Spoke to my mother the other day. It turns out a photo exists of me tugging at my sisters hair in Seaton Carew. A bizarre detail perhaps, in itself of little obvious interest, but please bear with me.

I was brought up in Leeds and moved to Newcastle when I was 19, where I have lived ever since, give or take the occasional residency elsewhere. At no time, before or after, can I recall visiting Seaton Carew, or Hartlepool, until I began the Rink project this year; but apparently I did.

In the photo I am two years old, wriggling in my father’s arms as he turns to the camera for our sea front snap. I am sneakily leaning down toward my older sister, attempting to pull her curly hair as she poses below.

I haven’t seen that photo for some years and don’t now live near my parents, so this revelation took place via BT whilst I filtered my memory banks for recall. That’s one advantage of those days… people didn’t take many photos, so the photos that exist of my upbringing can be counted on the fingers of two hands. Consequently I can clearly envisage said pic even though it resides 125 miles away and out of vision.

So what’s my point? Well – what intrigues me is that now, armed with the info above, I see that quaint, candid photo in a whole different light. It has acquired a re-interpreted significance…

..Which just happens to be a central theme in this project.

It’s like a gift given to myself by my other self.

I had begun considering how to weave a ‘me’ into the narrative and there it is… I was always in there. You can’t get more Hartlepool street cred than pulling your own sister’s hair on Seaton Carew sea front at the age of two surely!

My god, if only I had had that photo in my possession when the mighty hordes were baying for my facebook excommunication a few months back (see my aptly numbered #13, May posting FACEBOOK FIASCO). This photo is my passport to H’pool cultural identity. It proves I BELONG.

Well ok maybe not, back off with the trumpets for now, but it’s a start. Importantly though it’s a great introduction for ‘myself’ as a character. Once I get this photo scanned it may well form a significant motif in the piece. It’s not that I particularly want the ‘real’ me in there.. but I do need a sort of composite thread to hold things together and I’m thinking I’m the obvious candidate. One’s work always concerns the ‘author’ in some way, so it’s at least an honest approach to invent a ‘SELF’.

I could go so far as to suggest that my artistic life has been based upon the concept of trying to ‘escape the grasp of authority in order to stir things up a bit’. Thus the hair pulling photo can be seen as a visual metaphor for my role as the auteur . Being sensitive to the authority of history is one thing, but tugging a few strands of tantalising unruly historical hair might have merit too.

Material I have shot thus far is sooo full of lovely memories and rosy recall, but it really wasn’t all ice cream and holidays back THEN. Conversely – Hartlepool is not what it once was. Considering the PRESENT you have to say it compares unfavourably with the PAST. I don’t think I have found anyone who would disagree with that.

Nancy was once asked by some eager tourists;

“what is there to see in Hartlepool?”

“Just get back on the coach and drive on” she retorted.

They were on a ‘magical mystery tour’ from Liverpool – pre the invention of ‘magical realism’.

Now that isn’t necessarily my opinion – I actually see a lot of positives in the place, but no-one can deny it could do with a large dose of TLC anytime soon… and the (relatively) new MARINA CULTURE isn’t really much of a solution.

Let’s put it this way – I have yet to meet a person who owns a boat moored there.

sketch #1 audio credit: setuniman