FEATURE: The Grief Series – Journey with Absent Friends – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

Narc. Magazine Online

Reliably informed

With new work The Grief Series – Journey with Absent Friends coming to ARC in Stockton on Tuesday 19th June, we caught up with Ellie Harrison to find out a little more…

Where does the memory of someone live? In a sacred space like a gravestone or in Burger King and a lifelong love of gherkins? In their Facebook page or on twitter?

How do you reconnect with someone or something you have lost?

Where are the places we go to remember?

These are some things I’ve been thinking about.

Partly I’ve been inspired by the way that my mum still influences my life, seventeen years after her death. she has influenced the way I dress, cook a meal, wrap a Christmas present. Care. Attention to detail. The notion of gift. Considering things for their colour or texture. The handmade.

I’m also really inspired by The Museum of Innocence in Istanbul. Curated by Orphan Pamuk he says that we have enough big museum that people are often intimidated by, instead we need the small, the cheap, and most importantly the personal. Stories from everyday people, not just Kings, Queens and leaders of wars.  So I have decided to make a museum in a caravan.

In 2002 I scattered my mothers ashes, probably illegally, on Brownsea Island. There is no lasting monument. I have never been back. Until now. Journey With Absent Friends will be a pilgrimage between sites of personal remembrance, collecting the memories of others in a little caravan of grief along the way. I’m going on a journey to spend time with the people I’ve lost: My mum, my dad and my brother Jonathan. Are there people you have lost that you associate with a particular place? As well as formal memorials such as gravestones, how do bus stops, supermarkets and pubs become sites of pilgrimage and remembrance?

Add your memories to our audio archive or embroidered map and spend some time exploring a caravan full of hidden treasures. The caravan is free and open to people of all ages.

This isn’t the first project I’ve made about Grief, its part of a collection called The Grief Series. I set off on the journey of making Grief Series alone. My experience of losing people had often made me feel alone, even if I wasn’t. But slowly people joined me. ‘Just me’ became ‘a few of us’….made up of artists, participants, professionals….lots of different words for people. And the alive people I met introduced me to dead people they loved by sharing their memories:  of dead parents, dead grandparents, dead children, dead siblings, dead pets.  And the few of us were now a crowd. And that crowd became larger and now that crowd is what I playfully call Team Grief.

So far Team Grief have:

  • Dressed as elephants in Hotels up and down the country
  • Created a nationally touring photography exhibition for empty houses in collaboration with fifty members of the public from 7 to 75 years old.
  • Built an angry Funfair called The Unfair for town squares, promenades and public spaces.
  • Prompted lads to ring their mums and turn over new leaves
  • Collaborated with Imams, Rabbi’s and Humanist Celebrants
  • Impersonated Leonardo Di Caprio
  • Eaten a lot of Jammy dodgers and drunk nearly 100 litres of port in the process

People ask whether making work about death is depressing and whilst I’ll admit I’ve had the odd wade through a swamp of despondency, my journey is constantly refreshed and reinvigorated by new voices, new perspectives. People bringing more food for thought. I’m looking forward to people sharing their memories and favourite places with me in Stockton. The Northeast has given me a warm welcome in the past and I’m sure you’ve got stories to tell me.

The Grief Series – Journey with Absent Friends comes to ARC in Stockton on Tuesday 19th June.


Like this story? Share it!

Subscribe to our mailout