Writer Jasmine Irving @ Coeliac On The Road and Photographer Jonjames Oxberry Hogg @ Hogg Photography are the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributors of this social documentary photography. From project ‘Northern Soul Unwrapped’.
‘It’s grim up North’ is a well-known saying in England but there’s always more to a stereotype. I spoke to some young Geordies, passionate about their roots and enthusiastic about their personal creative projects. They say the North East is thriving with culture, a strong identity and community engagement.
The North East has a history of mining, producing 25% of Britain’s coal in 1913. Working class communities were hit hard by Thatcher’s cuts involving closures of mines, lost jobs in the steel industry and the privatisation of many public services.
Youth unemployment (between the ages of 16-25) has been rising rapidly over the last decade and the North East has the highest level of youth unemployment across the UK (18.3%). A report by the Prince’s Trust reveals that the number of unemployed 16-25 year olds claiming benefits in the North East has gone up nearly 300% in the past 5 years.
However, despite how difficult it can be to find a job in the North East, or to follow your own passions whilst concentrating on simply getting by, young people are creating opportunities for themselves. I spoke to some creatives from Newcastle Upon Tyne to learn more about what it means to follow your dreams and how the North has had a unique impact on their projects.
Georgia Porja, 23 is a singer songwriter. She performs originals in Newcastle and has got up onstage at festivals like The Secret Garden Party and Boomtown. She also works with a local project called ‘Crossings’ teaching refugee children to sing, aiming to unite people through music. She says music is important to her because “It’s really healing, it’s a way for me to express my emotions. Writing helps me process and it feels good for people in the audience to connect with words I wrote.” Although it can be a struggle trying to make money through her art, Georgia says “you just have to take every opportunity and believe in yourself.” She’s studying with the Sage at the moment, a renowned centre for musical education and has found Newcastle a great place to grow up because of the “inspirational, friendly people.”
Matty De Vere, 22, runs his own ethical eco-friendly skateboard business called Big Aye Skateboards. He uses nontoxic glues and varnishes, hand finishing the boards himself. It started off as part of his college project and turned into the company he has now with his own workshop. Matty says “skateboarding has been a passion of mine since I was super little so to have the opportunity to make and skate my own skateboards is an amazing feeling.” He reckons you’ve just “got to crack on and focus” to get to where you want to be and he appreciates Newcastle because “it’s full of like-minded creatives, a proper nice little community.” Matty is planning a trip to Jordan to teach refugees to skate and build boards with a non-profit volunteer run organisation called Make Life Skate Life.
Jaye Tinkler, 23 is a hand poke tattooist at GeoTribe studios. She works without machines specialising in traditional dot work and geometric patterns. She had to work really hard through an unpaid apprenticeship and dedicate her time to a lot of practice before becoming qualified to work in a studio in the centre of town. Jaye said that anyone with a dream “just has to talk to the right people, people who are doing well in that field of work because they all started in the same place and most would be more than happy to give advice. You have to accept the highs and lows and not give up.” What she loves about the North-East is that “there’s a good selection of artists up here. It’s a collective of inspiring people.”
Jody Irving, 27, is a rapper from the rap duo ‘Trinity Lo-Fi’ with Louie Zico, 23. Jody describes their music as “reggae/hip hop that promotes spiritual and emotional wellbeing whilst exposing the facade of infinite growth capitalist society.” He’s dedicated to the process of writing, recording, making music videos and doing everything that needs to be done to create music and get it out there. He works as a tree surgeon to fund his music-making, and has found Newcastle to be “a great inspiration.” Jody hopes to travel and collaborate with other artists. He says that “art is only possible without fear and with focused action. It starts as a thought but must be actualized with graft and belief.”
By Photographer Jonjames Oxberry Hogg:
By Writer Jasmine Irving: