TELLING THE PEOPLES STORY ....

I've just finished a series of three gigs here in the North East predominantly drawing on material from The Seam collection. The common link between all three events was 'community'. In each case the organisation or people who organised the evenings were concerned to see the needs of their community are recognised, listened to and addressed - whether through involvement in community initiatives to engage people with their landscape, culture and heritage (in the case of The Land of Oak & Iron), whether it was allowing the arts (and poetry in particular) to respond to the gathering of a historically down-trodden and embattled community around the Durham Gala (in the case of Haliwerfolc 2.0) or whether it was the deep desire to minister alongside and be with their communities come what may (in the case of the Durham Diocese). It's been an inspiring and uplifting time working with these folks in their different, but yet strikingly similar situations. It reminded me that good things happen when someone decides to stick their neck out and fly in the face of apathy, cynicism and saddest of all - a deep sense of mistrust born of being successively let down by 'the system'. The Seam was always about telling stories - stories found in a historic archive that deals with the development of the extractive industries over the last 500 years. But it turns out that it's more than that. These are stories that in their original form come directly from community - whether gathered round an industry, movement, geography, geology or a combination of them all. Ultimately as an artist I'm simply telling the peoples' stories back to them, helping them to recognise that they really do have a story to tell, that they can be inspired by what has gone before, by what is to come, a stronger sense of identity if you like. I'm convinced that the answer to many if not most of our societal woes is found, and perhaps has always been found, in giving our communities the confidence to help themselves, to see that they have an inherent strength that carried them through tougher times than these. The picture attached was appropriately laid out around the venue last Monday evening (with thanks to Jake Campbell) as we celebrated and commemorated the Durham Gala. For me - it sums up all I could hope to say about the power, value and determination of community. 

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