afterword tileNot long after Easter, in a car park at the Allendale Sports and Cricket Club, Stephen Pritchard from Dot-to-dot active arts invited me to visit Blyth as part of Above Ground Level. I decided in the moment that I’d like to make a digital book both with and about the town. This little online record of my time as the first resident artist at 42 Richard Stannard House is the result.

A few months later when Stephen contacted me with the good news of funding from Arts Council England for Above Ground level we settled on the idea of collecting anonymous stories set in places around the town. I contacted John Stoker, a friend who grew up in Blyth and he suggested some locations that might stir memories and anecdotes in residents.

I used these locations to create the ‘pages’ on which people could write, draw, print or in some other way represent their stories, either real or imagined. People were invited to contribute anonymously because there is a truth that comes with the ability to speak without consequence.

42 Richard Stannard House sits at the end of the main stretch in the centre of Blyth, under the shadow of a giant, white, silent wind turbine, next door to the probation service and just down the street are the library and the job centre. And although there are stories here that locate themselves in the past – “Blyth is a town with its heart ripped out according to one of the contributors – there were also many other types of story. Visual stories, everyday stories, stories of invented futures, horror stories, comedy stories, stories of heartbreak, family stories and more. All were represented in the shapes of the town and scanned into the pages of this book.

The support I received from Jessica Bell and Grahame Patterson was invaluable and my feeling is that the development of new socially-engaged practitioners is going to be one of the many success stories that will come out of this project. To the Dot-to-dot team of Kat, Donna, Ryan and Bethany: your enthusiasm is sure to make a roaring success of Above Ground Level and I know that you will make a real difference to the lives of many of the residents of Blyth over the next three months.


SR, Newcastle, August 2014