A new book which celebrates the north Northumberland coast is just the first response to a special project which took place last year.
Two Rivers & the Sea is the first in a series of responses to come out of A Year in Beadnell, an artistic and environmental project devised by visual artist Melanie Ashby and poet and writing researcher Lisa Matthews, both based in the North East.
The print book, subtitled a poetic-visual essay, inspired by Rachel Carson and the Northumberland coast, is to be launched at an event at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle the week after next.
Last year, the pair spent eight weeks – spread out throughout the year – in Beadnell.
Taking inspiration from the sea books of US biologist, campaigner and nature writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964), Ashby and Matthews immersed themselves in the sights and sounds of our own wild coastline, following in Carson’s footsteps who kept field diaries during excursions on the North American coast.
During the spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons the two artists kept a digital log about their surroundings making notes, sketches, taking photos and recording sounds of the sea, flora and fauna – compiling artistic responses in the manner of a field diary.
This first year, with its quiet residencies, was the pilot for a much bigger programme of events which is now in development.
A Year in Beadnell is, therefore, a work in progress and will last much longer than its initial pilot year of 2015.
Two Rivers & the Sea takes its name from the estuary on Beadnell Bay where the Long Nanny and Brunton Burn rivers reach the North Sea.
The book comprises artworks including underwater, landscape and wildlife photography, fine art and poetry inspired by Beadnell, the estuary and surrounding area.
The book is a showcase for and celebration of Northumberland’s unique coastline and is also meant as a way to introduce the works of Rachel Carson to wider audiences.
Linda Lear, Carson’s biographer and historian, says: “This beautiful book explores the Northumberland coast and the great mystery held in the dramatic meeting there of land and sea.”
Meanwhile, Alex Lockwood, a Carson scholar, says in his foreword for the book that it ‘reignites the awe that is appropriate for where fresh water meets the sea’.
Melanie talked about the project and the four residencies in Beadnell at last year’s Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership annual forum.
She explained that Carson was a key figure in the environmental movement, who brought nature and the natural environment to a lot of people, particularly in the States.
“She had a love of the coast and a love of the sea and so do we,” she said.
The project’s main website is ayearinbeadnell.uk
There is also an e-scrapbook to see at ayearinbeadnell.tumblr.com
The book launch at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle takes place on Tuesday, April 12, from 7pm until 9pm. Doors open at 6.30pm.
It is a free event to which everyone is welcome. Books will be available to buy on the evening.