Putting on a show

My solo show in Newcastle has partly been a result of my desire to take my work ‘back home’, and also been greatly helped by happy coincidence and friendly connection.  It is hugely challenging and a bit lonely to present a one-person show, especially as my work is experiential and personal.

This post is about how I have managed this challenge.  Here is the mind map I’m working to:


In recent years I have been trying to make it a rule that I don’t work alone, on anything.  Some offers of support and collaboration arrived without me trying too hard- Alex coming up for 3 days to help me install the work, finding Ellen (via Clare) who will run a creative writing workshop and performance, my cousin offering his fundraising organisation to help with the Garden Gathering, bumping in to the local Parkinson’s UK group at the venue, and lots more connections, people who know people.

Perhaps I should trust more in this relational part of the process- the conversations.  My most effective defence against the inevitable (is it?) self-doubt is a belief in my work- that it tells an interesting story which people relate to, often quite strongly and at an emotional level.  After all it is about family, mothers, connection to place, home, belonging, separation, female identity….  So the process involves connecting to people, introducing them to the story of the work.  It has been lovely to see how people respond.

As well as lots and lots of useful conversation with friends, it was fantastic to call on support from Leeds Creative Timebank, a time-sharing community of creative people in the city. So far I have had 6 hours of (one-way, they were there for me!) invaluable support, from Nicola Pemberton and Louise Atkinson.  They have helped me draw the mind-map and gave me encouragement and technical assistance, especially with social media.  They have affirmed and supported me.

Now all the tasks and issues are on one page and are getting ticked off as I work through them.  I wonder why we (I) ever even think that we (I) have to do anything alone?

Love this place


Everything is now confirmed for my solo show at Gosforth Civic Theatre (GCT gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk) It will run from July 20th to September 14th, and include other events, as below:

July 20th, 5.30-7.00 pm, drinks reception and preview evening

July 31st, 7.15-8.30pm, informal gallery talk with the artist

September 2nd:

2.00-4.30pm, Garden Party raising funds for the Parkinson’s Disease Society

4.30-6.30, Creative Writing Workshop led by local writer and tutor Ellen Phethean, followed by open reading with invited guests


The exhibition expresses my personal connection to Gosforth, Newcastle and the North East.  It was inspired by my family’s journeys, from here to Leeds and back, and explores the emotional and physical spaces in between.  The work is dedicated to the women in my family, particularly my grandmother, mother, daughter and granddaughter, a ‘matri-line’ who share the family name- Eleanor.

I work as a ‘psychogeographer’, first returning to explore Gosforth, and the Northumberland coast, then setting out on a solo walk of 140 miles from my home in Leeds to my daughter’s home in Newcastle- walking the ‘matri-line’- gathering and recording images and the ‘stuff of place’.

My creative ‘communing’ with important spaces and places has produced a large body of work in a range of media, including alternative process photography, rubbings, hand-made books, kinetic traces from walking movement and wave action, and artefacts from deconstructed map materials.

My ‘moving’ story resonates across the years, with the lives of migrants of all kinds.  It explores the meaning/s of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’, and speaks of the emergence of women’s ‘freedom of movement’ and independence, our ability to stand our ground- to fully inhabit who we are and where we are from.

Bringing it all back home: latest

About two years ago I set off on a solo walk of 140 miles from my current home in Leeds, back to my childhood home, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  My mother still lives in Leeds but my daughter now lives in Newcastle with her family, including her daughter.  The walk was my project for an MA in Creative Practice- an exploration of female identity and the bonds of family especially along the ‘matri-line’ of four generations of mothers and daughters, all named Eleanor.  The 2-week adventure was recorded and re-presented creatively in a range of ways- stories and images, maps, kinetic traces, rubbings, photographic prints- everything I could gather, from river water to pressed flowers, examples of which can be seen in the Walking Home post below.

My intention was to express the deep connection I feel to the magnificent North Country landscape that I walked across- my love of it sometimes sitting uncomfortably alongside my anxiety about its future.

I also wanted to consider this experience from my particular point of view, as a 60-something solo female walker, dealing with pain and impairment from an arthritic hip.  I was exploring my emotional hinterland and personal geography, connecting with women’s stories, from the past recorded on gravestones, and the present, observing and talking with the women I met.  While wandering around graveyards it occurred to me for the first time that my mother was born before women were fully enfranchised. I became aware of how things have changed for us over her lifetime.  I was grateful for my personal freedom and agency.  I wasn’t afraid for myself as a lone woman in these wonderful open spaces at any time on the walk, partly because women were everywhere, doing (almost) everything.

Although the days were wonderfully contemplative, (I wanted to ‘disappear’) my attention was also focused outwardly, noticing  and communing with the landscape, and the history there, the flora and fauna, the new life burgeoning in early summer.  In this way I became immersed in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, memories, stories and experiences embedded in the places I passed through.

I am planning to show my work from the walk in the Gosforth Civic Theatre (very close to where I grew up) through July and August.  The show, entitled Walking Home, will include all the art work from the Matri-line project displayed together, for the first and probably the last time.

If space permits I also aim to show previous place-based work inspired by the North-East, and Gosforth, where I was born and raised.

Work will be available to buy.  Other activities are being planned to run alongside.

Watch out for further posts for dates and details.

Walking Home

Scale map of walk route, and other pieces, exhibited in the ‘Rebel Daughters’ show at The Point in Doncaster (Jan-Apr 2018)
River water and names letterpress printed on to map fabric
these boots 001 (2)
My walking boots- liquid light print from 35mm film negative
Charcoal rubbing from gravestone, Arkengarthdale
Old drovers road between Arkengarthdale and Bowes.  My route often followed these ancient tracks.
One of series of mini-banners placed daily along my route.  This one was placed at the side of a lane coming out of Blanchland, among the stitchwort flowers.
Tree shadow, crossing into Teesdale
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Dancing wood anemones- cyanotype print from pressed flowers
Liquid light print of tree above Nenthead
Cyanotype print of tree near Hexham



Coming home


Almost two years after my ‘matri-line’ walk from Leeds to Newcastle I have organised an opportunity to show the artwork which emerged from the project and to tell the stories of those amazing two weeks in May.

The image above is an example of the work- the last of a series of hand-made banners planted each day along my way, as a conversation between me walking and the ground that I walked on.  This one was at the edge of St Nicholas’ churchyard in South Gosforth close to where I was born.

I have booked the foyer of the White Swan Centre, North Tyneside Council’s office building in Killingworth, where my daughter lives and my journey ended.  The show will be up from Tuesday June 5th till Friday June 15th and I am working on an opening event and other possible ‘happenings’ over the middle weekend.  Please save the date and watch this space.

Rebel Daughters

Here are some pics of my work in this exciting show, at The Point in Doncaster, from Jan- April this year.  Although the show commemorates the first tranche of women’s enfranchisement in the UK, it is an eclectic mix of work by women artists from all over the world, though mostly this country.



The Matriline scale map has been embellished with tags containing text written in her beautiful calligraphy by Judy Hall.  These few words are taken from vignettes written about women I met on the walk and some of my experiences, displayed in another hand-made book.

All the artists were asked a series of questions about the work.  Here are my replies:

What does the phrase ‘Rebel Daughter’ mean to you? 

A ‘Rebel Daughter’ is a woman who seeks her own path, both guided by and challenging the model of our mothers and all the women who have walked their own paths before

What makes you a Rebel Daughter?

I was born in 1951, on a council estate and was the first in my family to go to university.  By then it was 1969 and I had left my mother and her aspirations of life far behind.  I wanted everything to be different from before, including me.  Over time my path has come much closer to that of my Mum.  She was widowed many years ago and has become increasingly infirm and I have been her primary carer for nearly 20 years.  So, though I am now more Daughter than Rebel, I still feel the pull of the two identities inside me.

What is the inspiration behind the work submitted? 

In May 2016 I set off on my Matriline project, a solo walk of 140 miles from Leeds, where my Mum and I now live and where my daughter grew up, to Newcastle, where my daughter and her daughter now live and where my Mum and I grew up.  This was a walking art project underpinned by feminist intent.  The aspect highlighted in the work on show here is my inquiry into how women’s lives have changed over the 100 years since women were partially enfranchised in the UK.  It had not occurred to me before the walk that my Mum, now 90, was born before women had the vote.

I gathered stories on the way: about what women are doing nowadays; how they inhabit the space available to them; what ground they are standing on. I also asked women friends and family to write about the strongest thing they ever did.  These stories are presented in hand-made books alongside photographic images of my ‘matriline’, four generations of women in my family, developed onto stones.  The work aims to illuminate women’s lives now and the journey we have travelled, as I walked among the ghosts of the women who stood on this ground before us.