New challenges found in every work for watercolour artist Stuart

As part of our continuing series featuring creative people in the North East DAVID SIMPSON talks to 64 year old Peterlee-based watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher.

Durham Castle painted by Stuart Fisher
Durham Castle by Stuart Fisher

Where in the North East are you based? 

Our home and studio in Peterlee.

How would you describe your work? 

Architectural landscapes in watercolour.

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

Thinking my job in architecture was at risk, I revisited painting, something that I hadn’t touched on since secondary school. In the late 1990s I produced a watercolour of a young colleague who had broken his neck in a competitive motocross competition.

This helped to raise funds to assist with his drastically altered lifestyle as he was paralysed from the neck down. I doorstepped Dunlop, one of his sponsors and sold the original for £1,000 after which I raised a further £1,000 from the sale of prints. That same colleague  remains a firm friend and incidentally, is an official mentor to the unfortunate victims of spinal injuries and those in the military who have suffered life-changing battlefield trauma.

Following this I was invited to mount a solo exhibition in a gallery in Corbridge in 2000 and have exhibited almost every year since, turning professional in 2010 with the launch of my website.

What work are you most proud of?

The commissioned painting depicting The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in North Norfolk. It was a great honour to be invited to produce this work for a shrine of global importance to the Anglican Church and I was especially pleased to be invited to its official unveiling attended by The Shrine Guardians in March of this year.

What inspires you?

There’s potential in almost everything I see and hear.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I don’t think that the North East is necessarily any more inspirational than any other region of Britain. That said, it is my base and as such has to be the source of my subject material. However with all my work, I attempt to add drama to subjects which have been done to death and which might otherwise be jaded to the eyes of the observer.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Watercolour is not a forgiving medium and as such many paintings have been consigned to the waste paper bin after hours of toil. There are new challenges to face in every painting. No matter how simple the subject may outwardly appear, there is always a hidden trap waiting to catch you out. The more you paint, the more you become aware of the potential pitfalls, the easier it gets.

The recently completed commissioned painting for The Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham had a number of challenges, very large size not the least of them. The fact that I’d never before attempted a garden of flowers was the most daunting aspect of the picture. I tiptoed around that section of the painting until I could no longer avoid diving in.

Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham Norfolk painted by Peterlee artist Stuart Fisher
Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk painted by Peterlee artist Stuart Fisher

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Be diligent, work hard and don’t expect art to make itself. Find one person you respect to critique your work, a person you can accept criticism from without being offended. Take inspiration from the greats and aim high.

What other artists or photographers inspire you.

During my early years in architecture, we received calendars at Christmas from local reps. The most sought after of these depicted the work of Sir William Russell Flint (1880-1969) a man who in my opinion is the Genius of the art of watercolour painting. Perhaps most famous for his depiction of scantly clad ladies peppering his architectural landscapes, his style inevitably went out of fashion in the 1960s. However subject matter aside, his technical ability was and in my mind still is, unsurpassed!

Watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher
Watercolour artist, Stuart Fisher

What are your ambitions for the future?

Apart from continuous improvement, I’m not really sure. The 2016 commission to produce a painting of Durham Chorister School for its 600th anniversary is a past highlight. The then school Principal Yvette Day was recently appointed Head of Kings College Cambridge Chorister School. Without prior knowledge of the Chorister School building, the idea of eventually producing a portrait of such an iconic establishment definitely appeals.

Discover more of Stuart Fisher’s work at:

stuartfisher-art.co.uk

 

Pam captures beauty, emotion and memories in paint

DAVID SIMPSON talks to Tynemouth-based artist Pam Morton in the latest in our continuing series of blogs focusing on the region’s artists, photographers and creative people. 

How would you describe your work?

Illustrative bold atmospheric and as realistic as I feel it should be.

'Sunrise Reflections', North Shields Fish Quay by Pam Morton
‘Sunrise Reflections’, North Shields Fish Quay by Pam Morton

Tell us how you first started out as an artist?

I studied at Newcastle College of Art in the 1970s however I only started to paint 3 years ago when I retired.

What work are you most proud of?

I am very proud of my first painting “Madly Deeply” it was sold to Marjorie Walsh who is married to Joe Walsh (Eagles Band) now in their home Beverly Hills

What inspires you?

Beauty, emotion, memories of my subject.

'Quirky Tynemouth' by Pam Morton
‘Quirky Tynemouth’ by Pam Morton

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I live in Tynemouth and it’s such a beautiful place full of character  and incredible landscape with a thriving social life.

What has been your most challenging creation?

My very first landscape “The Longsands” and “Quirky Tynemouth” I like to think they remind people of their days in Tynemouth whether it’s a walk along the beach or socialising in Tynemouth Village.

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Practice and feel free to paint if it inspires you, also persevere even if you feel like giving up.

Tynemouth-based artist, Pam Morton
Tynemouth-based artist, Pam Morton

Which other artists or photographers inspire you?

Marcel Witte  is a Dutch painter who paints in such detail and every painting has a message. My favourite photographer is Coastal Portraits by Snappy photographer.

What are your ambitions for the future?

That people will continue to like my work.

To discover more of Pam’s work visit her website at www.pjmartworks.co.uk

Final Rehearsal by Pam Morton
Final Rehearsal by Pam Morton

www.pjmartworks.co.uk

Holy Island ‘paradise’ is an inspiration for Emma

DAVID SIMPSON speaks to Emma Rothera, a Holy Island-based award winning landscape and nature photographer. Part of our series of interviews focusing on creative talent in North East England.

Holy Island. Photo by Emma Rothera
Holy Island. Photographed by Emma Rothera

Tell us how you first started out as a photographer?

I went to Art College straight from School when I was 16 years old to study Graphic Design Communication and Photography.

What work are you most proud of?

My Holy Island portfolio of work  ‘A Journey of Light’

What inspires you?

Being out in the landscape and being privileged enough to witness nature during the most inspirational moments in time, first light, sunrise, sunset and last light, also the majestic golden hour.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

It is just a completely magnificent canvas to work with, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

What has been your most challenging creation?

They are all challenging within there own right. Landscape photography tests the ability of a photographer on a daily basis as you are constantly working with mother nature and often unpredictable elements, so therefore much planning must take place.

Emma Rothera, photographer
Emma Rothera, photographer

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists or photographers?

You need to have a constant passion for what you do and be prepared for it to take a lot of hard work, inspiration and dedication to achieve your goals.

Which other artists or photographers inspire you?

There are many talented photographers in this world, a couple that inspire me are Charlie Waite and Ansel Adams.

What are your ambitions for the future?

To constantly push my boundaries to improve my photography and creativity further on a daily basis. I hope to offer further opportunities for learning to aspiring photographers through my workshops and discovery tours in the North East Region, predominantly the Northumberland Coastline and Holy Island. To produce further contributions to magazines and books and extend my portfolio of work. I hope to expand further commissions within the North East and in the UK, including Scotland and abroad.  I also hope to travel the world with my work in the future, photographing and writing as I go. I will always keep my base on Holy Island as this for me is paradise.

Bamburgh  Castle by Emma Rothera
Bamburgh Castle. Photographed by Emma Rothera

To find out more about Emma, her inspirational photographs and her workshops visit Emma’s website at:

emmarotheraphotography.com

Twitter: @erotheraphoto 

Emma is a multi-award winning landscape and nature photographer. Accolades include:

2017 Winner of the ‘Creative Industries Award’ Northumberland Business Awards

2018 Shortlisted for the ‘Creative Industry Category’ Northumberland Business Awards

2016 Winner of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Photography Award

2015 Landscape photographer of the week, worldwide@Landscape photography magazine.

Sea and Sky : Artist finds inspiration in Craster coastline

DAVID SIMPSON talks to Northumberland artist Mick Oxley about his wonderful seascapes.

As part of our continuing commitment highlighting the work of North East artists, photographers, film makers, writers, musicians and other creative people we talk to 64 year artist Mick Oxley who lives and works in Craster.

Boulmer Glory. Painted by Mick Oxley
Boulmer Glory. Painted by Mick Oxley

Describe yourself and your work:

A painter whose work is influenced by the sea and shoreline of the Northumberland coast, it’s moods and atmosphere.

How did you start out as an artist?

I started painting in 1999, after retiring from teaching and I am wheelchair bound. I began under the tutelage of Gordon Highmoor at a WEA class in Craster. I went full time in 2003 and opened my gallery in 2008. I paint and sell from Craster.

Which work are you most proud of?

To be honest, I am proud of a lot of my work, although I do have one or two favourites. While I have worked very hard to get where I am, I also consider myself fortunate I decided to give painting a go.

Mick Oxley at work
Mick Oxley at work

What inspires you?

My biggest influence is the environment that surrounds me – the coastline, the moods of the sea, the kaleidoscopic changes. This provides me with a never ending source of inspiration.

What influence if any does North East England have in inspiring your work?

I grew up in the North East, left to work elsewhere and always wanted to return. The area and its people are very much part of my DNA.

What has been your most challenging creation?

Usually very large paintings, when I can struggle to reach across the canvas. Not being able to stand can pose problems and I have to be extra creative.

Do you have any tips for up and coming artists?

Enjoy what you do, have fun, practise as much as you can and you will improve.

Which other artists inspire you?

My two biggest influences are the North Yorkshire artist Len Tabner and Norwegian Ornulf  Opdahl. Both artists had a profound influence on me when I began painting.

February Sunrise. Painted by Mick Oxley.
February Sunrise. Painted by Mick Oxley.

What are your ambitions for the future?

My aim is to carry on enjoying what I do. I like the dual role of painting and running the gallery. I enjoy meeting the customers and working from Craster.

Visit Mick website at: www.mickoxley.com

Mick is also on Twitter @mickoxley   and   @seaskycraster 

and Facebook too facebook.com/mickoxleygallery

Better still, why not pop along to Mick’s gallery in Craster and take in the wonderful Northumberland coast while you’re there?

Stoneman’s Cityscapes

DAVID SIMPSON talks to photographer Lee Stoneman.

The England’s North East site is committed to highlighting the work of photographers, artists, film makers, writers, musicians and other creative people throughout the region. Today we talk to 44 year old Gateshead-based photographer, Lee Stoneman.

Sage Gateshead
Sage ‘alien landing’ Photo: Lee Stoneman

How would you describe your work?

A complete mixture from cityscapes and urban to nature and wildlife. Just starting to get into portraits.

How did you get into photography?

Have always been interested but when I got my first DSLR 4 years ago and made a hash of a wedding I said I would do, I challenged myself to learn how to take a good picture.

Photographer Lee Stoneman (selfie)
Photographer Lee Stoneman (selfie)

What are you most proud of as a photographer?

Having one of my first ideas printed in the Sunday Times in 2014, then last year winning the 8th round of Amateur Photographer of the Year.

What do you most enjoy photographing and why?

I enjoy the fact that I can bring happiness to people who see my images and to make their day a bit brighter.

Over the Rooftops, Newcastle Quayside Photo: Lee Stoneman
Over the Rooftops, Newcastle Quayside Photo: Lee Stoneman

What inspires you?

Many things inspire me at the moment I’m working on a project based on film Noir after seeing The Third Man. But I have ideas pop into my head all the time it’s just a matter of making these ideas in my mind’s eye into a reality.

What influence, if any does North East England have upon your work?

It has loads of influence, there is so much around here we are really spoilt for choice. Most of my pics are within a 10 mile radius of Newcastle and I don’t really have to go much further.

What has been your most challenging photographic creation?

The now and then pictures I did 4 years ago. Finding the spots and matching the pictures from 1914 was a challenge but the end results were worth it.

Side, Newcastle Then and Now: Lee Stoneman
Side, Newcastle Then and Now: Lee Stoneman

Do you have any tips for up and coming photographers?

Learn how to use the camera out of program mode, learn the rules of photography then how to bend and break them a little. And most of all do what you like to do and if other people like it that’s a bonus.

What other photographers or artists inspire you?

I like the work of Ted Forbes who has a great youtube channel where he interviews some of the great photographers. At the minute I’m reading some graphic novels by Will Eisner that are giving me inspiration for my noir photography.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I just hope to take images that inspire others to pick up a camera.

An urban noir under the Tyne Bridge. Photo Lee Stoneman
An urban noir under the Tyne Bridge. Photo Lee Stoneman

What is your website address?

Haven’t got a website just my Facebook page and Twitter www.facebook.com/leestonemanphotography/

Twitter: @LPhotogr

Any other great photographers we should look out for?

Paul Cummings I love his work www.facebook.com/paulcummingsphotographer/ and Simon Hogben another great portrait photographer www.facebook.com/simonhogbenphotography/

Whisht! lads ‘ I’ll tell ye aboot the Tangled Worm

County Durham-based Tangled Worm is a new  North East based business publishing poster prints with a bit of difference with an emphasis on Northern heritage,  fun facts and just a little frivolity.

Worm legends poster
Worm legends poster print

“We specialise in colourful poster prints with an emphasis on information, quirky facts and northern history as well as occasionally delve into other educational themes like science” says owner David Simpson, 50.

David Simpson
David Simpson

Based near Durham City Tangled Worm was set up in November  by David, a former writer with The Northern Echo best known as the author of a number of books about the North East.

“I want to produce prints that are colourful, fun and informative” says David  “and I’m especially keen to focus on Britain and particularly the North of England but also want to produce prints that are just for fun”.

A colourful print featuring 150 jokey 'batty book titles'
A colourful print featuring 150 jokey ‘batty book titles’

One of David’s most popular prints is a map featuring over 1,000 rude and curious place-names in North East England which includes such wonders as Common Slap, Old Man’s Bottom, Comical Corner, Goodwife Hot, Make Me Rich, Crackpot and Stinking Goat. It also includes explanations for some of the more familiar unusual names like Pity me and Unthank as well as a wide range of place-names with an international flavour like Moscow, California, Boc Chica, Philadephia and Toronto that pop up throughout  the region.

Curious place-names of North East England
Curious place-names of North East England

Northern history themed maps include the troublesome Border reiver surnames: Robson, Charlton, Milburn, Elliot, Armstrong and many others whose murderous raiding and livestock rustling culture dominated Northumberland and neighbouring border counties in Tudor times. The map includes a few tales associated with some of the most notorious reiving families.

Representing a more distant period is a map showing the Iron Age tribes of the North and the routes and events of the subsequent Roman invasion. Another map features the principal Roman features of the North and two very detailed poster print maps depict the Kingdom of Northumbria in the Viking age and in the pre-Viking era complete with details of raids, invasions, murders, settlements and lists of the all the Kings and Earls based at Bamburgh and York.

The Iron Age North
The Iron Age North

It’s not just about history though, Northern culture is well represented. Products include a Geordie Dictionary poster featuring explanations and origins for over 500 North East words and a unique map showing the names of 1,400 notable northerners ranging from scientists, celebrities, singers, comedians, inventors and notable industrialists from Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull in the south all the way up to Berwick. All the northern counties from Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire up to Northumberland are featured.

There’s even a map depicting the North East ‘worm’ legends which provided the inspiration for the business name.  In case you’re wondering, worms are wyverns, legendary serpents that feature in ancient stories that are entwined and entangled with the mythology of invading Vikings, Angles and Saxons.

David says he loves unravelling such tales and history in general to reveal strange roots and sees the world as a place of entangled mysteries and puzzles waiting to be solved, untwisted and enjoyed with wonder. This goes for science too – his colourful Periodic table is one of his latest additions which explains how the elements combine in ways to make up our universe.

Periodic Table
Periodic Table

“In the same way as the knights of old defeated the by slicing up those worms I like to break up knowledge into morsels for entertainment and enlightenment. It hopefully whets the appetite to learn much more.”

Visit Tangled Worm Poster Prints at

https://tangleworm.com

Tangled Worm

 

A human is a bundle of energy gathering protons, neutrons and electrons

Humans are Energy Gatherers

78-year-old Durham-based science writer ALBERT SIMPSON is the author of a new science book ‘Energy is Everything’ Albert argues that humans just like the protons, neurons and electrons of which they are made, are designed to gather energy and that is why we have evolved.

Everything is Energy
Everything is Energy

OUR universe is one of energy that never dies. That is the first law of energy. The second law is that energy spreads itself ever more thinly. However, to spread something more thinly you have to first collect it.

Earth’s humans and all other animal life forms; all plants and fungi; all bacteria and all non living structures,  indeed everything on earth is composed of proton, neutron and electron particles. Think of those particles as energy machines that process energy. They seek out, collect and process suitable energy packets dispatched by other particle energy machines. Those dispatches are near same energy totals but of changed energy packets.

Energy
Particle energy machine

On earth such particles occupy less than 0.00001% of space which is why in outer space the densities of neutron stars and black hole cores can be millions of tons per cubic centimetre. All particles constantly vibrate in response to their energy collections and releases.  Energy exchanges between particles in structures determine where the particles are located in those structures and how strongly they are linked to one another across the considerable spaces between them. Atoms, molecules and compounds are all just energy efficient particle arrangements in space. They  are the building blocks that link to one another in earth’s solid, liquid and gas structures.

Why is the above of human interest?  Because the desire of particles for energy is the reason we evolved.

We evolved senses to see, feel, hear, smell and taste; the means to move about the earth; brains able to store and process the information received by our senses and the means to repair and reproduce ourselves. It was all done so our particles could better collect energies. We are fundamentally highly sophisticated mobile energy gatherers.

Think about the level of cooperation there must be between the particles in your body cells and how such cells then cooperate in your brain, nervous system, circulatory system, digestive system, muscular system, reproductive systems and endocrine system, etc. The estimated 3,700 trillion, trillion particles of our bodies cooperate as they do because they all benefit from our energy collecting. Such phenomenal levels of particle cooperation must surely mean that the energy packet transfers between particles are a means of communicating.

Observe how plants grow. Seeds collect energy from the soil and build energy structures that reach up seeking best positions from which they can more efficiently collect the energy of the sun. They process that energy and store it in their growing structures. Plants are all about satisfying their particle energy needs. Without their evolution the evolution of animal life forms, that rely heavily on plant energies, would not have happened.

Each human is the host to parasitic bacteria cells that outnumber body cells. They are each a smaller, simpler energy gathering cell structure evolved from cells that first existed, on the now 4.5 billion year old earth, about 4 billion years ago and in an atmosphere rare in oxygen.  They are thought to have consumed amino acids and sugars dissolved in water so as to get their energy needs and to have created nucleic acids capable of replication. Were these early forms of bacteria the first to gain an energy gathering advantage over inanimate particle structures which rely entirely on their vibrating particle motions to seek out and gather in surround energies?

Earth’s orbital motion toward the sun, regarded as a gravity pull, is simply the net vibratory motion of its mass of particles to collect the energies coming to earth.  You may not expect it but the sun’s particles similarly collect energy from space.  Such gravity collections are essential to and control the scattered fusion processes in its core. They convert hydrogen structures into more energy efficient helium particle structures, releasing much energy.

A square centimetre of earth particles in full sun are estimated to collect one million trillion energy packets called photons every second. Those higher energy packets are spread by particle energy exchanges in all directions throughout the earth and, between its surface structures. They become lower energy packets in the process and more likely to curve to attracting particles. The low energy exchanges that sustain structures are often referred to as virtual photons.  Nearly all earth received energy goes back into space as more numerous lower energy packages.

Einstein saw no gravity force. His general theory of relativity described what we perceive as gravity as due to the curvature of space and time. Massive particle structures influence spacetime whilst spacetime delivers motion to massive particle structures. Think of spacetime as all those photon energies travelling at light speed through space intent on reaching some distant particle. They are influenced by the energy desires of massive particle structures that move to collect energies.  The desires of particles for energy are why starlight bends around our sun and why visible light energy photons are unable to leave black holes. Gravity is about particle desires for energy.

Fractions of a second after the big bang that sent energy out into the universe neutron particle energies started becoming proton and electron energies. In atoms we find protons and neutrons in its nuclear centre and the more mobile electrons considerable distances away. We might wonder if that was a deliberate intent on the part of neutrons to evolve as improved collectors and communicators of energy.

particlepositions

You have to wonder if the limited range strong nuclear forces said to hold neutrons and protons in nuclei are just vast numbers of low energy photon exchanges that seriously curve between proton and neutron particles. We might also wonder if protons process the energies received from the highly mobile, space dominating electron energy gatherers so as to make them more suited to neutron needs.

Humans are undoubtedly superior energy gatherers and could now easily produce food energies to meet the world needs. You might think that we would be more relaxed like our pets. Instead we seem the most stressed of life forms.  Those with most want more, whilst those with least get less. We seem unable to shake off the aggressive and competitive behaviours needed in the past when control of energy sources meant life or death.  What a shame we humans cannot cooperate with other humans in the way that our body particles cooperate within us. What a more relaxed and better world it would be.

In life we can make a point of better understanding and supporting the energy needs of our body particles so that they better contribute to our well being. We can seek to be more in tune with the energies of the world around us and thereby lead a more fulfilled life. In death our particle energies do not die. Often their structures immediately appear more relaxed than they did in life. Particles simply start to rearrange themselves in new structures. Our energies living forever must surely be a far better thought than the biblical “dust to dust” end.

Albert’s book ‘Everything is Energy’ is priced £7.95 and published by Cosphi Publications. It is available online from http://tangledworm.com The book is one of words and diagrams  and is designed to make you think.   

Life behind the lens of a North East photographer

Helen Gildersleeve speaks to award winning North East photographer Chris Booth to find out about his life behind the camera and his passion for the region.

Flying Scotsman and Royal Border Bridge, Berwick upon Tweed. Photo: Chris Booth
Flying Scotsman and Royal Border Bridge, Berwick upon Tweed. Photo: Chris Booth

Esteemed American photographer, Ansel Adams once famously said: “There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” In our fast paced and image focused world, good photography has become more potent than ever, with the average human seeing up to 4,000 images daily.

Darlington based Chris Booth has an extensive background in press photography and has worked for some of the North’s leading newspapers and magazines. With more than 12 years’ experience at The Northern Echo, Darlington & Stockton Times and Living magazine, his lens has captured everyone from pop stars to politicians, royalty to rogues and lots of beaming brides.

Photographer Chris Booth
Photographer Chris Booth

How did you get into photography?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a serious profession while growing up and it wasn’t until I was about 24 that I thought about being a photographer. I had always enjoyed taking pictures as a youth, and enjoyed having a go on my dad’s Canon T70 when given the chance. He was quite a keen amateur as was his father before him. In addition, I always had a keen interest in travel and politics and made usage of the fact that my sister worked on a newspaper to get my first bit of work experience as a press photographer on the Keighley News in West Yorkshire near to where I grew up. From there I successfully applied to get on the NCTJ photography course at Norton College in Sheffield from where I gained my first staff photographer position on the Scarborough Evening News.

Actress at Kynren, Bishop Auckland. Photo: Chris Booth
Actress at Kynren, Bishop Auckland. Photo: Chris Booth

What images are you most proud of?

This is a hard question to answer as I cover a wide array of subject matter and find it hard to compare or rank one against the other. I feel extremely fortunate enough to have covered the whole of the London2012 Olympics on behalf of The Northern Echo, and I believe I made the most of the 2 weeks I spent down in the capital. From this period to name but a few, I captured images of the iconic opening ceremony, Usain Bolt crossing the finish line in the 100m final and Kat Copeland becoming the first EVER woman from the North East to win a gold medal in her rowing event.

Beach bathers, Redcar. Photo: Chris Booth
Beach bathers, Redcar. Photo: Chris Booth

Where do you think is the most photogenic area of the North East?

I don’t think there is one particular area or place in the North East which is best for photos, rather there is a wealth of choice of many places. Clearly there are popular locations known to many such as Newcastle quayside, Durham Cathedral, Gunnerside in North Yorkshire, Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, much of the coastline including Robin Hood’s Bay, Staithes, Whitby, Seaham Harbour. The list goes on, however as primarily a news photographer, if I am photographing a landscape there needs to be a news element involved such as extreme weather conditions or an event going on at that location.

Do you have any tips for taking a great local photograph?

It always helps to know a location well – to know for example how the sun might fall on a landmark at different times of day and where the sun sets and rises in relation to that landmark. Patience and enthusiasm are two more important characteristics especially for landscape photography. I would also encourage creativity – looking at different angles photographically on a subject matter and possibly trying to take a picture in a way that hasn’t been done before. This isn’t easy however.

Wolsingham Show, Weardale, County Durham. Photo: Chris Booth
Wolsingham Show, Weardale, County Durham. Photo: Chris Booth

What do you think makes the North East so great an inspiration for photographers?

I think the North East has an amazing amount of subject matter from iconic buildings in urban areas to beautiful yet wild landscapes both inland and along the rugged coastline. It’s difficult not to be inspired by such a wealth of choice!

https://www.chrisbooth.photos

https://www.instagram.com/chrisbooth.photos

https://www.facebook.com/chrisbooth.photos

If you’re a talented photographer, artist, crafts person, poet, musician, film maker or performer based in the North East and would like to be considered for a feature on the England’s North East website we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us here 

Brewing up a Great North East Book

Award-winning beer writer ALASTAIR GILMOUR has just published The Great North East Brewery Guide, a book that celebrates the region’s proud tradition of brewing and those who contribute to its fine reputation for great beer. Those people are what make the drinks we enjoy so special, he writes…

People talk about gardeners having “green fingers” but it’s a description that could readily be applied to brewers. Leek-growers rear their plants like their children, dahlia experts talk to their blooms, and carrots don’t perform unless their rosettes are fondled regularly.

NEBreweryGuide

It’s the same with beer, it has to be treated with devotion at every stage. Brew it from the finest ingredients possible on the best equipment available with heaps of inventive muscle and brains and the results will speak for themselves. Craft brewers are fanatical about their choice of hops, the malt they order, the mashing-in regime, the conditioning, the ageing and attention to every detail. It’s what makes great beer – and here in the North East of England we have some of the most inventive, knowledgeable and skilful brewers in the nation, working on gleaming kit that wouldn’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie.

Our breweries range from cramped units such as shipping containers to huge and impressive structures lined with Italian marble. The process of making beer is much the same in all of them but honesty and flamboyance come out at the other end – and that’s beer’s beauty. The region’s brewers are a dedicated lot, a set of charismatic people with individual traits that influence the beer they brew. And we don’t half brew good beer here – which is what The Great North East Brewery Guide celebrates.

Latest figures tell us that there are now more than 2,000 breweries operating in the UK, taking growth rate over the past five years to 64%. The North East has enjoyed a similar percentage rise in craft brewery start-ups, many of them by former home-brewers inspired by a public demand for adventurous flavours and the realisation that now is the time.

nebg(1)

We’re all reaping the benefit of better quality beer and more choice, plus the altruistic notion that we’re in our small way contributing to a fiercely independent movement and doing our bit in the growth of the local economy.

Beer can be as simple or as sophisticated as we wish it to be. Breweries produce it, but never forget, it’s people who make it and people who drink it. Cheers!

ALASTAIR GILMOUR is a freelance writer who previously worked for The Journal and The Northern Echo. His work has also featured in national and international media, such as The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Prague Post, Brewers’ Guardian, Eastern Airways in-flight magazine, Food & Travel magazine and – once – The Church Times. He founded and edits Cheers, an award-winning pub and drinks publication (www.cheersnortheast.co.uk), as well as having contributed to several books.

The Great North East Brewery Guide is published by Offstone Publishing.

Follow Alastair on Twitter @CheersPal

The past is a wonderful place to visit but it’s not a place to permanently stay

DAVID SIMPSON reflects on finding a balance between looking back and looking forward in defining the future of North East England

The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland
The Wearmouth Bridge, Sunderland

I love history and especially northern history and I love nostalgia too. Old Photos and memories are wonderful to share and enjoy but I’m not one of those “everything was so much better in the past” types. The past is simply part of a journey; an eventful journey that brought us where we are today. It teaches us what we may achieve and features important lessons too, but that does not mean we should be limited by our past. In fact for me, the present is everything.

Some may say the “past is not important”. Now, I don’t hold with that view either. Just try going for a job interview or writing a CV without saying anything about your past. It would be pretty hard to do because to some extent your past defines you and what you can do, or at least it defines you as you are now. You will almost certainly fail if you have nothing to say about your past but you will also fail if you have no vision of your future.

The same goes for regions, cities and towns that are marketing and presenting their best attributes to the world. An ability to look back to the past with pride but build with a vision towards the future was one of the most impressive aspects of Sunderland’s recent City of Culture bid. It was one of the great reasons why, despite missing out on that title, it has been such a massive success for the city and for the region too.

That past is simply part of a never ending journey of often surprising events and opportunities. The past is merely the early chapter or chapters in an exiting book that is being continuously written. There will be wonderful twists and turns and new highlights as the story grows with each new event and opportunity.

I still love the past though, and like thousands upon thousands of people up and down the land I love to reminisce and look back, occasionally. Being from Durham I often visit a Facebook group called ‘Old Photographs and Memories of Durham‘ one of many such groups that feature compelling black and white snaps of towns and cities up and down the land that are passionately followed by locals and exiles.

It does frustrate me though sometimes, when I hear people who want everything to stay the way it was, who wish to go back or who wish for things to remain unchanged forever, like Miss Havisham in her wedding gown. Now even if it was possible for everything to stay exactly the same as it always was, where would the joy be in that?

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