A North East performance poet and illustrator will work with local people to collect and help tell their stories as part of a year-long celebration of the sea.
Lizzie Lovejoy’s work will see them combine visual arts with the written word in a performance and exhibition this November that will also showcase art by local people following a series of workshops taking place this year.
The project, Queer Shores and Seas, has been commissioned by SeaScapes Co/Lab in partnership with Curious Arts and Living History North East, as one element of SeaScapes: Tyne to Tees Shores to Seas, a multi-million-pound marine heritage project funded by National Lottery players via the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which aims to reveal and better manage the hidden heritage of our unique seascape, and create opportunities for learning, access and enjoyment of our coastline for generations to come.
Lizzie’s residency will specifically explore the relationship between our region’s marine heritage and queer culture, with the workshops aimed at those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual + (LGBTQIA+).
Lizzie said: “The workshops will be primarily story-collecting sessions, with elements of both creative writing and reportage drawing explored by those that take part.
“This will lead to the creation of a range of images and a series of poems and everyone that is part of a workshop will have the chance to have the work they produce featured at the exhibition and performance night.”
The story sessions will be held in several community locations south of the Tyne and north of the Tees, including Souter Lighthouse in South Tyneside and the Northern School of Art in Hartlepool, where Lizzie studied illustration, and there will also be a virtual element to ensure accessibility for all.
Lizzie, 25, who has lived across the Tees Valley and County Durham but is currently based in Newton Aycliffe, said: “There is freedom in water, and I’ve always existed near rivers, so I write a lot about the water, particularly northern water, and about being by the shoreline.
“I’m very much a community practitioner and want to encourage and empower people to be more creative. Many people say to me that they can’t draw, but they often surprise themselves, and everyone’s stories are relevant. I understand more than most that it can be uncomfortable to identify yourself in a certain way, but I want to help people embrace that discomfort through this work, as well as capturing the uniqueness of our northern water.”
Suzy O’Hara of SeaScapes Co/Lab said the team selected Lizzie for Queer Shores and Seas as they have a strong relationship with the marine and maritime heritage of the regional coastline, and a strong track record of amplifying northern voices.
She said: “We know Lizzie’s work will help us magnify the voices of underserved LGBTQIA+ people living within the SeaScapes area and safeguard the oral ‘living histories’ that will contribute towards conserving the richness and diversity of our natural, cultural and marine heritage for future generations.”
Learn more about Lizzie and their work at lizzielovejoyillustration.co.uk. Their story-collecting workshops will begin in May, and you can follow the progress of the Queer Shores and Seas project at exploreseascapes.co.uk.