What are the campaigns?
Using the theme ‘Resistance’ the exhibition organisers have put together a vibrant and fascinating collection of photos, banners, placards, posters, T shirts, paintings, sculptures and archive material that should make any self-respecting northeast campaigner proud.
The exhibition ranges over two floors of the former St John’s Ambulance Hall with press cuttings and photos about the campaign to save Consett Steelworks. Displayed in close proximity to contemporary struggles.
There’s a huge nod to various campaigns focused on supporting the NHS against Tory privatisation and outsourcing.
Meanwhile NEU and Durham Teaching Assistant campaign material demonstrates the strength of local support for those who work in our education system.
What art can you expect to see?
The exhibition clearly shows the powerful contribution made by our creative and cultural sector to the art of campaigning.
Jane Gower’s colourful banners proclaiming #SetHerFree are a familiar sight at the monthly protests outside the Derwentside Immigration Removal Centre (formerly known as Hassockfield Secure Training Centre).
The upstairs walls of the makeshift gallery are covered with an impressive array of material produced by local artists using various mediums, all responding to the theme of ‘Resistance’.
This includes paintings and photographs which take us on a journey into other realms such as physics with George Ledger’s photos of sportsmen/women battling against gravity.
Meanwhile, our relationship with food and drink and the ability of nature to resist mankind’s destructive acts are a common theme.
I was particularly drawn to Joanna Lever’s work – miniature watercolours depicting fleeing refugees under the shadow of Death, LGBT+ activists circa Stonewall, women’s rights campaigners gathering to light candles for Sarah Everard under the watchful eye of the Met, and a defiant seedling growing from the exposed trunk of the much-loved tree recently vandalised in the Sycamore Gap of Hadrian’s Wall.
Anthony Barstow’s abstract sculptures from discarded objects, which explore the personal and the political, rise up from tables and plinths around the upstairs room.
Julie Ward’s poem
Meanwhile, my own poem, written in response to the storming of the US Capitol by Trump-supporting QAnon devotees, is displayed in a frame for visitors to ponder, and reproduced for readers here:
It seems like a long way off
Across the ocean
A fabled place
Land of the free
In the rust belt
Ripples around the world
Reaches even remote places
We are not immune
Build the resistance
Reflection of the exhibition
Reflecting on the exhibition, Vonni Hardman, one of the organisers, said, “This is the third exhibition we have hosted but the first centered around a theme and it has been really interesting to see the different artistic interpretations.
“It has been a well-attended opening weekend with some excellent conversations with the public about the campaigns featured in the heritage section and the art in the gallery.
“A highlight for me has been hosting The Old Oak banner and a visit from the lead actor Dave Turner who came along to visit. He told us some stories from the making of the movie and donated a limited edition Arabic movie poster to the exhibition.”
When is the exhibition on?
The (free) exhibition will open to the public every Tuesday and Wednesday from 11-5 until the week ending December 9th.
Additional dates and openings by appointment are possible.
Durham NEU are running a competition for children for the duration of the exhibition, inviting them to design a placard about any issue that concerns them with prizes for the winners. The competition closes on 9th December and local NEU members will choose the winning entry.
CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT THE BYLINES NETWORK CROWDFUNDER!