‘Laygate Stories’ is a multimedia project that portrays, in their own voices, the lives of those living and working in the Laygate area of South Shields on Tyneside, in the north-east of England. It went online on 4 July 2011, and we will be adding to it over the next year.
Creating new visual stories excites me, and its a pleasure to again be working collaboratively with Peter Fryer on this project, which is part of an Arts Council England funded commission (‘Homelands’) organised by the Side Gallery in Newcastle. Peter undertakes the photography, I take the lead on the audio and the technical aspects of production, and together we edit the pictures and sound into a ‘photo film’.
The work is centred on the diverse community along Frederick St and the Laygate area. This is a vibrant area made up of indigenous north-easterners, a long-established Yemeni community – who were once migrants but now includes second and third generation British citizens – as well as people from Angola, Bangladesh, the Congo, Iran, Jordan, Palestine, Poland and Somalia.
Through existing contacts and friendships within the community, we are documenting the daily interactions of the different social groups that constitute this community. The work does not profess to be an all-encompassing overview of the area but uses short photo-films to give people a platform to express their everyday thoughts, feelings and concerns, and to reflect on their place within the community.
This project builds on our earlier work in this area, especially the ten-minute photo film ‘The Boarding House‘. It is also inspired by The New York Times ‘One in 8 Million‘ project, which uses sound and images to introduce characters in that city. Their purpose was to showcase “ordinary people telling extraordinary stories, of passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions.”
We have endeavoured to show the everyday, believing that this gives an insight into the extraordinary things people have to offer and the different histories they have to tell. We have also ensured that those who volunteered to speak are involved in the way their stories are produced.
We begin with four stories. Over the next year we will be adding more from this diverse community as the work progresses. As individual pieces they offer insights rather than a developed narrative, but we hope that once we have a dozen or so portraits available the cumulative effect will be the story of a community.
We are grateful to the Side Gallery and the Arts Council England for support. We hope you enjoy the first instalments, which are available on the project site at www.laygatestories.com.