Finding Paths Across Waters

The theme of the Being Human Festival for 2017 is Lost and Found. Dr Vanessa Mongey, a Newcastle University Researcher, works on the links between the Caribbean and the North East and spoke to Dr Eve Forrest about the new exhibit she has co-curated in North Shields called ‘Paths Across Waters’ as part of the festival.

How does this exhibit link to themes of Lost and Found?

In the past the seas and oceans were highways and paths that brought many different cultures in contact with the North-East. This had a huge impact on the region, however most of that local history and memory has been lost– we want to change that with this exhibit.

Why is it based in North Shields?

North Shields was a main trading port into Tyneside and was a place where many West Indian Sailors were based; there were many boarding houses in the area. During World War II, Newcastle was advertised as a welcoming place by the (then) Colonial Office and the Ministry of Labour to West African migrants too. Our region it not often associated with the Caribbean and there is quite a large shared history that we want to explore.

Are there other ties to the North East and the Caribbean?

Yes there are many and not necessarily maritime themed! The publisher Bloodaxe Books based in the North-East has published work by British Caribbean authors since it began in 1978. So there has been that poetic and intellectual link in the region for a while too.

What can visitors expect from the exhibit?

Well I don’t want to give too much away! But we wanted to connect the exhibition to its surroundings in the Low Light Heritage Centre on North Shields Fish Quay. There is a live soundscape specifically designed for this exhibition by Professor John Bowers of Newcastle University; a film piece by artists James Davoll and Paul Gibson that will change according to the speed of the wind alongside images from the Imperial War Museum, the National Archives, and much more. There is also an oral history booth where we would like people to tell us about their experiences and memories. We want to find as many lost stories as possible in North Shields and in the rest of the region.

What other events are being held?

We have a workshop on the 23rd November about Caribbean cuisines led by Peggy Brunache from the University of Dundee around food and identity. There will also be a live performance of Garifuna music by Lindel Solis Zenon, a musician from Nicaragua on the 25th November. On the same day I will also be talking about the research behind the exhibit, telling people about the rich global history of the region. All the events are free so we would love to see as many people there as possible!

The exhibition is open Thursday 9 November – Saturday 25 November, 10:00am–5:00pm, at Old Low Light Heritage Centre, North Shields, with free entry from 17-25 November. For details on the workshops please see the Old Low Light website.

To find out more about other Being Human Festival events please go to: or search Twitter using the hashtags #PathsWaters #BeingHuman17

Venue details can be found here: