RNLI podcast on Grace Darling
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Artist Sophie Dixon, creator of a multi-screen film installation at the Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh, has spoken of her research and production of ‘Grace’.
She features in an episode of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) new 200 Voices podcast.
Recorded to coincide with the anniversary of the fateful rescue of crew from the stricken paddle streamer Forfarshire in 1838, Sophie pays tribute to the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, who earned international recognition for risking her own life with her father William, by rowing out to save the crew in a wild and stormy sea.
She tells listeners: "I think Grace’s story is fascinating for the fact she was an ordinary woman who did this amazingly brave thing.”
Launched two years ago, ‘Grace’ was a multi-screen film installation that explored the heroine’s story from her childhood, right through to her death in 1842. Inspired by various. Often conflicting accounts, Sophie described the installation as: ‘a poetic exploration of Grace Darling’s life and the impact of her fame.’
The 10 minute-long film, commissioned by Arts and Heritage and shown at the museum in 2021, transported visitors to Grace’s home on Longstone Island where digital reconstructions of objects from the museum’s collections bring her story to life.
An original score by musician Kathy Alberici weaved together sounds of the surrounding Farne Islands and North East voices.
Sophie said: “The fundamentals of the project were these letters which she wrote for her family. It was created in a game engine. What I did was I recreated her lighthouse family home as a full digital reconstruction. As you go through her home, you go through the story of her life.”
Looking at the media exposure, it brought to light contemporary issues.
‘What I tried to do through the research was to really take materials and information that was out there through the museum or that could be found in the archives but make it more readily accessible and tie it to the story.
"I used letters written between Grace and her family but certainly music is quite important to the piece and Grace Darling’s father had a written manuscript of violin music that he would have played in the house itself. We took the violin notation and played that music and wove it into a soundscape for the film itself.
‘Everything the film was taken from the Northumberland archives, letters written between GD and her family, models in the museum, everything was based upon research that was carried out over the course of about a year.
“I came to this project with this image in my mind of Grace Darling being this incredibly brave woman. There’s a very famous painting of her, I think it’s the best known, where she is on her own in a boat rowing out into these stormy seas.
"The more I read about her, researched, the more I learnt about her, the more I dug into her letters and her story the more I realised that she was a normal woman who did a very brave thing, I think she is more like someone you might know.”
Listen to the podcasts at RNLI.org/200Voices.