As Lizzie engaged with the community in South Tyneside, they found that the imagery of Lighthouses often came up in conversation. There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, a lot of local people spent time around them. They had memories of going on first dates with their partners or walking there with their friends. There were even harder memories of walking the pier to think after a particularly hard time. But there was more meaning to the lighthouses than that.
Lighthouses stand on the edge of coast. They are the bridge between two worlds, that of the land and the sea. They are the light that brings the ships home to safety.
Lighthouses stand on the edge between danger and saftey. A sign that a journey is at an end, or a beginning. They are most certainly a guiding light in the darkness.
As Lizzie continued through Wereside and Teesside, the imagery continued, with members of the Queer community likening lighthouses to found family members that helped to show the way to a new home, a hand that held theirs as they journeyed from one part of their life into a place of open self identity. They held the torch. They lit the way.
People can be our lighthouses.
Lizzie translated the experiences and memories of the people they talked to into poems that were designed to be read out loud, but also work as visual poems with unusual line breaks for uneven rhythms.
Lizzie creates poems through movement, following the patterns of steps, train travel, and, in the case of some of these pieces, waves.
The works featured in the exhibition explore concepts of identity, of aligning yourself with the sea and Queer culture. They capture moments of memories, walking on the beach with loved ones, as well as a feeling shared by exisiting in a space of beautiful, ever changing fluidity.
Place became key to this project very early on. Even within the Tyne to Tees area, there were devisions. In the Tees Valley there were foods that were unique to them, including the famous Lemon Top (a type of Ice Cream with lemon sorbet). In Sunderland and South Shields there were distinctive languages due to the heritage of ship biulding, and Seaham's distinctive relationship to seaglass is world renound.
The relationship to language was especially interesting because Queer communities had been forced to develop their own secret languaged to avoid detection, including in physical forms such as the giving of specific flowers or foods.
Lizzie explored this sense of place and peoples memories around it through a further series of images.
As Above, So Below.
This phrase kept turning up while Lizzie was researching and investiagting. There were so many layers to what was happening to our seas at the time of the project, and what was happening on land. Polution in our waters was ever increasing and it felt like the treatment of people was becoming even more negative. Hate crimes across the globe had people concerned.
Lizzie considered our relationship to the water. After months of conversation, both in person and digitally, with hundreds of people, Lizzie wondered about the way that above the water and below the water reflected on another. How similar were creatures to people? How do we interact with one another?
All the while, Lizzie was listening to the Queer young people from Blooming Youth collective in the Tees Valley and US/OURS/WE IN South Tyneside. Running creative workshops to imagine what creatures might exist in our waters, the two collectives created their own 'Sea Monsters' or 'Coastal Gods'.
Diving in deeper, Lizzie researched the North East history of pagan coast and river Gods, finding surprising linking between these creatures and Queer Culture.
In response, Lizzie developed illustrations of God like sea creatures and more humaniod river Gods, considering both the fantastical and the real. Lizzie created images of the human boats above, and their sea creature counterparts, ones that oppose or compliment the actions of the surface.
Thoughout the project, Lizzie interviewed and recorded conversations with members of the public while writing their own poetry and creating audio. The visualiser and soundscape features clips of these conversations and writtings, as well as other ambient sounds.
The poetry performance and visualiser from the Queer Shores and Seas project, commissioned by SeaScapes, CoLab, Curious Arts and Living History NE
Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, written and performed by Lizzie Lovejoy, recorded and edited by Alan Fentiman.
This project could not have happened without the honest words and imput of our local Tyne to Tees community. If you have viewed this exhibition then you are a part of that journey. Thank you.