Review by Abbie Longmate
New Narratives for the North East captures the very essence and beauty of the North East; a beauty often neglected and ignored by those outside of its geographical realms. Yes, it’s a bit cold up here. Mornings are brisk, evenings even more biting. You have to wrap up warm just to pop to the local shop. But there is something special about this place. This podcast series takes on the subject: featuring fifteen writers who have been commissioned to create work based on the North East.
Episode One: Sing the North
The first podcast takes us on a journey through words, intertwining the work of David Almond with that of several other writers, creating a polyphony of narratives with each snippet of speech. Combined with a backdrop of choral singing, the sound of waves lapping behind the featured writers’ words reflect the natural majestic beauty of the North East.
My highlight: “Sing the North into the South and make it beautiful.” – David Almond
Episode Two: This Edge
This podcast explores the North East in terms of its borders, edges and divisions. The writers discuss the division of the North East as a region from other parts of the UK, in geographical, political and social contexts. Writers Mim Skinner and Lisette Auton’s evaluation of the divisions we inevitably find ourselves tackling in our current social climate, are especially thought-provoking. I learned that addressing these divisions could actually lead to a stronger connection with our surroundings.
My highlight: “It’s very hard to dislike someone or see someone as Other, once you’ve heard their story.” – Mim Skinner
Episode Three: The City is a Language
Episode three focuses on the concept of “the city” as an urban space. I think one of my favourite examples of this dialogue is Melissa Tutesigensi’s description of her student experience at Durham, where you only ever see a “watered-down” version of the diversity the city truly has to offer. To experience the city in its full beauty, you must step out of the “everyday texture” of the city, and take a different, and ultimately more rewarding, path.
My highlight: “Everything is its own, everything has its own personality.” – India Hunter
Episode Four: About the Future
The final podcast details the experiences, apprehensions and hopes about the future of the North East. It features the voices of young writers such as India Hunter, whose poem, Winged Docs resonates with some of my own experiences growing up in a Northern, working-class town. Hunter describes feeling a certain pressure to move away, or else be “stuck” in one place forever. Although we are told we must move out of our Northern hometowns to find success, there is actually so much life to be lived in them, as each podcast conveys.
My highlight: “This is an area not that can change the world, but that is changing the world, now, in 2020.” – Richard Benson
The North East has an immense wealth of diverse talent. Because of this, its narratives need to be published, shared and listened to. The New Narratives for the North East podcast series is a great way to learn more about this wonderful place.
You can listen to the New Narratives podcasts here.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.