Over the winter of 2014/15 the Bell View Charity in Belford is hosting an innovative project to create a collective artwork through the scattered community it supports.
Writer Romi Jones and sound artist Geoff Sample will be in conversation with a wide group of older country dwellers to gather their thoughts – on paper and in sound. The themes they uncover will feed into a collective piece expressing the landscape of old age in this corner of rural Britain.
Discussions were initiated in response to Age UK’s report Later Life in Rural England 2013:
Where the media focused on themes of isolation and loneliness:
Elderly ‘isolated in English countryside’, study finds
From Northumberland County Council briefing The Aging Population of Northumberland 2006 and 2021:
“In summary there are going to be more older people in Northumberland by 2021 and less people of working age to support them. Whilst this is an issue for England as whole, it is a bigger issue in Northumberland and will particularly affect the more rural districts, especially Berwick upon Tweed and Alnwick.”
This is not primarily about reminiscences, though inevitably in the course of our conversations there will be a fair bit of personal history covered. We’re interested in how our respondents feel about their lives now and where they live, their hopes and fears, sense of community or isolation, their connections with this landscape, people and nature.
We once looked to our elders as a source of wisdom, of experience and history and for a sense of common heritage. The elders are still here, but we don’t listen so much now – too many distractions from our technologically enriched panoramas, mobile lives and fragmented communities.
In each of the sessions, we’re collecting far more recorded voice than we need, much of it quite incidental to the themes we’re exploring, but very much of value as oral history; and one of the outcomes is to lodge the full recorded interviews in the county archives.
On our blog we’ll be publishing extracts from the fieldwork as we go along and talking about the sessions, so giving us an opportunity to share some of the anecdotes and history we collect.
We’d welcome any feedback you can offer, so please feel free to comment on the posts or get in touch directly with this form.