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  • Monday 10am - 4pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 4pm
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  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
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  • Wednesday 9.30am - 5pm
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More information

Opening times

  • Monday 10am - 4pm
  • Tuesday 10am - 4pm
  • Wednesday 10am - 4pm
  • Thursday 10am - 4pm
  • Friday 10am - 4pm
  • Saturday 10am - 4pm
  • Sunday 10am - 4pm
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Close Knit was inspired by Bedlington-based crafter and decision maker Carole Fife’s lockdown project ‘Tales of the Toys – 100 days of lockdown‘. During lockdown Carole created a series of theatrical window scenes from a cast of home-made characters, for the people of Bedlington to enjoy as they walked past.

Background

This project is in response to the creative storytelling brief inspired by Bedlington-based crafter and decision maker Carole Fife’s lockdown project ‘Tales of the Toys – 100 days of lockdown‘. During lockdown Carole created a series of theatrical window scenes from a cast of home-made characters, for the people of Bedlington to enjoy as they walked past.

This involved creating daily theatrical scenes in her front window with a cast of home-made characters, including peg and spoon people, sock puppets and hand-made teddy bears. The scenes were a combination of fictional and real-life events and every day the stage was set out for the people of Bedlington to enjoy as they walked past. The project attracted a local following and was also regularly included in the Facebook group, Bedlingtonshire Matters. 

Of the project, Carole says: 

This project began as a means of coping with isolation and avoiding depression. I knitted four teddies, and when someone suggested I put them in the window I decided that they wouldn’t just sit there, they would do something. So I started 100 days of activities during which the teddies were joined by four socks, six pegs, and four spoons (who were running a pizza delivery service from my kitchen!) The toys developed personalities and learned to work together so that no one was missed out and their lives reflected much that was going on in the real world at the time.” 

In May 2020 Carole volunteered to collaborate with an artist to conduct a research and development phase of this project. This led to her working in partnership with professional animator Sheryl Jenkins to create a short animated film “The Pegs and the Pizzas”. 

Animator Sheryl Jenkins, describes the collaborative process of making the film: 

“Carole and I eventually decided on one of her stories that we thought would be a good one to try in animation. We had a good chat about Carole’s vision for how it should look, and she storyboarded the scenes. She packed up all of the characters and sets that I needed, and I took them away to animate.” 

It’s been an interesting process. Carole and I had limited in person contact so had to look at alternative ways to work together. Carole has developed a whole, wonderful world of characters and stories that echo our community, and that has been fun to dip in to. She still has so many other stories that we’d like to adapt for animation.” 

Carole and Shery’s lockdown collaboration led to the development of the full project brief and open call for artists. The decision making group shortlisted and conducted a series of virtual interviews before appointing artist and documentary film maker Amanda Loomes, sound artist and musician Alison Carlier and animator Sheryl Jenkins. They will work with people based in South East Northumberland to develop the project ‘Close Knit’, an animated documentary film, aiming to show the richness and diversity of life in South East Northumberland.

What's happened so far....

The first phase of the project included 11 workshops (three in person and eight online) focusing on a variety of artforms
including oral history, sound and animation.

“It’s been great to have a purpose and discover that I could do some technical things that at
first I thought I couldn’t manage.”
Animation Workshop feedback

Sheryl also worked closely with the newly formed Bedlington animation group, to experiment creatively, develop their skills, and begin the task of transforming the collected interviews into animation. You can watch a short video of one of the online sessions below:

Collecting stories

We invited people from across South East Northumberland to recommend their ‘Off the Beaten Track’ favourite local places and connected stories for Alison Carlier and Amanda Loomes to visit on their first trip to the area.

A range of people were interviewed, and some of their stories will form part of the animated documentary. The interviewees included volunteers from Ashington Community Woods, a member of the Newbiggin Genealogy Society and the former owner of Humford Mill Swimming Baths.

Whilst in Newbiggin, and in keeping with the title of the film, Alison also spoke to the owner of Marion’s Wool Shop, who told her about the ‘Ganseys’ she makes. Gansey knits were once worn by fishermen along the Northumberland coast and are making something of a comeback in the knitting community! Historically, they had their own distinctive design of intricate stitches and patterns which were committed to memory rather than paper.

What next?

The artists will continue to collaborate with the people who took part in the phase 1 workshops to consolidate the ideas and stories collected so far and develop a strong and cohesive creative direction for the animated film.

The Bedlington animation group continue to meet fortnightly, both in person and online and work independently in between sessions. Two additional groups have also been working with Sheryl Jenkins – the first is made up of over 50 Northumberland College students studying ICT and the second involves the refugee community based in
Cramlington.

The final film will be completed in May 2022 and will premiere on Friday 10th June 2022. There will also be some public screening events throughout the summer and an opportunity to watch the film online for free.