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INSIGHTS Virtual Lectures: New voices on arts, humanities and social sciences

Date/Time: Thursday 23 July 2020, 17:30 - 18:30

Early-career researchers from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University explore new ideas through their research:

Ireland’s border: before and after Brexit

by Jack Hepworth

In Britain, the Brexit vote of June 2016 renewed interest in a land border which, the conventional media narrative suggested, had happily withered into insignificance. As the Brexit saga rumbled on, British politicians of various stripes were frequently chastened for perceived ignorance of Irish history, and accused of manipulating the legacies of the Irish conflict for political ends. More pointedly, the threat of a ‘hard border’ in Ireland was widely understood as a regression into the violent past. On both sides of the Irish Sea, commentators and activists insisted that maintaining a ‘soft border’ in Ireland was essential.

Within the commonplace celebrations of a permeable border, the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 is routinely invoked as sacrosanct. Yet such a portrayal neglects the processual quality of the Agreement and its afterlives: much has changed in Ireland, north and south, in the two intervening decades. Long before Ireland’s border resurfaced in popular debate with the Brexit vote, community activists in Northern Ireland pointed to stark socioeconomic inequalities, and the limitations of the peace process. Connecting everyday life and political turbulence ‘at the edge of the union’, this lecture reorients the discussion of the border’s future in the context of its difficult past.

Repainting the Pitmen: The Ashington Group in the 21st Century

by Dr Narbi Price

The work of the Ashington Group (also known as the Pitmen Painters) are a celebrated historical record of a working community, held in great affection in the North East and further afield. However, the main narratives are very limited (the single text by William Feaver, Pitmen Painters – The Ashington Group 1934 -1984 and Lee Hall’s play, The Pitmen Painters).

At Woodhorn Museum in Summer 2018, I presented Pitmen Painters Resurfacing, a major public outcome, which presented a new invigorated position on the work of the Ashington Group. This comprised two new exhibitions; Pitmen Painters Unseen gathered previously un-exhibited work, forming the largest and most complete exhibition of the Ashington Group’s work ever staged. This was accompanied by a major new body of my own work, The Ashington Paintings, ruminating on the vastly changed landscape once depicted by the Group. This talk will outline my practice-led research which challenges dominant narratives about the Group’s intentions, methods, output and legacy.

The lecture will be followed by a live Q&A with the speakers.