Pieces about connecting with our history
“Please can I have some of it to hand on?
Perhaps I have taken it already.”
Building Future Foundations by Tony Moore
Three weeks ago, as I was waiting to start work, I sat on my balcony. My computer was logged on. I had opened the Teams meeting that I was about to facilitate and left a note saying
“See you at 9:00, I am grabbing a cuppa!”.
I, like most days, was about to coach a group of new work coaches.
I don’t know what came over me that morning. It was the same as any other weekday morning. I overlook a street that has a lot of footfalls from parents and kids going to school.
I always take a coffee on the balcony.
That day however, I suddenly, for some reason burst into tears.
I am a 59-year-old man, why was this happening?
What was going on? What has this got to do with heritage?
What suddenly hit me hard, seeing parents and kids passing, was that I realised that I would never be a dad, never be a grandad, and that I would have been a perfect candidate for either role. My link to any heritage will end with me when I leave this world.
Being gay has been a key factor, alongside my age and the times that I grew up in.
When I was of the right age, gay men could not adopt, gay single men even less so.
Good that things have changed now, but too late for me.
I don’t know why I suddenly got broody.
I hope that I have been a good son, a good sibling, a good cousin, but more so a good uncle. In fact, progress indeed, a good unity to my gender fluid sib kid Kieron, and I care deeply that they will flourish and have good lives.
Back to the point. I am not passionate about the past, but I am passionate to the point of tears about what is to come, and what will come to an end, rather than what has gone.
With adoptions, remarriages, and all sorts of shenanigans in the past with my family, it is all a puzzle that confuses rather than enthuses me. Past imperfect, present indicative, future positive. I hope.
Anyway, I was back that day just before 9:00 coaching a class who will then go on to coach others, my balcony episode put to one side.
A gifted past by Alexandra J Edgar
They are all in Spirit, but one. I never personally knew them. I knew only one, I met another once, I was young. Sometimes, stories were shared. Sometimes, I listened. Sometimes, I cared. Life is for the living, it’s hard to remember. The stories, the words, the voice, you will never hear again.
Scotland and Ireland is the home of my past with Portsmouth connecting the lands. I feel connected to these places, I have been there before. I know them, even when they are brand new. It feels like home, an inner peace, a place to wait a while.
I know the pipes, I know the songs, the colours, the sounds, the accents, its all recognisable to me. Instinctively. The Traditions, the Folklore and the Sea. It is all a part of me.
A Family Life by Violet Rook
I have looked up my maiden name online. It seems from this and family stories my family originally came from County Mayo in Ireland. My Great Grandparents came to England in 1846, at the time of the Great Famine. The potato harvest failed. The family landed in Liverpool and then came to the North East of England.
My Grandfather was a Hewer in the coal mines of Seaham. I found his name in the records kept in the library of the Mining Institute Newcastle. It said he was in an accident when the roof of the mine fell on him. It took him a year to die. During that time his son, my father was born and was only three months old when he lost his dad.
It is said that at the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588 lots of the Spanish ships were lost in great storms off the coast of County Mayo and some of the sailors who survived settled there. So, who knows, I may be a descendant
Run by Wendy Bulmer
A moving, flowing sea of bonny coloured shirts, and bobbing heads
Hair bands, sweat bands, fit bit bands and personal health monitors, galore. People dressed up, Super Heroes, Animals and Disney Characters too. A Dinosaur, a Fridge, and the Big Pink Dress, the Caped Crusaders of the North. The crowds, the noise, the buzz, the masses of lads and lasses all on route to the coast
Why? You might ask yourself.
And I say why? Well, because it’s ours and I can.
Brendan and others had a dream, a vision of General Joe public running a race, with world class athletes, household names, celebrities and stars from the TV. A race for all, with a can do attitude, it promoted dreams, a challenge, go on a dare yah, a bet yer can’t do it. Go on man. Anyone can enter, get a number, your number, and wear it with pride.
Then that gun going off, the handshakes, the smiles, the waves for the cameras, just in case, me mam sees uz on the telly
The Geordies on the road side, clapping, cheering, giving you bits of fruit, biscuits, water, and a ‘go on son you can do it’
But with nothing left in your legs, but more than plenty in your heart, you keep on going, knowing they all want you to finish, to get your medal, wear that t-shirt, to feel that joy, that emotion of just completing the Great North Run.
With sore feet, aching limbs, smelly socks and blisters, why would you do that to yourself, but hang on a minute. Think of that buzz, feel that vibe, the crowds, that song, Local Hero. Hum the tune.
That’s me, a local hero. I can be that hero, raising much needed funds for a cause close to my heart, Cancer Research, Alzheimer’s, Society, Local Hospice, Tiny Lives, Guide Dogs, the list and causes go on and on.
Then I stop and think. You know what, I can do this. No bother.
Geordies and all, from all walks of life, rich, famous, the kid next door, her down the street with the tattoos and him with the tash from the garage, making excellent times, smashing personal bests, and even breaking world records.
TV coverage, newspapers too. And look above. You can see the red white and blue. Pictures of our north east, our people, our race being zoomed into every house in the land, a Sunday morning where the North stops, listens, and watches a time when Geordies chests expand with pride, it’s purely belter man.
So come on, if you dare? You’ll be made welcome, a Geordie welcome, like you haven’t experienced before, a cheer, a slap on the back, a wow that’s amazing, all the best mate, go on you can do it, enjoy it, and have fun, but watch out for the Marsden Bank though,
And oh, can I give you one tip for nowt, just one tip it’s totally free!
Don’t forget the Vaseline and that’s all for now from me.
Do the hum again.
Coal to Newcastle by Andrea Bell
Why bring me here you fool?
To ask me to remember?
A fossil facilitator of your heritage.
I am your life force,
The reason for your existence,
Your Consciousness and Conscience.
You miss my warmth?
The glow of pride I gave you,
The cart and graft that put you on the map.
I am your bedrock,
Your rasping breath and canny crack,
Your ‘No Self’ and Mined Fullness.
Why haul me upstream now?
Against the natural flow,
You always fought the cold tide of change.
I am your touch stone,
Your comrade, mate and brotherhood
Your Socialism and Stoicism.
Don’t say sorry lad,
We fuelled each other’s passion,
You struck me out and called, ‘Strike!’,’ Out!’ for me.
I am your broken heart beat
The tachycardic tick of conserving time.
Your Persistence and Transience.
Today a Jesmond hearth.
Victorian tiled and leaded,
You light my smokeless sister with a one-off Zippo.
I am your installation,
The dream dancing dragon of your darkening day.
Your Inspiration and Creativity.
Past and Present by Sandy Irvine
The word heritage triggers two very different responses from me. Part of me reacts very positively. We should be grateful for all the good things bequeathed to us by past generations. We would be much poorer without the endowment of so much wonderful music, so many great paintings, such a rich variety of beautiful architecture and many other cultural bequests. Indeed our lives would be directly endangered if it were not for benign developments in fields such as medicine in past times.
We are similarly richer because previous generations took care to protect a treasury of landscapes and habitats via national parks, nature reserves and other conservation measures. Then there were all those who conserved genetic varieties in plants and animals, a truly priceless heritage. In all these cases, we should celebrate what we inherited and take care to pass on such treasures to future generations in at least as good a condition as we found them.
Newcastle, for example, would be a lesser place without, say, the marvellous architecture of Grey Street. Of course, so much more could and should have been done by way of protection. Look at what has happened to most of the countryside outside protected areas. Councils, planners and developers managed, between them, to destroy more of Britain’s historic townscapes than did the Luftwaffe in World War Two. Take Newcastle again and consider the fate of the Royal Arcade or old Eldon Square.
Yet another part of me dislikes the word ‘heritage’. I cannot but connect it to the profit-driven ’heritage industry’. It markets a phoney version of the past, one totally sanitised and indeed romanticised. At its worst, it becomes just a means to sell merchandise, be it Jane Austin tea towels or ‘Stonehenge’ cushions. Real ploughmen never ate the ‘ploughman’s lunches’ on sale at pubs full of replica farm implements and the like. I once went to Anne Hathaway’s cottage… in Victoria, British Columbia. Afterwards, I had a pint in a fake tankard in a fake half-timbered pub nearby.
Similarly, some protected landscapes such as the Lake District are actually badly deforested and overgrazed, in urgent need of ‘rewilding’. Newcastle’s Town Moor, widely regarded as ‘heritage’ in the NE England, if not the wider world, is actually biologically impoverished, much of it a former open cast mining site as well as a dumping ground for spoil from nearby road construction. Yet I have heard people calling it Newcastle’s ‘wilderness’ and an ‘oasis of nature’. Yet it is neither wild nor natural nor a wildlife haven.
The North East actually contains two examples of both sides of the heritage coin. At Beamish Museum, much good work has been done to collect artefacts from the region’s past. It is a great achievement indeed. Yet the squalor, oppression and suffering in the ‘good old days’ has been largely brushed out of the picture presented to the visiting public. By contrast, at Woodhorn Museum, the hardship of life in mining communities and the history of bitter struggles between miners and pit owners is presented, warts and all. Further north, the ‘Barracks’ museum at Berwick displays all sides of military life, not just paintings of military ‘glory’, suits of armour, and the like. It makes clear that disease routinely killed far more soldiers than battles, for example.
So, let us cherish heritage but make sure we do not sink into false — and falsified — nostalgia.
In My Words by David Black
My heritage is in the words, pictures, sights and sounds that echo through my mind every day.
My heritage is my voice, accent, what I say, and the particular way in which I say it.
My surname is Black and it dates back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain.
Some called me Blackie at that sinkhole school, that was originally from a bunch of fools. Blackie is also the name given by Eric Clapton to his favorite Fender Stratocaster guitar.
If I’d been an instrument, I’d be a drum set, made of drums and drumsticks, cymbals, including hi-hat.
My Black surname may have first been seen to denote black hair, clothing or a similar theme. Or a career as a chimney sweep – never fancied being covered in soot or using a broom.
Anyway, as a child I was a blonde and liked anything coloured blue – not black or very, very, very dark gray.
I’m not yet a contemporary notable of the name Black, but I’ve still got time to get on the list yet.
A song lyric said that you only live twice or so it seems, one life for yourself and one for your dreams. I recently heard it said that you die twice, once when you die and once when your name is said for the last time.
The question I have is about what you need to do to ensure your heritage is never forgotten?
The answer may be to use all your skills and judgement to make a big impact and bring about change.
Yes, a positive impact, an innovative product, service or change in thinking for me and others should do it.
Belonging by Ann Gittins
‘Heritage’ – not a word I remember using – except occasionally in connection with English Heritage and you have to pay if you want a slice of that. To me, heritage suggests privilege and entitlement, something special. But now, according to Google, we have Heritage Open Days, heritage crafts, heritage bathrooms, heritage beer and bread and cheese, even a Heritage Bread Festival. I wonder what bread has to do to gain entry.
My dictionary says heritage is ‘an inherited lot or portion’ and ‘the values, traditions, culture, and artifacts handed down by previous generations’. So what have I inherited, what is my heritage? So much has changed so fast in my lifetime.
From my parents I inherited my face, my shape, an irregular heartbeat, my nature – or was that nurture?- my values, certainly my wishy washy lefty values, a love of the arts. And memories. And a house and lots of stuff. So much stuff. I have been clearing out stuff for twenty years but it still crams my cupboards. I don’t think it could qualify as ‘artifacts’.
From my common heritage, classified as an elderly white British woman, English and a bit Welsh, I have inherited values too. But I am no longer sure what they are, they seem so fluid. They teach British Values in schools and at least Mr Gove thinks he knows what they are. Language and culture, so varied and changeable too. Traditions which are abandoned, strengthened or derided or invented constantly.
A sense of place and belonging, of knowing my way around. Landscapes – changing rapidly too. Seas and skies – looking unchanged but we know we have messed them up. Can one adopt a heritage? My family come from the Midlands. I was not born in the North but that is where I grew up, where my home and heart is. I love the place and all it means to me but it seems presumptuous and underhand to claim its heritage as mine. I think I understand it, I certainly appreciate it a lot. Please can I have some of it to hand on? Perhaps I have taken it already.
It’s Heaven here by Irene Mantey
Which fracking desolate areas?
Have you ever been to the North East,
Seen the North East, been to heaven and back?
Know who we are.
Know where we came from.
Know where we’re going!
Background, born here.
X marks the spot.
Born in this family, at this place, in this time.
My gender girl, my class working,
My region northern, my baby booming.
Yet, this accident of birth,
What say, what choice?
What, life chance and legacy?
What makes us who we are?
Nature, nurture, who knows the answer?
Well, I was born a northerner.
Castles up the coast
Bridges over water
And a short ‘a’ I boast.
So bind us together in being and belonging.
In safety and security, identity, community:
in culture, custom and coming home.
Pull up a chair. There’s plenty of room.
Warm welcome at the hearth,
but keep your fracking hands off our heaven!