One Suitcase – What would you put in yours?
I’d like to introduce you to my new project …
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m really interested in genealogy, partly because I wanted to know how and why my Maternal Grandmother was born in Middlesbrough, and how I came to also be born there. It’ll be no surprise to people who live around Middlesbrough when I say my relatives came to the town from Ireland, in my case via Liverpool.
My great grandad Henry Healy worked all over the UK wherever there was unskilled work, from Middlesbrough and Sunderland to Kent, but the last place he lived with his children was Lower East Street in what is known as St Hilda’s, but I always knew as ’Over The Border’ in the area between Middlesbrough Station and the river Tees. This was where the original Middlesbrough grew in the early 1800s from a simple fam to the ’Ironopolis’ – the centre of UK iron production needed to build the world’s bridges and railways as the Industrial Revolution changed industry forever.
I was more surprised to find my Great great grandad on my Dad’s side had lived in Lower Gosford Street, across the road from my previous employer, and recently that my Husband’s 4 times Great Grandad lived in Middlesbrough after running a Jet Ornament business in Whitby, with 8 employees and a shop on Church Street ( this shop still exists although as a different business).Bearing in mind he was rural Kent born and bred, this was quite a surprise.
So I think if you know anything about Teesside, you know it’s an area built on Immigration. After the Industrial Revolution the next big influx of immigration came after WW2 when we were desperate for workers so sent out the call far and wide to all the ex ’Empire” (by this time, rebranded as Commonwealth) countries to extend the hand of welcome. It wasn’t really like that when people arrived unfortunately, and for some, whatever welcome there was didn’t last very long.
More recently, Middlesbrough and Teesside have become a dispersal area for Asylum seekers, this time because there is an abundance of cheap housing which the companies given the contracts from the government make much use of. Needless to say this is a story on repeat.
I’ve always found it strange, then that anyone in Middlesbrough would be anti immigration. The town simply wouldn’t exist without Immigrants, and to tie in with what was happening in London between 1950 and 1970 which we know more about, including the Windrush arrival, and subsequent more recent scandal of people being sent back to places they’ve hardly, or never lived, I really wanted to get my teeth into what happened here., and be the artist again. Taking inspiration from what I discover to create works for Middlesbrough Art weekender in 2023 and an installation in Kirkleatham Museum in June next year, as well as activity at this year’s Middlesbrough Mela and Festival of Thrift.
SO here’s some info about the project… if you know anyone who might like to be involved, do message me.
I’m looking to speak to and record the discussion with people about either their experiences of leaving their mother country and landing in England / Teesside.
This project concentrates on people who came / whose parents came here 1950 and 1970
Also I’d like to chat to people whose heritage is more local about how they would feel if they had to leave for another place.
Our discussion will be mostly about what people brought to remind them of home, what they would bring if they had to leave for a place with a different culture that they could fit in one suitcase – but also including less tangible items such as sounds and smells.
We’ll be looking at expectations and realities of migration, and what people feel the welcome would be in in new place .
The discussions will be saved and documented, and I will use excerpts as a piece of art I am making for Middlesbrough Art weekender, and an exhibition in Kirkleatham museum, both next year.
All discussions can be as private / anonymous as required and interviewees will have the option of having their photograph taken.
I am also looking for people interested in being further involved in influencing the project.
Miki Rogers is an artist and community worker who was born in Middlesbrough working in community led arts for the last 15 years
She brought up her family on Teesside, though her heritage is from Irish immigration into Middlesbrough in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The towns of Stockton and Middlesbrough have a long story of immigration due to access from the River Tees which originally welcomed ships to both towns, and the industries around Teesside expanding at a rate which local workers could not fill. Teesside more recently has become a dispersal area for people seeking asylum.
The project investigates what happened here on Teesside at the same time the Windrush and further transport was bringing in Jamaican workers to London, between the 1950s and 1970s and we’re interested in people who came to Teesside from abroad during this time or whose parents did, especially where the culture here differed noticeably from their homeland.
We know people came to fill our need for workers for the Shipbuilding, Steel and Chemical industries, with the promise that their inclusion as part of the Commonwealth would allow a welcome here.
More recently we have seen the mass exodus of people from Ukraine, and this has brought Immigration, asylum and migration into sharp focus for many people.
Interviews will form part of a work which will be exhibited as part of Middlesbrough Art weekender, and at Kirkleatham Museum through the Festival of Thrift, and there will be an element of creative response to the interviews by local young creatives, as well as a piece of sound art using the Oral History recordings which will play during the Kirkleatham and old suitcases, exploring what people did, and would put in that suitcase…
Exhibition/Festival of Thrift
Contact miki rogers : firstname.lastname@example.org
Naaila Shabir (Borderlands) N.Shabir@tees.ac.uk
A Village Festival
What did you do over the Jubilee weekend? I have to admit to not being particularly royalist, especially as I’ve been married to an old punk musician for the last 27 yrs…but I knew that the Platinum Jubilee weekend or ’Platty Jubes’ as I heard some people jokingly call it was, in fact going to create a great opportunity for communities to get together and work on their ’community-ness’, and there was some money being made available for this very thing!
With this in mind, I was so happy to be asked to be part of the team working on the East Cleveland Big Jubilee festival, particularly as it’s based in my corner of the world.
I worked with the wonderful Jo and a group of committed community champions who had set out a vision of village togetherness across East Cleveland, plus a dance spectacular on the Jetty at Skinningrove.
We got the funding 7 weeks before the event so we had A LOT to do, but we made it! 8 village halls decorated and providing exhibitions and activity, an oral history element, a bus tour and the promised dance on the jetty!
What a joy!
Here’s a little snapshot of some of the activity …
Thanks to all the villages, Arts Council England, Big Local, County Durham community
Pimms and Needles
In between all this flurry of activity, I’ve been doing workshops for the fabulous women’s befriending and creative group Pimms and Needles.
Founders Donna and Charlotte set up the first group in and around Darlington, when they realised there was a space for women to find friendship and fun and new experiences which had traditionally been taken by the WI and other organisations, but where they could share tea, cake and the odd glass of wine!
Pimms and needles now run 20+ groups across the Tees Valley, Co Durham and N Yorkshire, as well as free ’Silvers’ groups for women experiencing isolation and those over retirement age.
I got involved at the beginning of 2022, doing tea workshops with just about every group, and now i’m hist of the Redcar group !
See their website below to join and see some of the amazing activity which includes Life Drawing, mosaic and watercolours, and even Burlesque!
For more about workshops click here