Memories of Where We Belong

The words and thoughts of older people in north Northumberland have resulted in a new art exhibition.
The words and thoughts of older people in north Northumberland have resulted in a new art exhibition.

Older people’s thoughts on living, working and growing old in rural Northumberland are the focus of a new art installation and exhibition.

Creative writer Romi Jones and sound artist Geoff Sample, working with Belford-based Bell View Resource Centre, have used a range of mediums, including poetry and the spoken word.

The result is the collaborative arts project Where We Belong, funded by the Arts Council, which will be shown at the Watchtower Gallery in Berwick from tomrorrow to Sunday, October 25.

Over the last nine months, Romi and Geoff ran a series of creative workshops, writing, talking and listening to 60 older people across north Northumberland. It gathered their thoughts on living, working and growing old in rural poetry.

Thousands of words have been written, recorded, collected – some as poetry, some as social comments, some as memoir, some as reflection on the landscape and seascape that surround us.

Exploring the themes of home, belonging, ageing, community, birds, landscape and the sea, they have crafted a series of fragmented insights, which have been articulated through poetry, sound and storytelling.

Coming from a diverse range of backgrounds, some of the project participants have lived in rural Northumberland for their entire lives, growing up in the county’s many isolated villages, whilst others originated from a more urban setting.

Whether a native Northumbrian or one of those who discovered a love for all that the county has to offer and later relocated to the area, the project succeeds in harnessing the love and passion all the participants feel for the area through a series of vignettes designed to provoke thought and understanding in audiences.

Romi explained: “We were looking for an artistic format to present written fragments within the soundscape, so we chose a wooden structure based loosely on the design of an ema, which is traditionally used by the people of Japan to record their thoughts, feelings and prayers.

“We hope that this will allow the audience to see tiny snapshots of the lives and feelings of older people in the region, some of whom have shared some really haunting poetry with us.

“This has all been made possible by the people who have given their views, reflections and insights into their lives in this fabulous part of Northumberland.

“Both Geoff and I are delighted to have had the opportunity to work with the support from both Bell View and the Arts Council in developing this unique project.”

Jane Field, services development manager for Bell View, said: “This project is the beginning of our plans to expand the range of creative activities we provide for older people within the community, including those who suffer from dementia.

“We are very grateful to all those who have participated and for the work Romi and Geoff have put into making the project so successful.”

More details of the project can be found at the artists’ blog –
Bell View Resource Centre is a community-based charity with the aims of supporting and enabling older people to live independently in their community of choice.