In Spring 2016, Stolen Voices listened in on Seaham, East Durham. Seaham is a former colliery town (the last mine closed in 1991), currently re-inventing itself as a zone for light industry and the service sector, and as a seaside leisure spot with a refurbished marina. Near the bottom of the high street in Seaham, there is an iron plaque which shows the blueprints for the town as envisioned by architect John Dobson in the middle of the 19th century. The plans were commissioned by Lord Londonderry, whose funds backed the development of the Seaham harbour. Dobson’s plans were never fully realised, and the plaque highlights the sense of weird temporalities we found throughout the town. We felt we could hear alternative timelines and possibilities rustling among the more concrete rhythms and tones.
Key sites for investigation included: the Blast Beach, whose neon orange sands evidence its past as a coal waste dump, and whose not-of-this-world aesthetic prompted Ridley Scott to film scenes of Alien 3 there; a ninth-century churchyard dotted with a series of educational texts, one of which became a sort of mantra (‘often sad, sometimes scary, all true’); a confectionary shop off the high street advertising ice cream and wool; Seaham Hall, the local stately home-cum-health-spa whose most famous resident, Lord Byron, wrote of Seaham that ‘upon this dreary shore we have nothing but council meetings and shipwrecks’; a car boot sale where we found a DVD compilation of television reports, local documentaries and home videos of the last days of the coal mines in Seaham, and a 7-inch single of Robin Scott’s ‘That’s the Way the Money Goes’; among many others. We were joined in our investigations by a shifting and various community of listeners. Below is documentation from some of our inquiries.
Johanna Linsley and Rebecca Louise Collins worked with Newcastle-based composer Mariam Rezaei to develop a new piece of music based on overheard voices, conversations, and sounds in Seaham. The piece debuted Sunday evening, 8 May 2016 at a gig night organised at Seaham café Roobarb ‘n Custard. The event included local musicians David Curtis & Robert McBlane, and Ani Sandwith.
The Eavesdrop Box is a computer terminal that asks local people to contribute stories, memories and impressions of the sounds of Seaham. Designed by Lalya Attaya (Attaya Projects) and Stu Herring, the Eavesdrop Box was on site at the Seaham Library through April and May, 2016.
On Sunday, 10 April, 2016 we led a workshop on listening and creative practice
in collaboration with the East Durham Artist Network. Photos below by EDAN member Jean Spence from the first part of the workshop – a sunrise listening session on the Blast Beach. Check out further documentation of the workshop on our blog.
Lalya Gaye is an artist and designer who runs the collaborative digital media arts practice Attaya Projects. She is interested in the poetic and creative space between the physical and the digital, and works primarily with light, sound, steel, everyday objects, urban space and interactive electronics.
Stu Herring is a performance artist and sculptor. His work is an exploration of his personal understanding of existence and society.In his performances he undertakes acts of abstinence and other spiritually-motivated tasks using industrial techniques to build alternative apparatus.
Mariam Rezaei is a composer, performer and improviser, working predominantly with turntables, piano, electronics and voice.She is composer in residence at The Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle, Artistic Director of The Old Police House, Gateshead and arts organisation NOISESTRA. Her current research is into the use of metaphor in Sufi poetry, fiction and the dichotomy of the lion and sheep, the heart and mind, the pearl and the sea. Forthcoming performances include OM, performing with Noh Theatre, King’s Place,London, MILK///, an installation for turntables, piano, double bass and vocals for Tectonics Oslo, Stolen Voices, vocal performance with Johanna Linsley and Rebecca Louise Collins and TRANSIT with theatre company ZENDEH
East Durham Creates is an Arts Council England-supported project, working across the East Durham area and aiming to get more people involved in arts and creative activity. We are working with residents to deliver an ambitious arts programme, every element of which will be community-led in some way, and totally distinctive to the area, inspired by East Durham and by the people who live there. East Durham Creates is one of 21 Creative People and Places projects nationally, funded by Arts Council England. It is managed by Beamish, Forma Arts, and East Durham Trust working in partnership and supported by Durham County Council via East Durham Area Action Partnership and Culture and Sport Services.
Helix Arts is a Newcastle-based arts and media co-production company that works with artists, in partnership with other organisations, to create opportunities for people to participate in ambitious arts activity. We increase equality of opportunity for people to participate in the arts and our focus is on those who currently have least opportunity including: children and young people at risk; unemployed adults and employed people on low incomes; people living in deprived neighbourhoods; those with special educational needs; and people with poor health, particularly the elderly. https://www.helixarts.com