INTERVIEW: Lizzie Lovejoy | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Northernness is an intangible force yet one so acutely felt as to be almost measurable, but what is it and what quantifies it? Who is more Northern? What are the elements of Northernness and what defines it? Esteemed performance artist, mixed-media creative and NARC. Academy alum Lizzie Lovejoy explores all this in their one hour-long show at ARC in Stockton on Wednesday 8th June.

We Are Northern is a series of spoken word tracks with an accompanying illustrated book featuring all the poems/pieces. The pieces tackle classism, disability, physical health, local history and family all through a North East lens. A year in the making and pieced together from various other projects, I caught up with Lizzie to find out how it has now come to fruition.

We Are Northern as a stage performance, exhibition and book wasn’t really planned. I had been working at ARC as Artist of Change and created a series of exhibitions after listening to the stories of Northern people. I had been trying to understand all of the various different aspects that make us who we are. We are an amalgamation of so many different thoughts, ideas, experiences and histories. I’m very proud to share my own story and the stories of others. I’ve learnt so much while talking to strangers.” To turn these disparate elements into one fluid performance Lizzie explained how it came together quite naturally. “Although there were three poems in this collection that were already written prior to the idea of the show, the rest of it was written specifically to be performed in this context. A lot of the images themselves were already part of the foundation of my research into Northernness. I think the images and the words work together because one was based around the other and ultimately the words provide context for the images.”

We are an amalgamation of so many different thoughts, ideas, experiences and histories

The show is BSL interpreted, pay what you decide and available to watch online. Lizzie understands how important this kind of inclusivity is to contemporary Northernness. “As a working-class person, I’m incredibly aware of limitations in terms of what we can experience in the arts, not by choice. Over the course of my work at ARC I came into contact with people who widened my understanding of what we really need in this industry. From audio content for some people or transcriptions for others, to physical spaces for some and digital spaces for others. What is the point of art or creative expression if it is inaccessible? This project is a celebration of Northernness, but it is an experience open for anyone. And that is by choice.”

I wondered which pieces of this Northernness represented them as an artist, writer and person. “The entire show represents who I am. Northern identity is all encompassing, there is no one right way to be Northern. There is a message that the past is important, but the future is everything. I look at our geography and our landmarks and I find who I am.”

So, what’s next creatively for the polymath artist? “There’s nothing next for me creatively because I never really stop. I continue to collect stories. I will keep collecting stories. I will keep talking to strangers. And I will never stop creating.”

We Are Northern takes place at ARC, Stockton on Wednesday 8th June.

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