Ashington artist to exhibit short film project Hjem about asylum seekers in Northumberland at Woodhorn Museum
and live on Freeview channel 276
Opening on Sunday, October 15, it is the first solo exhibition by photographic artist Jamie Sinclair, a former Ashington High School student.
The key work of the exhibition is Jamie’s heartfelt 11-minute film Hjem, which means ‘home’ in Northumbrian and the local Pitmatic dialect.
It tells the story of refugees’ experiences trying to settle into Ashington life and the volunteers doing their best to help them.
Jamie said: “This body of work shares the stories of refugees, asylum seekers, and local volunteers, but really it is a film about hospitality and kindness, showing people creating joy and looking forward to the future rather than being asked to focus on the past.
“Returning to Woodhorn Museum as a leading artist with a solo show is the stuff of dreams for me. It is an incredible feeling and something that feels like a huge achievement, to have my first major show on home turf.”
The project was filmed and photographed over a three-month period during the summer of 2022 with help from Arts Council England, Rebecca Vassie Trust, and Northumberland County Council funding.
It shares the personal stories of people Jamie met through local charity Northumberland County of Sanctuary.
Jamie said: “I have always been frustrated by the biassed and negative opinions towards those seeking asylum in the UK, and I wanted to create a body of work close to my heart.”
He added: “In around 2020 I became aware of an organisation called Northumberland County of Sanctuary, which was set up to welcome refugees and asylum seekers who were being sent to north east England to live.
“After meeting Anne Murray and the rest of the team, I knew I wanted to tell their story.”
Anne, who features in the film, said: “We began with just a few people who were aware asylum seekers were going to be placed in Northumberland and they would not get any help.
“Anything they needed, we used to ask friends and relatives. We used to get donations of money. We started from very small beginnings with a very small number of asylum seekers. And it grew, and it grew, and then we became a charity.”
This is not the first time Jamie has worked with refugees, having had an “eye-opening” trip to Calais in 2015 to build shelters.
His art career has strong ties to Ashington, having previously produced The Ashington District Star, a free journal inspired by the Ashington Group painters.
Rowan Brown, chief executive of Museums Northumberland, said: “Ashington grew from a small hamlet to the biggest pit village in the world, and became a new ‘hjem’ for many thousands of people.
“Coalfield communities have proved themselves inclusive, welcoming, and centred around home and community life.
“These characteristics are reflected in Jamie’s poetic film, painting a picture of a northern town that has opened its arms to people from every corner of the world.
“We are delighted to be presenting Jamie’s first ever solo exhibition at Woodhorn Museum, and giving people across Northumberland, the North East, and beyond the chance to see this heartwarming film.”
The exhibition runs until February 25, 2024.