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Graffiti in the Ouseburn Valley

Written in the landscape

The author David Almond set his third children’s novel Heaven Eyes on the banks of the Ouseburn where it winds down towards the Tyne. The post-industrial wasteland that inspired the book is slowly transforming into something else.

People have come back. First the drinkers, then the storytellers. Children meet their favourite authors at Seven Stories. Pigs snort and slumber in the city farm. The dank black Victoria Tunnel — once a coal waggonway, then a wartime air raid shelter — now welcomes tourists.

Still, you sense the underbelly of the valley. Blind corners where the river kinks; dilapidated boats washed up at low tide; buddleia silently greening the bank. Here graffiti meets publicly funded art and both find their place.

This is the setting for the Winged Tales of the North street art trail. It meanders along beside the muddy riverbed. The landscape that once inspired an author to scribble in his notebook is now the canvas for a new work. David Almond has returned to haunt the place with his words.

Here they are: painted under arches, over bridges, into the river banks, into the sky. Snippets that catch fire in your mind. Following the trail is inspiring. I’m reminded that stories bloom in a landscape. Poetry springs up between the cracks.

A story without a setting is just a seed. You must plant it somewhere before it can grow. You can wander a river path with your writer’s notebook or journey through the landscape of memory and imagination. Either way you’ll find fertile land in which your story can take root.

Taking snaps with my camera, I see the astonishing power that words have. The power to transform a path we’ve walked many times. The power to call forth dreams. The power to lift our eyes beyond a scarred landscape and show us the sky.

Watch the video below to follow my photographic journey around the Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle Quayside and City Centre.
The Winged Tales of the North street art trail is part of the Great Exhibition of the North, which runs until 9 September 2018. (All photos © Vicky Arthurs 2018.)

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