Recruiting interviewees

 

What is this research about?

Some say that in our global world, local communities are becoming less important. Yet, as many individuals and families are struggling with the effects of recession, it seems that these local, personal relationships, and the support they offer, are becoming important again. This research tries to explore this question in Cullercoats and on the Marden estate.

I’m particularly interested in exploring whether our relationships with family, friends and neighbours help us to deal with economic uncertainty. This might be through the moral support they offer, or because they give us time, or money, or other kinds of help that make it easier for us to get by.

The North East has been hit especially hard by the effects of recession and austerity (such as job loss, pay squeezes, benefits reductions, service cuts). Within the region, the ‘squeezed middle’ (low-to-middle income households, with a total income of roughly £12,000 to £40,000) has been particularly vulnerable.

Cullercoats and the Marden estate are home to a significant number of these households. They have dense and long-standing networks of community relationships and a relatively well-defined identity. All of this means this is a good place to explore the questions I’m interested in.

To explore these questions, it is important to me to first get to know Cullercoats and the Marden estate well. I want to get a sense of the life and history of the communities and to find out what is important to people living there.

The next step will be to carry out interviews with individuals and families in Cullercoats and on the Marden estate. These will involve discussions of the recession and of everyday relationships, with friends and family.

 

Why am I doing this research?

I believe the question of how individuals and families are living with the effects of the recession is an extremely important one and I think that people’s relationships with each other have a real influence on how they deal with economic stress. I have a young daughter, I work part-time and I live on the coast so these issues are personally important to me too.

 

Who is funding it?

Newcastle University, through their Catherine Cookson Foundation. The University has a longstanding relationship with Cullercoats through the Dove Marine Laboratory and is keen to support research that connects to the lives of local communities. Of course, Catherine Cookson herself was very interested in communities like Cullercoats.

 

Who will use the research?

Most importantly, this research will, I hope, be the beginning of a long-term relationship with Cullercoats, one that allows me to research issues that are important to people who live there. So I plan to feed what I find out back to the people I interviewed, including to those working in institutions that support community life. I will also be writing blogs and papers to present at conferences and to publish in academic journals.

 

How will any information you share be used?

In all meetings and interviews, I will discuss and agree how the information will be used. If you would like it to be anonymised before it is used in presentations or publications, we can agree that. All material gathered in interviews and meetings will be stored safely. I will be the only person who has access to it.

 

Are you interested in being interviewed about your experiences of recession and community in Cullercoats?

I’m currently looking for families living on low-to-middle incomes in Cullercoats and on the Marden estate to interview. Interviews will focus on your experiences of the current recession and your relationships within the local community.

Interviews can take place with one or more family members and can be arranged at a time and place that suits you.

If you are interested, please do get in touch and I will send you more information about what is involved.

 

Getting in touch

If you live in Cullercoats or on the Marden estate, think you belong to the ‘squeezed middle’, and are interested in being interviewed, please contact me by email, phone or text.

Mobile: 07580 386874

Email: alison.stenning@ncl.ac.uk

 

Updates and more information about the project can be found at:

blogs.ncl.ac.uk/alisonstenning  

www.facebook.com/researchingcullercoats

Twitter: @alisonstenning

 

A PDF version of this information can be downloaded here.

 

 

 

Reports from the field I

Slowly but surely the project is getting going. I’m starting by trying to make contact and build relationships with key actors in Cullercoats, with church leaders, head teachers, community leaders and so on. These early meetings are about getting a better sense of Cullercoats, its geography and history and the challenges it’s facing.

I’m slowly building up a map (both mental and ‘actual’) of the community – you can have a look at that here. One of the first things that has become clear is that what is adminstratively Cullercoats (Cullercoats ward of North Tyneside Borough Council, the blue boundary on the Google Map) is more commonly understood as (at least) two distinct places, Cullercoats village and the Marden Estate.

Cullercoats village is an historic community with its roots in fishing and its location on the sea front, historically just thirteen streets, many of which were destroyed in a poorly conceived and poorly received ‘redevelopment’ in the late 1960s and early 1970s (with links to and echoes of the work of T Dan Smith and John Poulson in Newcastle, fictionalised in the BBC’s Our Friends in the North). Just one street of fishermen’s cottages remain, on Simpson Street, but there are other reminders of the village’s fishing heritage, in the Watch House, the boat yard, and the Fishermen’s Mission, all on the seafront. For many who live in the village, Cullercoats extends only as far inland as the Metro line – ‘over the bridge’ is not Cullercoats.

The Marden Estate dates from the post-war period when the then Tynemouth Borough Council began to develop an estate of council housing for families from the western parts of the borough (such as Balkwell and Chirton). It’s bounded on its eastern, southern and western edges by quite major roads (and on the north by Marden Quarry), making it a fairly contained and defined place. It seems to inspire a quite considerable sense of attachment and belonging, especially amongst those residents who have lived on the estate since their houses were built and who were proud to make the ‘step up’ (to quote one of my interviewees) to the bigger houses and wider streets of ‘the Marden’. Some houses were built privately but most were council houses, though these were largely bought by tenants with the right-to-buy. The estate has changed quite considerably in the last twenty or so years as the right-to-buy has enabled much more movement in and out and as the estate’s houses attract new families, drawn to the coast from across the region and beyond. This newer geography is something that I expect will be quite important as my fieldwork progresses.

The separation of Cullercoats village and the Marden isn’t quite as clear-cut as this suggests, however. At funerals, church leaders tell me, the webs of relationships that connect the two parts of the ward become very clear: family roots lead back from the Marden to the seafront and belie a intertwined geography of family and friendship. Church parishes, school catchments, pub and club locations, and community activities all draw people across the streets and spaces of Cullercoats and the Marden. How these relationships work as the communities change is a question at the heart of my research.