City to Sea – London to Cumbria’s Coast
In my last four blog-posts I have talked about the amazing transition of leaving London
and moving to the sea up in the north near Scotland – as well as art that has happened since then! (1. Coastal Collaboration; 2. Introducing ArtCouple; 3. Easter, Eggs, Box, Beach; 4. Words and Nets). So the two big themes that have been happening are these: city to sea, and art. I’ve always written about both in each post because they so influence each other.
So I’ll add some more stuff about the theme of City to Sea here, and more about my art in the next. Here are some notes from my notebooks about the thrilling experience of comparing those spaces, moving between the two, and finding ever more angles on the subject of social space – it’s psychogeography in ‘social movements’.
My movement from the city to the sea meant going from London to a small town in the north. Hence there are more movements included here: city to small town, south to north, inshore to sea. That’s three subject-areas within the overall topic then. Had I moved to e.g. Liverpool, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the subject of small town. Had I moved to Bristol, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the north, and had I moved to nearby Cockermouth, I wouldn’t have been confronted with the sea.
So all of these changes happened for me together, and that’s such a rich combination that only a lot of writing and art on this theme could bring out some this dense conglomerate of experiences.
Come Full Circle?!
There is even more to it, because my previous location is not my origin – my origin goes back to a location across the sea, i.e. Germany. Here the sea comes in again, because my childhood holidays by the sea had become some of the most significant aspect of my memory – so much so that the sea, where I live now, now goes back to my childhood-memories! As if I had come back, as if I had come full circle! So I feel a going-back aspect not by referring to the land but by referring to the sea!
A circle, in reference to the sea, but not the land/country then!
Leaving the city, and the south at the same time, means under current economic structures, that somehow this is some sort of periphery! As if this is being the opposite of an economic migrant! Though I am poor, and I have art to pursue! If it wasn’t for my art, would it be possible to even go against the grain? The system does not make it easy, and on my own it would have been too difficult, both me and Simon did this move together, which appeared against all expectations for many! Simon, unlike me, had lived in the north before, but it was city-north, and Yorkshire-North, so much more on the map! And here we are in small town and in the far-north, wild-west of coastal Cumbria. The oddest place to be? Why would we want to be ‘out in the sticks?’ On top of that this particular town isn’t known for its artists either, so we would stick out like sore thumbs? Economically and otherwise. That’s how predictable this system is. One is expected not to make this type of move. And we did. Because we loved the sea here, its forgotten character in comparison with the better-known east coast. And we loved the location between the Lake District and Scotland. We are in the middle of everywhere here, rather than in the middle of nowhere!
Experiences, Economics and Escape!
For all the beauty and open space outside the ciy, people are forced to consider economics, which so reduces ones options. There is little written on this, here’s two great articles from The Guardian: Carmen Fishwick writes about northern experiences about moving to London: ‘At first it was a disaster – northern readers on moving to London’ (21. Nov. 2016). and ‘The great northern braindrain: I daydream about moving back (also 21. Nob. 2016).
So regional applied in this country is quite unequal – we know this but it might even be getting worse, where it should be getting better.
London is not just a city but a bubble, a capital, a destination that the world desires. Migrants everywhere are attracted to London, inside this country and outside of it. For 27 years I seemed to be no exception to this but now I am all too pleased to be bucking the trend! Londoners can’t often think of leaving – and neither could it, for a long time – but now I am all too excited to have left!
City to small town
Hyper-urban space versus small-urban space: city versus ‘sleepy town’.
Other factors come into this, like north/south, and seaside versus in-the-country. ‘Country’ is associated with ‘sleepy town’ but in this case, the sleepy town is by the seaside and the city (Leeds), is in the country.
Here I want to attempt a dialogue between these two modes.
Here I was, in Leeds, the city, again!
I had an intention to bring the small town to the city, and so I brought geese feathers.
But it turned out that I became totally absorbed in observing the accidental arrangement of found objects in the city – i.e. an upside down bottle pushed into a barrier; the reflection of traffic lights in a broken glass window. Observations like that kept me too busy to bring my found objects from my little seaside town in. That mean that in the end I didn’t perform an intervention.
Therefore no urban-rural dialogue of objects occurred.
At this point I realised that art-intervention, in the way I operate it, means dialogue! I hadn’t thought about it like that before, but now the association seemed to be clear.
I think there is a social echo about this!
If two groups, or communities (i.e. the city and the seaside town) have such strong and manifold voices, there is no time and space for interaction between those two groups! I was listening to these internal voices like a non-participant observer.
Dialogue with Leeds
When in Leeds, a curious merger of new, old as well as different experiences come together.
Leeds as a surrogate city,
with a curious sense of anonymity, for my personal perception.
Anonymous like London never was because I had lived there and grown into it, before I reflected on it.
And so London developed for me as a person somehow, and it grew into me. I, as person, had London in me, and London was a person too.
Leeds is different as I hadn’t lived here, but compared to the small seaside town where I live now, the city-ness of Leeds is familiar to me! So it’s in part a replica, and in other, further and gran?der parts new, northern, another dream come true, a looming northern nirvana. What’s it saying to me? How do I dialogue with this city, that I know on account of its city-ness but not otherwise?
How is the knowing and city-ness revealed?
For example the buildings, the rushing people, the big railway station that has a world-flair: this could be anywhere big too, Hamburg maybe, for example, even. This could be anywhere specific.
Silence Anonymous Home
Anonymity produces silence, because you aren’t at home yet.
And anticipation, for the same reason
And for your enquiring mind, what this would feel like if it was home.
The journey as an amazement! Something I used to do and even then enjoyed.
Back to the Sea (Sea-child, the North and “London Island”)
Here at the Solway it looks like how it did when I was a child at the sea. The Sea then has surrounded my many years in London on either side – even though I didn’t grow up by the sea, the relative vicinity of it, time spent by it and similarity to this sea I am presently at the side of (sea-side!), is so overwhelming that the sea has moved closer in my mind even retrospectively. It’s the knowledge I had developed there through being by it, the tides that had impressed on it over time! That prior and early knowledge about the seaside I am at now, even if it’s a different side, is thrilling as well, it creates a unique bridge, a deep communication and it is, I think, a deep mapping tool.
Sea-Child I am perhaps then! With the longest time spent in London between my sea-sides, the centre then, is London, in an unusual way though! How can think of decentering London and promoting The North, even the far north (it’s different from ‘known north’ i.e. Manchester!) if London is the island at the centre of my two lived-by sea-sides? But then geographically this is how it happened – so I have to enhance the sides: maybe this could be where outlines are more visible, intersections more fluid, and forms take shape! So this is the task then. Another edge to consider for psycho-geography I propose.
It’s the Sea-All and Be-All! There’s a being-connection then, an existential thing about being here: from one side of my life to another. Sea to the Centre!