Returning North

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For my very first exhibition since Returning North, what other subject was I going to choose, other than my move up to Cumbria and how I reflected on Returning North.

This personal project and exhibition came about thanks to Farfield Mill giving me the opportunity to have a gallery space there at the end of 2018. As the exhibition has now come down, for those that were unable to see it, here are the images with the supporting statements for you to view.

Almost as a rite of passage, there are many people like myself, who at 18 cannot wait to leave the restrictive confines of a small town to venture out and explore the bold opportunities of a big city. It is also very common, in a later stage of life, almost as an inner calling, to return to your roots.

I left the North West for university and have never since returned home to Cheshire and despite spending more years in Leicester than anywhere else, I always have and always will consider myself a Northerner. I have never truly attached myself to any country, or house and would confidently ‘up-sticks’, so to speak, for the right opportunity, but there has been something about returning to the North West that brings back the feeling of childhood, family and upbringing.

I decided to explore the connections between my childhood in Cheshire to the development of my life, as an adult now, living in Cumbria. Like many, my path has progressed through so many stages of life since leaving Widnes, (marriage, bereavement, career changes, moving homes and more) and this exhibition aims to explore the similarities and differences, of childhood to adulthood, via our house renovations, as I look back at my first year of moving to an ex vicarage in the Howgill Fells.

From a terraced house to an 8 bedroom victorian house, the girl in the photograph never imagined and still doesn’t quite believe she lives in such a grand setting. I feel people from the North don’t grow out of their roots and are always proud of their upbringing no matter what ‘status’ they reach in life. From a small backyard, to a garden with a view that is like a painting. From a house with a road name on it, to a house with a heritage important enough to have the year it was built, carved in to the masonry. The differences are huge, but the connections draw me in. I lived at number 87 and was born in 72 and now live in a house with the numbers of 1872.
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Adapting to city life from a small town was easy at 18 years old, but changing from city life to country life has been different now I am older and have years of established routines. The heels and fancy clothes have been replaced with muddy walking boots, wellies, head torches and decorating converse. There are no longer manicured nails due to the amount of DIY required in that first year. There was a reluctance to wear new slippers until the renovations were complete. A childhood trait of certain clothing was for ‘best’ only.
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My mum is able to stay more as we are closer now and I have noticed my links to her and my childhood are apparent in the house. One of her quilts is used for a dog bed. On our first day of moving in, she wore a jumper that used to be mine as a teenager.
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From Park Road to Cautley, from the seventies to 2018, I think there are many that can relate to the changing fashions of the home and the retro re-appearance of them. Net curtains will always remind me of my Widnes home and there was something about the one set of curtains left hanging in St Marks that reminded me of mum’s house. I actually asked could I have mum’s porcelain dogs, despite my husband and sister really disliking them, regardless of the fact that they are back in Vogue. Patterned carpets and stair bannisters, along with avocado bathroom suites are something that everyone of a certain age can relate to and these photographs show my childhood home and my current house. Who would have thought that 27 years later I would be moving in to a house with a carpet that remind me of my childhood in the seventies. Plates left in the cellar are a reminder of the china when I was a little girl.
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From the dust, cobwebs and boxes of moving into a big old house, to the light of the fells, these images reflect the dark and light moments of taking on a new stage in life.
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The door with its many paint layers remind me of the history of a home and the layers of people’s lives. We all go through changes in life, but there is always a core base that sits in your soul and for me that has been about Returning North.
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