Tables Turned was an oral history project run by the National trust: a three year participation project, about bringing together community groups, young people, historians, curators and artists in projects that deepen understanding, build new partnerships and inspire creativity.
After meeting with former miners in Whitehaven, and listening to them recount their experiences of working in the mines on Cumbria’s West Coast, I was commissioned to write a poem in response. The result is ‘We’re still here, with luck’, whose title comes from something one of the miners said right at the end of the meeting, as we were packing away all the chairs and biscuits and recording equipment. Quotes from the miners are threaded throughout the poem, which was then filmed by John Hamlett.
I was then commissioned to write two more poems, inspired by the work the National Trust had done with other groups: pupils from Keswick School, and members of Glenmore art group and Glenmore creative writing group. These poems were a mix of original work, and words collaged from the work and conversation of participants.
(The title, ‘The traveller will be liable to disappointment who visits Carlisle’, is a quotation, taken from Jenkinson’s Practical Guide: To Carlisle, Gilsland, Roman Wall, and Neighbourhood, published 1875. The poem contains lines written by members of Glenmore creative writing group.)
The third poem builds on a series of visual art workshops run with Keswick School, exploring the geology, history, and artistic possibilities of graphite:
The three filmed poems were played as part of the Under Northern Skies exhibition at Carlisle Old Fire Station, alongside artwork from the groups.