good too to turn the pages and feel the paper as you go across town on the number 12 bus. Don’t miss out on that experience by staying home, alright?

The Paper Jam Comics Collective are here, and much more active in the real world than their internet echoes might suggest. Some of them, for instance, have gone and organised the Canny Comic Con in December, which will be a marvellous event.

The Writers Cafe talk on Facebook (just do a search), and they meet here, a great little cafe that keeps winning awards despite operating on a shoestring. The philosophy groups operate outta here.

The Star and Shadow’s website lists its always-changing, always-different events here. One thing we did there in October is here. There’s no reason to think we’ll ever do that again.

And to finish my posts on this blog, I have a question to put to the next stranger. To the next unknown individual with so much going on in their head and through their eyes and in through the ears and out through the body movement and choices and words and ideas that they move through. I would like to ask next week’s guest curator Lesley Taker from Liverpool:

“How has your hometown affected how you see the world? What part of yourself can you put down to the influence of that place?”

Bye!

Avatar of Mike Duckett

Mike Duckett

I live in my favourite city, I make lots of zines about my thoughts and my travels, and I try to get involved in every piece of underground beauty I can find. I think you should do these things too. And while I hate a lot of things about the way the world operates, I can testify that this is vastly outweighed by the love - real love - to be discovered amongst the music, ideas, creative endeavours and shared experiences we give each other. If you see me drawing somewhere, come sit down and draw with me.http://zine-it-yourself.blogspot.co.uk

Questions on Paper

November 1, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Q0

I was asked a question by last week’s guest curator Pete Collins about the the smells and sounds and sights and touch and tastes of Newcastle. I have to say that this question makes me feel most of all the limitation of my awareness. Right now, Newcastle smells of Autumn leaves and feels like the nip of first snow. But that is just here, just now. So many other smells and touches are happening, of red brickwork roughing up fingertips trailing along; of a fart in a lift; of the muggy breath-smell on the bus; the comforting tug of a winter jumper coming into use again. And I smell the smoke machine that set off the fire alarm at last night’s gig, and the feel of paint in my toes from the game we were playing (wrestling in paint, don’t ask). And the way that my neighbour’s cat has never let me stroke it so I DO NOT KNOW HOW ITS GINGER & WHITE FUR FEELS and how that’s a strangely agonising soft sense in the back of my consciousness.

It is so hard to sum up a general answer. The sights are of faces, the creases of lines on my fellow-volunteers’ faces as they smile in tiredness in the act of mopping up, or pulling pints, and the constant reassurance of seeing my own familiar hands trail a pen across paper to try and make sense of this glut of sensation. A simple, contained black line on a little piece of white paper: now that I can understand, that I can sum up, that will be my filter for this week on the blog. It is my place of clarity. The cypher that simplifies this sheer profusion of reality that I otherwise find so hard to keep up with, or to know how properly to respond.

The sounds…the sounds of soundsystems, Hallowe’en partybabble and shouting to make ourselves heard. The bus pulling away from the bus stop. The melodic Bangladeshi unheard story going on behind me, and the taste of vegetable samosas. Greggs cheese pasties and the constant dosing with coffee that I rely upon to propel me round my rushing, unsettled days. One day I say I’ll cook me a proper healthy meal, but my mouth this morning tastes, frankly, rancid. Some of my senses, I guess, are suffering some neglect.

I think visually, and I don’t like thinking alone. So I often pester people to join me in drawing, in writing letters, in making comics together and so on. Last night, I sat down with an old friend and asked her to draw me a question. In return, I drew her a question. I do the same thing with postcards sometimes, and have even conducted an interview – entirely with postcards – with a cat who lives in Manchester, as a way to get to know him. He’s called Elvis and is apparently a bit of a legend on his street. I suspect his owner helped him with the writing.

So here are some more questions, in a not-very-linear order. Unplanned, open, like most of the creative encounters I’ll be talking about this week.

I explored this nostalgic theme a few days before, as part of a 24 Hour Comics Challenge at the Globe Gallery in Newcastle. The comic I made that day is here. My friend, with whom I have had a bittersweet relationship, has often talked about leaving, or no longer feeling at home in Newcastle, and this too influenced my first question of her:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drew these on the first night that snow fell. We had snow in April AND October this year. A curry from the Brighton Tandoori was the perfect antidote to my wet feet, and collecting it took me past all the international students taking photos of the snowfall. Three separate snowball fights were taking place on the street – very gentle, very polite snowball fights. They were either between friends or, what I actually suspect, between neighbours who don’t know each other that well but kinda like each other.

 

Avatar of Mike Duckett

Mike Duckett

I live in my favourite city, I make lots of zines about my thoughts and my travels, and I try to get involved in every piece of underground beauty I can find. I think you should do these things too. And while I hate a lot of things about the way the world operates, I can testify that this is vastly outweighed by the love - real love - to be discovered amongst the music, ideas, creative endeavours and shared experiences we give each other. If you see me drawing somewhere, come sit down and draw with me.http://zine-it-yourself.blogspot.co.uk

Letters by Train

October 31, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Thomas Spence

Newcastle is on the train route. Every day, old friends pass through. Many of them get a thrill of nostalgia when they cross the Tyne gorge, over the bridges that link Gateshead and Newcastle. Some of them think of me, as a part of their city. And for a few of them, I am thinking about them when they go past. The following fragment of a letter was written when one such person was about to pass.

For more about the freethinking quayside radical Thomas Spence, look here. For more about ‘Wor Diary’, look here. Apologies for spelling ‘millionaire’ wrong, but it was in a letter, so it’s okay. And to finish the story, I did go to the station. I did meet the train, and I did hand over the letter. The first snow of the year started falling as the train pulled up, and my eyes were welling up when I left the station.

Avatar of Mike Duckett

Mike Duckett

I live in my favourite city, I make lots of zines about my thoughts and my travels, and I try to get involved in every piece of underground beauty I can find. I think you should do these things too. And while I hate a lot of things about the way the world operates, I can testify that this is vastly outweighed by the love - real love - to be discovered amongst the music, ideas, creative endeavours and shared experiences we give each other. If you see me drawing somewhere, come sit down and draw with me.http://zine-it-yourself.blogspot.co.uk

Thanks and goodbye!

October 6, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

20121006-000327.jpg

Well, we’ve have had a great week posting on A Wondrous Place but sadly we have to say goodbye! Before we do, we’d like to thank a few people, and put a question to Hayley Flynn, next week’s curator. So, without further ado, thank you to Chris Meads for inviting us to work together on this project – it’s been both refreshing and challenging to work together. Writers often spend a lot of time slaving away in isolation, so for us to collaborate on a new project was a real joy and of advantage to our own separate writing projects! We’d like to thank Claire Malcolm at New Writing North for suggesting to Chris our coming together on this blog. Jake would like to dedicate his part in this work to the efficiency of the Tyne and Wear Metro system; a railway network which, despite all its flaws and detractors, makes getting to meet up with all the cool people he has met in Newcastle over the past 2 years somewhat less of a chore. Amy would like to thank Tom Cruise. 

We’ve both hugely enjoyed all the other guests’ posts and we’d like to ask Hayley Flynn, next week’s blogger, this: Manchester is often regarded as England’s second city. In what ways do you think it might deserve this title?

We leave you with a little present: a song by The Lake Poets, aka Martin Longstaff – a phenomenal singer-songwriter from Sunderland whose lyrics about trying to find one’s place in the North East in 2012 are a stellar example of the creativity, honesty and verve that are to be found in abundance in this region.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading! 

 

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 5

October 5, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize The Forth

The place gets really busy weeknights, weekends, whereas in the week you could read a book undisturbed, and the outdoor rooftop patio is fairy light-strung, and I’ve met many an eye line there, though nothing concrete, no-one who hasn’t upped and moved to London, or gone further north. So this is my place now, and it’s up to others to end up here too, or leave, but just be decisive about it. Right next to the Jazz Café, on Pink Lane, just pick the right corner.

The night that I find him again, I’m with 5 friends, some of whom have brought friends, who’ve bumped into other friends, so that we’re a tricky weave throughout a heave. He’s surprised, too, to find my shoulder, then face, though he shouldn’t be. We’ve inhabited similar spaces for years and those years have sped like a tape recorder high-pitched fast-forward screech.

I ask what he’s been up to and he shrugs like it’s impossible to summarise and I realise I couldn’t start either, to tell him what I did, what I’ve done, between those messages and now. The last five years have been a gorge, not a fast, and I’ve been retaining as much knowledge as possible in case I ever have to leave. I want to remember the plethora of options every night of another bar or show or reading. The feel of the theatre stalls, and the cabaret style candle-lit tables and the walks along banks inland, or at the coast, and the different kinds of light at both. The moments the train pulls across the bridge and everyone picks a side and stares, and the sheltered section of the station and the outside and the Mining Institute Library, stained glass that’s street hidden, and the taxi rank tunnel and the shopping trolley sculpture and the steps, like a cliff edge, the unprecedented steep drop to the Quayside and the Cinema, alley-tucked, with it’s red velvet seats and its coffee stronger than gin, and poster sales, all-night showings and the people I’ve met. Kerry and Jack and John. Hannah and Matt and Tim. And him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was in The Forth after watching ‘Matt Stalker and Fables’ in The Jazz Cafe. I was taking a round back to the lads, looking down, concentrating on the 3 pints in my hands, when I heard a ‘Jake?’

It was Amy. Bloody hell. What had it been? 3, 4 years? More? We hugged, which was awkward, but it’s funny what the body remembers, what it reads like braille from another’s touch: the way her head perches on my shoulder, how my arm fits the small of her back, her perfume. We discussed the usual things: the storms, the last films we’d seen at the Tyneside, how rehearsals were going for her new show. But there were all these questions. All these questions I did and didn’t want to ask:
                                              ?
                                                            ?
                 ,                              ;                                      ?
and, of course,                                ?

 

All these questions, hanging, just out of reach, banging in my head, like doors rattling in drafts, like an itch you can’t scratch.
We said our “Yeah, it was lovely to see you”s, our “Definitely, coffee would be great”s, but I felt like I’d let Amy in on a big secret.
I sat down, took a sip of beer, watched her rejoin her friends. I remembered how we’d discussed film tropes – slow motion kisses in the rain, flipped cars that always landed on their wheels, as long as Jason Statham was driving, that sort of thing – then I remembered her favourite: the one in the bar, where the girl takes her drink in both hands, holds the straw to her mouth and turns, turns just enough to smile at the boy on the other side of the room. I waited, and her head was so far back in laughter, her hand reaching for the arms of others in her group, her head so far back in laughing, loving, living, and her back to me.
I smiled, said, “Next pub, lads?” I was greeted by a unanimous “Aye”, and before I knew it, I was out on Pink Lane, the whole of Newcastle spread out before me.
Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 4

October 4, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Jake Board

Platform 7 at Central Station. A few years ago you could get over there without a ticket. Bloody barriers. Twelve minutes early.

Eleven fifty two.

‘The next train to depart from platform nine is the 14.05 Northern service to Carlisle, calling at Gateshead Metro Centre, Wylam, Prudhoe…’

Eleven.

You’ll be somewhere near Chester-le-Street now: that bit where the train screeches over the bridge above Tesco, Penshaw Monument standing vestigial against a backdrop of thick, North Sea Cumulonimbi.

Ten oh three.

I wonder what you’ll be wearing? Your avatar is a close-up of your eye, so that doesn’t give me much to go on. If I squint I swear I can see the outline of you holding the camera reflected in the flash hovering over your iris.

Must stop looking at the clock.

Birtley dog track; Komatsu; the Angel…

Eight forty four.

The Tyne Bridges; platform 7; me…

Seven fifty eight.

I want to go back, to watch your journey in reverse as you make your way down the ladder of the Pennines. Back in the taxi that took you to the station; back through the flat you left, your keys posted through its locked front door. I want to see what decisions took you here – what unfortunate set of circumstances it takes to send a girl four hundred miles up the country to here, to now, to me.

Five thirty three.

I want to see you grow young; watch you in school, with friends I’ll never know and you’ll never see again. I want to see your Dad hold you on his shoulders; the whole world sucked into that moment – me, eyes cupped in hands, pressed against the glass, peering through the porthole of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four thirty seven.

Check for texts. Nothing. ‘Hi Amy, at station now, waiting by WH Smith. See you soon xx’

Three fifty.

‘Train about to pull in, waiting on bridge. What a view! x’

Three ten.

Oh, balls, forgot to brush my teeth. No, it’s alright, don’t be daft, she won’t notice. And anyway, she’s not expecting a kiss. I mean, I’m not even angling for one. Well, I would, but…no, stop it. Stop it.

Two fifteen.

Something’s just pulled in. Loads coming over the footbridge now. Woman in flowery dress; man with briefcase; woman with Scotty dog; man going double denim (bad shout, mate); woman in stilettos (bit early, like, pet); woman in Geography teacher Mac…

One thirty one.

Is that her by Pumpkin? She definitely looks lost. Idiot: everyone looks lost in a train station.

One seventeen.

What if she’s really tall? Fat? (You shallow fool!) A rake?

Fifty.

What if she’s beautiful?

Thirty one.

That’s definitely her train pulling in.

Twenty.

Bloody barrier.

Sixteen.

What if she hates this? The cold; the back lane walls with their smashed glass set in concrete; the way we stare at the bloody river.

Five.

Is there anything more sad than seeing a life unfold in the blank time it takes the digits on a clock face to change?

Zero.

Can someone be real before you’ve even met them?

Durham Station

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 3

October 3, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize Amy View

In this, part 3 of ‘My Heart In A Hashtag’, we also answer last week’s guest curator Dan Feeney‘s question for us: “I’m a real museum geek, and on my last trip to the North East I didn’t have time to go exploring any museums or galleries. What are your suggestions for the best places to drop into for a bit of a mooch, especially any unexpected gems?”

 

It’s impossible to gauge, really, how somebody feels, especially when any connection they have is with your username or icon, and emoticons are a half story which people type whilst their actual faces contort entirely different shapes. As a city, I knew nothing when we started, but now it’s the lilt of certain letters, the checkiness of your shirts, the music you listen to which isn’t all that different to mine, but I tie tracks to you and your city and imagine certain scenarios with the succincticity of a music video: in the Charles Grey, the pub overlooking The Monument, watching the charity workers tackle passers-by for their phone numbers, then standing at the top of Grey Street and seeing an entirely different architecture to the one I grew up seeing which was all cobbles and thatch and knockdown-able and, later, waiting for a train to the coast and not picking one place but starting on a beach and walking until we hit another Metro stop or station. This is where our experiences mesh, lap, because I could walk the circumference of the island I’m on; there’s no satisfaction like seeing a location merge with its neighbour.

The Charles Grey

You are merging with the city and I experience you both through screens, anticipating the up-close with a back mind apprehension, that you both might not be the expected, pieced from maps and Wikipedia and YouTube 3 minute clips and Joe McElderry’s back story. I imagine you with the nerves of an X-Factor contestant awaiting the executioner’s verdict, when I could find at any minute, you are not who you claim. And what would happen to the place, then, if you turn out to be another person entirely from the online photograph that I’ve been building around?

I pack light for the journey to Newcastle, which is six hours straight train from the first stop, no change, and my window seat connection is a landscape shift as I follow the country to its X spot, you mark the spot. And you text as I relay every city to you, and you say you’ll wait, be waiting, like every man in every novel I high school read, and the way I feel about you is so much more tangible than it deserves to be. Because even Skype is easy to fake, every photo is. I wonder what plan I’d have if you weren’t waiting. Would I meander without meaning around the city, take a City Sightseeing bus, its circular route explaining every plaque more than twice? Would I play Maximo Park on my iPod, as I went to each place they mentioned in one of their songs, imagining the potential of every person I saw.

Grey’s Monument

The terrain changes the closer I get, and I wonder if I’ve worn the right footwear. I scroll through pictures you’ve sent in preparation. The Sage elevated over the Tyne. The bridges in a line stretching where the river curves. The steepness and the wet streets, converted railway tunnels and towers. And the Baltic, once something else entirely, a mill, is a regular collection switch. The Great North and the Discovery, the museums we’ll go to and I’ll find what others found before me: things to be loved. The collections, which stretch through basements, are ties to other countries, places yet to go. As I ask about the animals, how you feel about taxidermy, you take my hand. The Library, all angles and glass, and the Settledown Cafe.

“Some things you preserve,” you tell me. “Some things are for keeps.”

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 2

October 2, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

Resize rock

Amy became the reason I wanted to stay, at least for a little while. They say it’s all about the people. Well, we’ve got our mix; just take a walk down King Street on a Friday night. But that’s not her scene, nor mine: bass, synth and roid-rage lads spilling from club doors, all Geordie Shore wannabes, pastiche of a bad pastiche, rattling down streets pocked with Wrigley’s Extra, seagull shit and a confetti of Gregg’s steak bakes. Tell you what, though: I’ve never had a bad night in Shields. There’s beauty in the most unlikely of places. When Amy comes, I’ll show her.

I’ll take her to The Groyne, watch fishing boats trundle in and out the Tyne. Wave at the DFDS ferry, voyaging to Amsterdam. I’ll take her in my arms, make a ‘Jack and Rose: Angels of the North’, spread out, welcoming the world at the very edge of England.

 

Herd Groyne Lighthouse

 

 

I’ll take her up the Leas to Souter Lighthouse, tell her the urban legend of the man who buried his dog there: its bark still biting throught the rasp of the wind. Try and spook her a bit: tell her how, on foggy nights, I sometimes hear it over the boom of the horn.
I’ll take her up to the old windmill on Cleadon Hills, the place I call the ‘hinge’ of the county, where Mackem rubs shoulders with Geordie.
“Time is like a ‘History’ folder on a computer,” I’ll say, “Nothing ever vanishes for ever; it just gets piled up so that all we see is what’s most recent. Just look at this…” I’ll point to the fields, the trees, the rooftops, splayed out like circuit boards. “Time was, when people would look out over this vista at a sky smudged by industry. Those days are gone, but the river runs on, the land still listens. It’s up to us to choose what it hears.”
“Amy”, I’ll say, “This whole world is spread out in front of us…”
And I’ll leave it hanging, hoping the enigma will seem mysterious, charming – enough that she won’t think of the final scene in Fight Club.
And she’ll take my hand, and she’ll squeeze it, and I’ll know that underneath those contact lenses, underneath her eyes, gleaming like Sprite cans, there’s fragility and hurt and longing.
“It’s beautiful”, she’ll say.

 

Tyneside Cinema

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061

Newcastle: My Heart In A Hashtag Part 1

October 1, 2012 in A WONDROUS SPACE, TYNE AND WEAR, Wondrous Cities

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I meet him on a _________ message board, when I have no-one to go with. I want recommends, lists, ideas of what to do alone there. And the responses are quick and his photo repeats down the page, and for every two others, Jake writes a post, to make sure he’s not missed. It’s the furthest I’ve gone to see _________, and Google’s told me some, but I want to go to places I’d regret not going, even if I’d never known about them. I’ll always wish I’d kissed Brad Pitt, despite the probability of it, despite never meeting.

I write out his suggestions in pen, thank him, but then he’s asking questions. Where am I from? What films do I watch? What year was I born? So I question him back. He doesn’t know Vanilla Sky is a remake or that Tom Cruise was married before, or before, or before that. Usually this would be my out. I’m always looking for one.

I reply anyway, because a bookshop keeps you busy but not busy enough, and the trouble with boredom is, you could fuck anyone before finding a single flaw. But perhaps this is what grown up is: finding the flaws and sinking yourself anyway. I ignore nerves, and type, “I used to watch Byker Grove, and I know that’s not only, but you’ve got to admit the iconicity of it is unforgettable.”

I stick a post-it over the laptop webcam, fold it over the lid so that Jake can’t see. Strange, to use a name, and not a pseudonym. But a face would be stranger. His picture’s a bridge, the pound coin one, and he says he’s on it if you squint. But I’m not falling for it. I say, “I’ll see you on it someday, when you take me to it.” He lols and picks a smiley face from a selection which sets off endorphins in me, and panic. Meaning he’s a kind of chronic disease brain reward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He asks when I’m coming and I say, “I booked tickets already. Saturday. Nothing planned, ’til the evening,” and he says sure the gig, you’re coming for the gig and I say, “Yeah, just a regular groupie,” and he asks why no-one’s coming with me and I say, “My mum said don’t burn any bridge but I did. I couldn’t help myself. I like to teeter on a relationship’s edge, just when it could spin into another thing entirely.” And Jake says he gets it, but whether he does, I don’t know, because flat text has no intonation and I say, “There’d be no bridge problem in Newcastle, right? There are just so many. I couldn’t screw it up with all of them,” and he tells me which wouldn’t hold a grudge, says he doesn’t.

And between these late conversations, in which we ignore the jobs we go to when we can’t put it off longer, I go on Google Earth, see if I can spot him on Grey Street, in the precincts, at the coast. I check the beach especially because he mentions it, but the faces of those caught are blurred, dragged, or as I almost make out who it is, I realise I know no-one at that postcode, that street, that city, but Jake.

And for a while, Jake is all I know of the place. And I know he’s got an accent but my head won’t play it while I read each line. I’m not sure how to anticipate it, but I’m anticipating; the whole thing’s anticipation. The route finder makes the journey look long and the wish list of things to do while there – galleries, monuments, cinemas, metros – could be erased simply with a single suggestion. If he’s single. Or even if he isn’t.

The third night we speak, I ask if he’ll be there forever and he says he’s not sure. That somewhere’s so ingrained in you sometimes, it’s there wherever you are. I ask where else he’d be but he doesn’t know. I don’t either, because for every new place I try, I miss the first a little more. There’s always one person who, just like the information on an internet profile, the pictures, phone numbers, and updates, is kept forever even when you’ve hit the delete button. Nothing’s ever gone. Even when you think it is.

Grey’s Monument

 

Avatar of Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Amy Mackelden and Jake Campbell

Jake Campbell is from the coastal town of South Shields. He graduated with Distinction for his Creative Writing MA at the University of Chester. In 2011 he won New Writing North’s Andrew Waterhouse Award, and in May 2012, Red Squirrel Press published his debut pamphlet of poetry, Definitions of Distance. www.jakecampbell1988.blogspot.co.uk Follow Jake on Twitter: @jakecampbell88 ; Amy Mackelden is from the Isle of Wight, and did the long distance thing with Newcastle for a long time before committing, which she finally did in 2008. She won a Northern Promise Award from New Writing North in 2011 and her daily microfiction blog, www.july2061.com, was shortlisted in the Blog North Awards 2012. Follow Amy on Twitter: @july 2061