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The Mayor of Blyth, Madame Mayor Margaret Richardson, and Newcastle University Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Sanders, co-opened the Headway Arts Exhibit on the 8th of July 2021.       

Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Sanders, Newcastle University


Thank you. It gives me great pleasure to be following the Mayor of Blyth in welcoming you to this exhibition opening on behalf of Newcastle University.

Really magical to be in this Headway Arts building itself which is clearly the site of so much brilliant and purposeful community engagement and creative practice in order to celebrate the opening of an exhibition that seeks to put the community of Blyth, past, present and future at the heart of its thinking.

Newcastle University’s relationship to Blyth is a deep and sustained one. As many of you will be aware the Blyth marine station at Port of Blyth is where our research vessel the Princess Royal is housed and the site is used to enhance the educational experience of our undergraduate and postgraduate students, especially those from our School of Natural and Environmental Science in the Science Agriculture and Engineering faculty but also more widely the university and it’s important work with local schools and colleges.

Increasingly important - as this exhibition and its sister work at RePublic also here in Blyth attests – is our work on climate action and the climate and ecological emergency we are living through. In the year of COP26 the university has been focussing ever more clearly on what we need to do collectively to enable the deep societal and practical as well as technological changes needed to achieve carbon reduction at the pace and scale we so evidently need but in a way that takes communities with us in that work and that builds back better from the pandemic for the region.

Our core value of social and environmental justice means this is now embedded across our work as a university – as a research and education community and in our own everyday practices of our estate, in our strong commitment to civic and regional collaboration as part of our engagement and place strategy and, hugely importantly, in helping create the graduates of the future who will be our thinkers, our marine scientists, our behavioural economists, our creative practitioners, our storytellers and our singers, our cultural historians and our energy technologists and systems designers. And bringing these different disciplines and expertises together is also at the heart of our work in how we seek to respond to current and future challenges.

Thank you for coming this evening to this opening event and thank you to everyone from funders and partners to artists to all my amazing University colleagues, led so ably and enthusiastically by Professor Anthony Zito and Dr Clifton Evers, who have come together in such a spirit of collaboration and made this superb exhibition and project possible. It is a model of community and creativity at a much-needed time and an opportunity to think into a climate conscious future with spirit and optimism, something for which I for one am very grateful.

Blyth’s proud industrial heritage but also its bright future in the context of renewable technologies and the green economy is a real inspiration as well as heartland for this exhibition and project. For the “Energies” exhibition,  the university has commissioned exciting, thought provoking work from regionally based artists and community members to help us all start to imagine the low carbon future and what this might both mean and enable for coastal communities such as Blyth.

From seventeenth-century sailors like Edward Barlow who remembered the coastlines of home in their notebooks by drawing them out on long sea journeys of navigation and exploration to First Nations people in the Arctic who carried small wooden carvings of their particular coastlines in their pocket, a haptic physical stimulus for a mental map of their landscape, the practice and the imagination of coastal communities and towns has been central to place-making and to engineering and re-engineering, imagining and re-imagining, the future in culturally and climate sensitive ways and I am honoured therefore to be able, along with Mayor Margaret Richardson, to open this exhibition in Blyth this evening as a crucial, generative and inspirational contribution to that deep continuum.

Thank you all and please enjoy the rest of your evening.         




Launch Reception

Chatting amongst the Art

Madame Mayor Margaret Richardson

Headway Arts Exhibit Space

Deputy Vice Chancellor Julie Sanders

Alison Walton-Robson and Anthony R. Zito

Viewing the Film Commissions

Detail of Total Wasters

Photographs of the launch event taken by James Davoll.