The developmental workshops of Beyond Trainspotting targeted young people (16 – 25 year olds across Stockton and Hartlepool). Many of the participants have been failed by formal education systems and live in communities labelled ‘disaffected’. This term implies high levels of unemployment, rising crime and drug use, coupled with an endemic lack of self-confidence and motivation to take up available opportunities. While this is only a partially accurate, 2-D description of the groups involved, their experiences do derive from subcultures within British society rarely represented within the public domain and the mass media without being either demonised or romanticised. These installations intend to do neither.
The artists and writers employed on this outreach project have worked in drop-in centres, youth clubs, the local prison, a boxing club and a housing association linked to the probation service. Through workshops involving readings, creative writing and visual arts, they have introduced the participants to the freedom of the new British realism pioneered by writers like Irvine Welsh, James Kelman, John King and Laura Hird. The style and subject matter of these texts broke down many stereotypes around reading and encouraged groups to engage with literature that connected to their own experiences.
This empowered them to explore their environments and everyday experiences in their own words and images finding value in their own voices and commenting on the issues governing their daily lives. Discussion and debate began to emerge and with it an opportunity to counter the sense of alienation and social exclusion. We cannot say it was an overriding success, there were failures, non-starters and difficulties in getting many of the young people interested in fiction and poetry. However, as a pilot for outreach library provision it challenged lots of preconceptions and managed to develop and broaden the scope of reading and creative expression among those who got involved.
The assemblages of image and text reflect narratives that need to be included and recognised within any truthful representation of the complex contemporary society in which we all move. Its challenge is to incorporate it into any blinkered definition of arts, literature and culture. This isn’t Mills & Boon or Conan The Barbarian, these are real life stories from the back streets of Teesside on the tip of a new Millennium.
Many thanks go to the other writers and artists involved:
- Billy Liar Inc
- Adrian Moule
- Pete Allen
- Anthony Sowerby
- Dave Young