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Writer’s Residency: Day Zero

July 25, 2013

Today is day zero of my writer’s residency i.e. the day that the ‘One Poem for Teesdale’ project is launched on air during Radio Teesdale’s book programme this evening.

During the next few weeks I will be publishing posts on this blog to track project activities during the residency. The reason behind this is that the aim of the project is to find the poem that best expresses the history, culture and landscape of the area. Poetry submissions will be presented in a portfolio for view by the public during the 1000 Creations exhibition.
As this exhibition celebrates the return of the Lindisfarne gospels to the North East and the life of St. Cuthbert I thought it would be appropriate to ‘chronicle’ the residency in a modern way. But first, you might like to know a little bit about the gallery and its connection to another famous Saint.

NeST gallery, cafe, artists’ studios and digital hub is based at 25 Newgate, Barnard Castle in County Durham in the North East of England. The gallery is thought to sit on the original location of the old Bede Hospital which was dedicated to the honour of St. John the Baptist. The building at the time was a low thatched one-roomed ‘bedehouse’ lived in by three poor women who received payment in money and coal to pray for the soul of the founder. There’s a story in there I believe.

A foundry was the next building to be constructed on the site. It was referred to as ‘Down’s’, no doubt for the owner and later became a garage. The current gallery, recently converted to running on an artist share basis, is within the premises of what was the car showroom. The garage is still in operation and is hidden behind the gallery.

The gallery is the location for creative writing workshops scheduled to take place on Thursday mornings throughout August. The first one is next week from 10a.m. to 12 noon. The theme for the morning is ‘Writing inspired by the local landscape.’

As luck would have it Owen Sheers’ ‘A Poet’s Guide to Britain’ is being repeated on BBC 4 on a Sunday from 7-7.30p.m. This weekend’s instalment looks at ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Sylvia Plath, one of several examples that I have chosen for participants to consider before writing their own verse about the Teesdale landscape.

The landscape was described by W.H.Auden as ‘ a great good place.’ It inspired 40 of his poems and 2 plays. In ‘England to me is my own tongue’ he referred to the area as the locality he loves and wishes to return:

To those peat-stained deserted burns

That feed the WEAR and TYNE and TEES,

And, turning states to strata, sees

How basalt long oppressed broke out

In wild revolt at CAULDRON SNOUT,

If you wish to follow the tradition of writing poetry about the local landscape, you can send your verse to me via or book up for one of the workshops by phoning 07808 063944.

And if you missed tuning in to Radio Teesdale on 102.1fm & 105.5fm you can download the programme from their Listen Again service at

  1. Good luck with what sounds like a really exciting project Julia!

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