Printed Matters: The Line Between Two Towns

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We are really excited about this place-related project from our friend and Elsewhere contributor Laura HarkerThe Line Between Two Towns is a new zine that explored the Esk Valley line between Middlesborough and Whitby in northern England, bringing together writers, poets, artists and photographers who have all been inspired by the different destinations on the line between the two towns. Here is Laura's introduction to the zine, and you can order your copy online here.

The idea behind this zine came from wanting to explore the differences between Whitby and Middlesbrough, and all the unique nuances and cultures that set them apart from one another. Though there are such stark differences between the two towns, there is still one thing that brings them together: the Esk Valley Railway.

It clocks in at only 36 miles long, but the Middlesbrough and Whitby line was once part of a larger network of railways that covered the area until many lines were closed after Dr. Beeching’s cuts. Thankfully, the line remained open due to its popularity. Originally intended to serve the mines and quarries across the region, the Esk Valley line quickly became a hit with Teessiders who realised that it placed the North Yorkshire seaside just over an hour away.

Over the past few decades, the area’s industry has disappeared, Brits have set their sights on sunny European beaches, and the line is now rarely busy except for Bank Holiday weekends. But it continues to be an important lifeline for many in the villages it passes through, connecting them to Middlesbrough and Whitby.

I was born in Middlesbrough but we moved to Glaisdale, just outside Whitby, when I was 11. Carefully picked up from my urban childhood, I was transplanted to the countryside where most other kids were members of the Young Farmers and thought my Boro accent came from Ireland. Even though my childhood so far had been spent less than 30 miles from Whitby, I realised there was a large gulf between these two locations – industrially, culturally and aesthetically.

This isn’t something that bothered me that much until I moved to Berlin and I was constantly asked the same question: Where are you from? When Germans and other non-Brits asked, the answer was easy – I went with North Yorkshire. But when Brits asked, expecting a more specific pinpoint for their mental map, I couldn’t bring myself to give just one answer.

I couldn’t just say Whitby and ignore Middlesbrough or that would be turning my back on my first decade, family ties, and roots as a Teessider. But I couldn’t simply say Middlesbrough, as I’d spent 15 years on the moors by this point. My Boro accent is long gone and my Middlesbrough geography gets hazy whenever I step off Linthorpe Road in the centre of town – I can’t quite stomach saying I’m a true Teessider. And so I thought about writing a personal essay on this identity crisis and the towns that sparked it, using the Esk Valley Railway to bind it all together. When I realised there was just too much for me to say, I decided to make this zine and open it up to submissions to try and create something of a printed tapestry of the area.

The zine includes works from local writers, poets, artists and photographers, all of which have been inspired by stops along the line. Threading together their work along the context of the Esk Valley Line, I wanted the zine to explore the cultural and landscape shifts that can be found taking this particular train journey, from starting in Middlesbrough surrounded by tired factories and ending in Whitby just steps from the beach. And it might actually help me figure out what to say whenever someone asks me where I’m from.

The shingle beach, Crosby

All Images: Chris Hughes

All Images: Chris Hughes

About a month ago we published the essay The War Memorial in the Sea by David Lewis. As always, we love to hear what people think about the work we publish both here on the blog and in the print journal, and we are especially pleased when it inspires as moving a response as this, from a long-time friend of Elsewhere, Chris Hughes:

Following on from David Lewis’s fascinating piece about the architectural rubble spread on the beach north of Crosby promenade after the clearance of bomb damaged houses and major public buildings in Liverpool and Bootle at the end of the Second World War I send you these photographs taken a couple of years ago on the beach just south of the shingle. Like David I have tramped across the shingle to find the remnants of the large buildings of Liverpool destroyed in the bombing and once found wonder in imagining which of the buildings a remnant comes from. Looking at the photographs from the time, and to see the sheer scale of the destruction, it is doubtful that even the most brilliant architectural historian could identify the pieces; it’s enough to find them and marvel that their presence is still here.

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But what of the bricks, thousands, probably millions of bricks, half bricks and the grainy rubble that was once a brick that lie scattered along the beach, some still resembling the cuboid they once were, others pummelled by the tide over and over again to become a rounded pebble? What a range of colour and texture is here considering that all were created from the clay of the local area and the North Wales brick works.

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Following the death of a good friend who was also a lover of stones, shells and drift wood, we were asked to bring a stone to the funeral from our own area and a cairn would be built of these stones as a symbol of our love and friendship. There are no natural pebble beaches on the Sefton coast; it’s all sand, so it was here, to Crosby shingle beach I came to select two very different rounded remnants of bricks to add to the cairn. And very good they looked too, bright red and orange among the predominantly grey and white stones from other parts of the country that were piled up along with them.

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On a very windy day in February 2015 we went to walk among Anthony Gormley’s cast iron men on Crosby beach and I saw the way that the wind had carved out the patterns on the sand, blowing away the smaller grains, leaving the heavier stones and shells each with a tail of sand in the lee of the gale. The larger pieces, almost whole bricks, ended up isolated in little pools of water; a tiny moat around the brick castle. I started to look for the different colours in the bricks, the reds and browns, oranges and yellows, but also the blue and black. Was this a different band of clay? Was it crushed shale or even clinker from the iron furnaces of the day? I’ll probably never know but the colours will always remain in the bricks of the Crosby shingle beach.

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Five Questions for... Mitch Karunaratne

Image: Mitch Karunaratne

Image: Mitch Karunaratne

For our series of interviews with contributors and friends of Elsewhere, we caught up with documentary landscape photographer Mitch Karunaratne. Mitch's wonderful photo essay 'The Land of Maybe' from the Faroe Islands appeared in Elsewhere No.05, the most recent edition of the journal and available via our online shop here.

What does home mean to you?

Home grounds me, keeps me energised and focused. It’s my memory box.

Where is your favourite place?

I’ve always been drawn to water. I was born on a small island in the Thames Estuary and the connection to water flows through my soul. Whether it’s the canal running through the Olympic Park or the view of Tilbury Dock from the roof of Thurrock Nature Park – all my favourite places are in liquid form!

What is beyond your front door?

Ted. He’s lived on the street for over 60 years, moved in as a newlywed, raised his family and now looks after the street. Rising at 5am, he delivers the papers, takes in everyone’s parcels and packages, feeds the cats and looks out for us all.

What place would you most like to visit?

At the moment, I’m feeling the drawn of lands close to home. I’d love to look down from the peaks of Snowdon or Ben Nevis – but would definitely struggle going up!

What are you reading right now?

The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy - This book crept up on me really slowly. McCarthy writes well about the personal and the political - in ways that leave room for the reader to insert themselves. But as it developed I became more and more quietly drawn into understanding that I too, like the author, and I'm sure most human beings, had some very memorable moments orchestrated by nature and wonder, it felt good to give those moments a vocabulary.

Mitch is a founding member of the Map6 Collective, exploring the relationship between people and place.

Hackney Marshes - Before and After Dawn

A photo essay by Adam Steiner:

All images: Adam Steiner

All images: Adam Steiner

I got up early one morning, about 4.30am, it was summer and went out to try and capture the early dawn light that floods Hackney Marshes. One of the best things about the area is the contrast between urban/suburban and large park spaces; including the Lea valley nature reserve an bird sanctuary, housed in Victorian water filter beds. 

The ground was covered in thick cotton fog that seemed to recede as you stepped into it. The light split through the trees and burning through the fog created a kind of spilt rainbow effect that was constantly changing like a turning kaleidoscope. The rusting, wide shoulders created a kind of bastard symmetry contrasted with the extreme brightness; a kind of grit and glamour effect.

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Looking back across the field to the other side of the marshes, a couple of hours after the original shot, the blue sky had forced through the day, and once again this was intersected by the frames of the goalpost jutting against it; slicing the sky into crooked quadrants. 

A few paces further back from the treeline when the fog had more or less dispersed. 

This photo is not so special, but the full strength of the sun unhindered by the trees created this brilliant flare. Off to the far-right, in the distance, are Stratford and the Olympic Park. The skyline is mostly interrupted by the mass of lazy new developments happening in the area. A series of rabbit hutch apartments and faceless businesses – it’s great if this creates opportunities for people who live in the area, but it feels more like an opportunity to drive them out to a further zone of the city. You can also catch the ghost-legacy of the banal and moon-like atmosphere of the Olympic Park’s mid-masturbatory phallic Orbital spiral sculpture/slide thingy…

More displacement of perspective, a lineage of infinity boxes; one containing the other. I’ve recently been reading a lot of work by the late Mark Fisher (Ghosts of My Life) where talks at length about hauntology: the presence of non-events/thwarted possibilities - I can’t help but think of this idea looking through goalposts without people. 

I was also amazed at the colours here; the marshes a bowl of moody blue gloom and the hulk of the council waste disposal centre a fierce peachy terracotta. 

Again, similar colours but a different story. This salmon pink tower is one of the few high-rise buildings (with amazing uninterrupted views) in the area of Homerton on this side of the park. Rents in the area have steadily risen to become almost double, including in this building. Creating an exodus to nearby Walthamstow and beyond. The main shopping street a few streets beyond this building, Chatsworth Road, formerly known as Murder Mile, rises to a crest in the middle, from which you can peek over and see the jaded shine of the Canary Wharf tower – I always find this a grimly ironic vista for anyone who has grown-up in the area during the bad old days (of serial stabbings and shootings) which shows how close and yet how far wealth and power always seem to arise in London. 

I liked this image for the mad pink of the sky and the goalposts of two pitches backing on to one another in opposition, the match is made small and intimate, but there’s no-one playing.

I thought this was quite a calming perspective, where the goals seem to shrink into one another in infinite regress, like a lens zooming in and out, losing focus over a span of time.

Adam Steiner's articles, poetry and fiction appear in Low Light Magazine, L’Ephemere Review, The Arsonist, Glove zine, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Bohemyth, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Rockland Lit, Proletarian Poetry, The Next Review, Fractured Nuance zine. Adam Produced the Disappear Here project: a series of 27 x poetry films about Coventry ring road. Adam on twitter.

Elsewhere No.05: Some thoughts from the editors

IMAGE: Paul & Julia in discussion, Tim hiding behind the camera

IMAGE: Paul & Julia in discussion, Tim hiding behind the camera

For the first time in the short history of the journal, for Elsewhere No.05 we did the submissions process a little differently. Unlike with the previous four editions of the journal, we had a call for submissions  and a specific window of time in which people had to get us their work. On top of that, Elsewhere No.05 is also the first time we had a theme. So we were certainly interested, as the 31 March deadline approached, as to what writing and visual art on the theme of place and transition we would receive.

This week, after weeks of reading, I sat down with our editor Tim Woods and our creative director Julia Stone, at Elsewhere HQ Berlin-Neukölln to discuss the submissions and, slowly but surely, build a contents list for the fifth edition of the journal. With the number of submissions, we were unable to give personal feedback to every person who sent us their work, but we thought it might be a nice idea to share some general thoughts from our perspective, which might be food-for-thought for anyone submitting to us or another magazine/journal in the future:

Theme

Elsewhere is a “journal of place” and we decided, for issue No.05 to add the theme of “transition” into the mix. Now, within both of these there is an awful lot of room for manoeuvre. We had said from the beginning that genre or style of writing is not a deciding factor. Fiction or non-fiction. Poetry or prose. We will consider writing that could be labelled memoir or travel-writing, psychogeography or local history, reportage or experimental fiction … we really don’t care. What we are interested in is that it is good, and that it somehow conveys some sense of place within the topic of transition. Unfortunately, some submissions either did not relate to the issue theme of transition and/or were not related to the topic of place, and so however well-written they might have been, they were just not right for us.

That said, we did receive an incredible mix of writing and other submissions that DID fit the theme of the issue; from prose essays to poetry; illustration to photography; interview suggestions and book reviews. What was most gratifying was not only the quality of the work shared with us, but the diversity of approaches and styles that made it so much fun to read and also so difficult to come to a final decision. It meant that the decision-making process took a bit longer than we would have hoped, but it was certainly never boring!

Transition

Talking of the theme, and this is not a criticism but more an observation; we were interested in how many of the writers sending us the work interpreted the theme of transition on a very personal level, relating to movement, home and emotion, rather than on a political or societal level. As you will hopefully see when Elsewhere No.05 is published, we have tried to put together a journal that offers a mix of different perspectives on that theme.

Paris and Berlin

Perhaps because of where we are based, we often get a lot of submissions on the topic of Berlin. And for this issue, the German capital was joined by its French counterpart as the most popular place to write about in our submissions pile. But especially when it comes to Berlin and other places we know well and – more crucially – have been written about a lot, we are extremely picky. It is a reminder that writing about places that have been covered a lot, or with which your audience are familiar, it can sometimes be more difficult to make your writing stand out.

Format

At Elsewhere we consider every submission that arrives, however it is formatted and even if it is clear at first glance that someone hasn’t read our submissions guidelines. Sometimes, in very rare cases, we also receive submissions from people who appear to think we are someone else, or haven’t actually looked at what we DO publish. It would not take long on our blog, for example, to know that we are unlikely to publish a listicle piece about 30 Ways To Get Cheap Spring Break Tickets To Europe. It is also better not to send submissions addressed to our friends at The Berlin Quarterly or Gorse.

In general though, what was really nice about this submissions window was how many people did appear to be following what we do, both in print and online, and had sent us pieces that they thought would interest us. In the vast, vast majority of cases this was true, and the reading process was all the more pleasurable for it. We also wanted to use the blog to say thank you to everyone who took the time to send us their work. We really appreciate it. And we can’t wait to share the details of Elsewhere No.05 in the coming weeks.

Paul