A little bit of problem solving left to do... how to make this hang correctly, after my accurate but useless measuring (I should have just done it by eye)... maybe I'll go with the earlier option of folding the piece and laying it atop a plinth... obscuring parts to invoke curiosity and interest, referring to the issue itself; the council brushing the seacoalers under the carpet so to speak, and making things difficult.
Excerpts from my conclusion/evaluation: 'When I started this personal project, stemming from the mapping group discourses, I identified a number of 'contested territories' in my local area; most of which were within a 3 mile radius in the Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Port Clarence areas. My further, more focused research on seacoaling and the councils preventative measures of it, took me also to Seaham and Sunderland, a little further north and to (recorded) conversations with locals of some notoriety about their personal experience of seacoaling;
'demonstrate (ing) that the more specific, local instance can often provide the most significant illumination of the human predicament' (Amber Productions, 2014)
Seacoaling was a hard, hard way of life for people trying to scrape an honest (?) living and get through times of poverty and, in all weathers; rain, sleet, snow, biting winds, and twice a day, often in the dark. Heavy manual labour carried out by both men and women, and often helped by their children. A longstanding tradition, it has now become essentially eradicated by local Borough Councils...though one must ask 'what harm does it do?'
Q: Why did Hartlepool Council landscape the Seaton Carew promenade? Pave the small access road (used for the lifeboat and diggers/sand movers/smoothers/emergency vehicles)? Why are there big black bollards? And signs saying, 'No this, no that'?
A: To stop unwanted access by vehicles, and in terms of the seacoalers, noise pollution and unsightly views brought about by their trucks and to help make the beaches safe and clean for all the public to enjoy.
Don't seacoalers help keep the beaches 'clean' by removing the black coal from the beaches?
Although this local issue may seem a small thing, one that may not matter to many in the grand scheme of things, this shoreline IS a site for contestation and could be said to be a microcosm of the bigger, wider issue… it brings about questions and thoughts of injustice, unfairness, rights, ownership, what is truly public, freedom, barriers, borders, territories, memory, and so on.'
A meandering, stitched line of washed up seacoal, paused just as it hits the edge of the water, inferring the shape of the coastline, that has been carried in on the waves glints just off centre within this piece, and is of course it’s focal point. The ‘coal’ becomes a hidden treasure (as it is to those who collected it) just under the surface when the fabric is folded or glimpsed now and again as the silk moves gently on a (sea) breeze when hung. A hand-painted and over-dyed ground of a digitally printed photograph portraying the measures put in place by the council to prevent beach access by the seacoalers, contests the embroidery; in colour, depth, permanence, richness and importance.