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ENERGIES Exhibition explores how industrial change is affecting Blyth

Published on: 7 July 2021

A new exhibition will explore the reaction of the community of Blyth to changes in the industries based there -from carbon producing to carbon reducing.


Blyth, once believed to be the busiest coal port in the world, was also a centre for shipbuilding and coal mining. And like many towns in the North East and beyond, these traditional industries have now disappeared and are being replaced with new industries – in Blyth’s case with the low carbon energy industry.

Now, a new exhibition will explore the community’s reaction to these changes.

ENERGIES – Blyth’s Industrial Past and Energy Futures, will feature work by nine regional artists, commissioned by Newcastle University. Their artworks will express how the artists see the Blyth industrial past linking to the transformation and the types of energy used to sustain both life and work. The art is aimed at prompting people to think and question what is happening. How the community itself sees, feels and communicates this change is vital for shaping the Blyth community’s future as well as informing the adjustment all coastal communities must make to adapt to climate change. As part of the exhibit, all visitors are encouraged to share their own thoughts and reactions to Blyth’s energy futures.

Lay of Blyth by Michael Cunliffe

A deeper understanding

The ENERGIES exhibition has been brought about with expertise from academics across Newcastle University. Anthony Zito, Professor of European Public Policy, is the project Lead.

“Blyth is the perfect example of a town which relied on certain industries for a very long time, but these traditional industries are now being replaced with something new. What we don’t know is how the community feels about this change and that’s what we’re hoping to find out with this exhibition.

“Art can help to shed light on the issues in a way that a questionnaire simply can’t. It can highlight emotion and help give us a deeper understanding of these issues.”

Workshop with The Stars (Headway Arts) by Allie Walton-Robson. Photo taken by Fran Castle

Pilot project

ENERGIES is a pilot project, and the project team plan to transport it to other towns and cities facing similar issues in the North East and further afield.

ENERGIES is running two separate exhibits curated by Dr Clifton Evers, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies, at Newcastle University, at Headway Arts and the RePUBlic Gallery in Blyth from 9 to 25 July. It will also be available online.

Booking isn’t required and social distancing and reduced capacity will be in place at both venues.

The exhibition is supported by Newcastle University ONEPlanet Fund, Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice, Headway Arts, NU School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, NU School of Arts and Cultures, Shadow Places Network, the Performance Research Network at Newcastle University, RePUBlic Gallery and the HEAL research group, Oviedo University, Spain. Co-I G. Mutch was supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering under the Research Fellowship Scheme.


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