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:

Being bold for change

This week various events are happening around Newcastle University campus and the city to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) on Wednesday 8th March under the theme of #beboldforchange which also prioritises the call to action worldwide for speeding up gender parity.

working together

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report on gender and inequality shows why the issue of parity still remains vital. The findings make for sobering reading, particularly the part that predicts that the pay gap won’t close entirely until 2186. This is highly dependent on region too. In Europe the gap for equal pay is 47 years however other figures are much worse. In North America, the statistics are in retrograde and in South Asia the WEF predict it will be 1000 years before the pay gap is closed.

The events happening across the North-East highlight the different ways that everyone can #beboldforchange and find motivations in different sources past and present. Tomorrow there’s a lecture on Inspirational Women of the North East by Prof Helen Berry, between 1.30-3pm at the Kings Hall.  On International Women’s Day itself Professor Karen Ross as part of her ESRC IAA project ‘NOT Acting Our Age: Older Women Challenging Gender Stereotypes and Celebrating Life’ will be organising a flash mob at 12 noon in Grainger Market. Later on there is a lecture at Newcastle Business School between 5pm and 7.30 entitled ‘Celebrating Women in the World of Work: Smashing the Glass Ceiling’, details of which can be found here. In Newcastle and Gateshead there are also a number of free events happening throughout the week, which NCVS has collated here.

On Thursday the Institute for Health and Society is featuring talks from the Angelou Centre and Riverside Project at a free event that starts at 2pm at the Medical School.  On the same day at 17:30 in the Herschel Building there will be a discussion around citizenship and equality as part of the Annual Tyneside Geographical Lecture (joint with Royal Geographical Society). Speakers Dame Vera Baird, QC, PCC Northumbria and Dr. Kaneez Shaid, MBE, Chair of Trustees, Citizens UK will explore identities of citizenship and equality that are forged in the public spaces of civil society.

As various conversations begin about #beingboldforchange this week (and beyond) there can hopefully be a turn from just talking into clear collective action…2186 is too long to wait for equality.

For more resources and information about holding an event please see the main website for International Women’s Day.

A full list of University events can be found here.