Telling the Tale of Being Northern

WE ARE NORTHERN (A Poem to Introduce The Story)


I am addicted to the North. This place is not just my home, not just where I was born, but it is who I am. The North lives in my body and swims through my blood... And I am far from the only one who feels like this. Over the past four years I have talked to hundreds of strangers, old friends, and new ones too, about their memories. I've learned about their lives in the North East and what makes them who they are, from Saltburn up to Berwick.  There is a lot of history that informs who we are, from the various mines and factories to more localised and personal experiences.

The story I want to share is the Tale of Being Northern. It is the collection of all of these moments. When Dorman Long was demolished, the Tees Valley was heartbroken. A place which had built the Tyne bridge and the Newport lifting bridge, a workplace for hundreds of our local working-class community, was blown up in the middle of the night. Seeing pieces of our history destroyed, I knew I wanted to make something that could honour the memory of the North East while still representing those of us who live here today. 

The Story

The Basic Outline

It's the night before a protest (likey protesting the destruction of a local iconic building/ structure, in the story this will probably be fictional for legal reasons) and a group of people who haven't interacted with eachother before are pushed into one anothers company.

Around a bin fire, they share snippets of their lives and learn about how much they all have in common.  They all realise that inspite of their differences as people, there are a lot of experiences that they can understand fully as Northerners. In the morning, they will go out together to try and save something that unites them.

It will be a celebration of North East memories and histories. The North East has the highest percentage of disabled people compared the the rest of the UK at 25%, so at least one of these characters will be disabled. 

The reason I want them to gather around a bin fire is because while I was working in South Tyneside I spoke to a wonderful older man from Jarrow who told me about how his working class street would all meet together around a bin fire when he was growing up. The council replaced their cobbled street with tarmac and the last time they lit the fire together it burned through and melted the floor which he remembers being a very funny time for everyone.  Our working-class streets will always feel like home.



We were searching rocks

holding onto Lemon-Tops

finding shells and glass and crabs.

We would grab

our finds

into the confines

of a bucket or box

before heading back to sand filled socks

for chips on sea defence steps.

These are the moments I kept

from child-hood

all of that wild-good

exploring and learning.

The world keeps on turning

and time moves on

but that moment isn't gone...

I'll collect us in that bucket

just to keep a nugget

of the children that we were:

Him and Me and They and Her.

I am Lizzie.
I am working class
northern lass
built from sea glass
and formed on the shore.
In my core you'll find factories
mythologies forgotten histories
and Culture.

I am Lizzie
busy Lizzie
dizzy Lizzie
Lizzie with the disabled body
and the beautiful brain
halfway between insane
and creative.

I am Lizzie
I am poet
I am writer
am human rights fighter
I am picture maker
and photograph taker.

Image description:
five foot five
brown hair, green eyes
huge thighs,
comfy shoes
eyeshadow in every hue.
I am Lizzie.
I am artist.
I am me.

About me