I wanted to begin this project with a research residency, spending a period of time researching the changing shape of industry in Darlington, getting to know the people and projects taking place locally and understanding how these make an impact on the environment. A period of meeting, listening and reading. Rather than taking place over a solid block of time, this has been a much slower process - sometimes taking place online and sometimes in person where this could happen safely.
Through this process of looking at narratives of growth, sites of transition and spaces of resistance, I’ve spent some of this time getting to know and getting involved with the work of local climate action groups over evening Zoom gatherings. With Darlington Climate Action, I recently supported a pop-up performance in the town centre to raise awareness of the impact of proposed executive housing developments written into Darlington's new local plan. The performance was led by local writer and actor Paul Harman, and I worked with the group to prepare and capture imagery from the event. I am supporting Friends of the Earth Darlington's calls for a local Citizen's Assembly for climate change. Throughout this engagement, I have been thinking about what it means to be an artist in an activist space - which brings together people with different interests, motivations and expertise in environmental action - and how this process can be equitable. Some of this time has been spent mapping and photographing sites of transition, including Tornado Way - which runs along the site of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway, and where funding has just been awarded to the Darlington Forest Project to plant 6800 trees - thinking about how industrial heritage sits alongside the landscape, and how sites of industrial heritage are re-used and re-purposed for sustainable practices. Some of this time has been spent reading about the history and future plans for Darlington, thinking about trajectories of growth tied to the region's industrial heritage, where value is placed and how these can be re-thought.
When I first thought about this project - almost a year ago - I imagined the idea of the circular economy might feed into the work at the micro scale - looking at the creative re-use of materials and design practices. As it has developed, this idea has shifted towards a focus on ecology, circular systems and social value. I've learned a lot in this time - about the process and politics of town planning, and the shifting footprint of industry moving across the urban landscape; about the town's history of iron forging and engineering, and the region's future plans for carbon capture; about locally native trees, and some things entirely unexpected (such as a protest in 1800 over the rising price of butter) - and I've had a chance to get to know about and get involved in really interesting initiatives happening locally to tackle the climate emergency.
Moving into the autumn, I'm experimenting with some new digitally-generated videos, whilst working on a script for a video installation that responds to the things I've been thinking about during this residency. Sat at my desk under a local lockdown in Newcastle, I'm looking forward to spending some time in the studio translating these ideas, sketches and thoughts into finished work, and to being able to share them.