Creatrix in residence

Walltown, Northumberland, 2021

“Built to guard the wild northern frontier of the Roman Empire in AD122, Hadrian’s Wall was more than just a barricade; it was a vibrant and multi-cultural occupied military zone of mile-castles, barracks, ramparts, forts and settlements; sprawling almost 80 miles in length from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. The building of the Wall required vision and an outstanding level of engineering skill. Set amongst the wild beauty of Cumbrian and Northumbrian landscapes, it still impresses today and stands as a testimony to the power and reach of the mighty Roman Empire. “ Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, Hadrian’s Wall Country website.

2022 marks the 1900th anniversary of the beginning of the construction of Hadrian’s Wall.
I think I must have become aware of the wall while growing up in Newburn not far from Walbottle which boast remnants of the wall. Within the landscaped grounds of my high school, then being Walbottle High School, now called Walbottle Technology College are broken weathered stones, grey and mossy, clinging together on a lump of history. I viewed Hadrian’s Wall as some part of history far removed from my history. And really far from reach, even though it was on my doorstep.

It wasn’t until much later in life once I’d moved to go to London and come back to teach in the North-East back at my old high school, did I actively research about the wall and found out that the Roman soldiers who built and manned the wall were not Romans per se but were men drawn from the Roman Empire which included France, Belgium, Spain but also Romania, Iraq, Belgium, Syria and North Africa. These were hidden stories for me and then with this new found knowledge, Hadrian’s Wall became part of my diverse history and heritage, something I was part of and could claim as part of my belonging here in the region.

Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival celebrates the creation of the wall as well as commemorates 1900 years of history of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS), recognised locally, nationally, and internationally, as a cultural and historical asset of Outstanding Universal Value to humanity.

Throughout 2022, a programme of events and activities, delivered along the length of the wall, are organised to celebrates 1900 years of Hadrian’s Wall.

I was approached to be involved in the festivities. A walk or two attracting a diverse audience and participants to the wall was mentioned. But this was expected and assumed maybe. I wanted to do/ to be more. I wanted to do more in terms of diversifying the activities as well as exploring my practice.

I became the self-appointed Creatrix in Residence for Hadrian’s Wall. Later I gained official recognition by being included on the events website for the festival.

Hadrian’s Wall is my ‘home’ heritage site. I’ve known it for over forty years. I’ve walked parts of it, camped along it, and introduced different groups of people to it. This page is my space to explore this residency. Call them field notes, unedited musings and reflections, for a commission to journey from Wallsend to Ravenglass (73 miles/118km of Wall, and 140 miles/215km in total).

Beginning in April 2022 and running until April 2023, I aim to share the public events here as well as the behind the scenes workings of a residency and creativity.


Well Women’s Walking Workshop, 2020

Inclusion in the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival is open to anyone who wishes to celebrate the 1900 years of the building of Hadrian’s Wall anniversary. There is an official form that needs to be completed and then you get the official seal of approval to begin. Then the event or activity is included on the festival‘s website.

This is what I wrote in my application, really not knowing what I was going to write when I came to the page:

Activity Description (long version): “The Creative Way is a process of gathering the bones and then breathing life into them”.

Taken from the text, Creatrix: she who makes by Lucy H Pearce, The Creatrix in Residence of Hadrian’s Wall aims to explore two vital components within this project.

The first is to be like a Palaeontologist, digging down into the different social, cultural, political and physical strata of Hadrian’s Wall to unearth the hidden bones of stories yet to be told a round creative women and people of colour. The second it to getting down to the bones of the creative process itself; documenting the magic that happens when an individual decides to accept the invitation to embark on the journey of creativity, into the labyrinth of the bodymind.

“For women poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. […] Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.” Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider

Running parallel will be a shifting through the bones; the bones of lives from the past, lived lived along Hadrian’s Wall along with the bones of creativity so a more solid and understandable shape will emerge around the process of owning the power to create and transform.

From April, for a year, the Creatrix in Residence of Hadrian’s Wall will claim space and time at different places, sites and events for a minimum of two Wednesdays per month. In addition to these visitations, public walks, workshops and creative events will take place to share stories, practice and the Creative Way.

Activity Description (short version): Creatrix in Residence of Hadrian’s Wall is a experimental, experiential creative project exploring the strata of life, shifting through the bones in connection to the Wall as well as The Creative Way itself.

May 22, 2022 – WHAT IS CREATRIX?

When asked what I do, for a few years now I’ve replied by saying, ‘I’m Creatrix.

The bio I send out when requested reads as: “I’m Creatrix : she who makes, with a practice which manifests through poetry, storytelling, image and the unfolding histories of Black people. I engage audiences around Black women’s voices and bodies, black feminism, ecology and memory, nature and wellbeing, trauma and healing . I advocate for Black women’s voices, facilitating national and international creative workshops and retreats in the landscape, encouraging and supporting women on their journey of remembrance back to their bodies and authentic selves.”

But what does ‘Creatrix’ mean as it’s not a term that is in wide circulation? I know when I use it, it raises questions in others. Some are brave enough to ask what does mean, while others are happy the remain in ignorance and apply whatever labels to me they wish.

Creatrix: she who makes is what I call myself because the labels that others have put on me, or even as I’ve tried to define myself in the past, are just not good enough, or expansive enough. I’m more than just a writer, or artist, facilitator or teacher. I’m so much more than what I do in the world or produce. I’m more so interested in the person I am, who I be.

Creatrix originally is defined as a writer, an authoress. Therefore female. But now, the term Creatrix has come to mean, for me, anything that and anyone who is creative. My whole life is a creation, and so is yours. How I express my creativity is multifaceted and diverse. Yes I show up at the page to visual journal every day, but I’m also creative when I decide how I’m going to spend my time each day, what I wear, what I eat, and how I show up in the world.

Creativity is not the exclusive realm of writers, artists or musicians or dancers. I believe that everyone is creative but due to the society and culture we live in we are socialised into repressing it, conditioned into devaluing our natural, innate creativity and in the process move further away from our true selves. Being creative, consciously creative is being in communion with the Self, again another practice which is not really valued or taught within this culture ( white supremacy culture, I’ll add). 

Me using and adopting Creatrix to describe myself to others is me reclaiming agency, it’s taking back control and power over how I’m defined, labeled or seen by others. I’m a person made up of many parts, personalities and responsibilities, skills and capabilities. And I bring them all to every situation/experiences/ activity I partake in. I attempt to be whole. I’m becoming whole.

Showing up more and more whole, more and more in my own power and authenticity is a practice. Being creative is a practice. It’s my constant reminder of who I be, not what I do, but who I be.

“A Creatrix is not simply a performer or entertainer – though these are the elements of what she does – she is a dedicated shaper of consciousness and energy, a culture weaver, a dreamer and midwife of new worlds. She is an asker of uncomfortable questions and a liver of taboos.” Creatrix: she who makes by Lucy H Pearce

15 June 2022 – Walking Out

Last week saw me visiting The Sill, The National Landscape Discovery Centre, for a meeting and then walking out from there, up to Steel Rigg.

Steel Rigg, Peel Crags, Hadrian’s Wall

Once up there, I took the steep and winding steps up to Peel Crags, for the view, as well to take a walk along the wall, hoping to loop back around Crag Lough and Peat Rigg. I know this part of the wall probably the most, as it was here that I did my Lowland Expedition Leadership trainings and assessment in 2019.

Of course the people I passed along the way didn’t know this. I wonder if they did know it, if they still would have offered their unasked for advice or warnings or words of encouragement? As I think these fellow walkers took one look at me and assumed I was ‘a stranger in a strange land’ as I didn’t witness them responding this way to other walkers along the wall.

This was a bit disheartening and frustrating to be fair, as I retreat to nature, to the surrounding countryside as a way of forgetting myself, of getting away from my multiple, mixed identities to just be. I’ll be honest, it has taken a practice and is still a work in progress to feel comfortable outside walking with/in my body, which so obviously stands out from the norm. However, being reminded of this fact by other people’s reactions to my presence outside does not help the process.

Milecastle 39, Hadrian Wall

I wonder what those who looked like me experienced when they were manning the wall all those many years ago? I wonder if they were being told advice by their fellow soldiers how to walk and be, or if through close proximity to each other, they developed a sense of understanding and connection based on trust and experience rather than ignorance and assumption?

What’s been happening along the Wall? – 22 August 2022

When a dear friend came to stay over the summer, it was a great excuse to go exploring along the Wall. I went back to favourite places like Arbeia and visited new places like Haltwhistle and Chollerford. These trips were basically turn ups and sees, soak up the atmosphere and find out cool facts and experiences.
What I loved about our trip to Arbeia is that there is a museum on the inside and outside as the runes of the barracks are laid bare within the landscape. A landscape which was once open fields ideal for grazing cattle but which is now full of terraced housing. It’s unreal really how this area has been built upon over the centuries and how this historical site laid buried under it all for so long.

A mixing of ideas ans cultures – 22 September 2022

The Roman’s were not stupid. They knew about invading a country and where the best possible places of was to set up camp, build barracks and create settlements. And to build a wall to protect all of their advancements and wealth. Ingenuous really. At Segedunum Roman Fort, there’s an exhibition on at the movement as part of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival around what actually went into building the wall, how it was made possible. Who were part of the building parties, where they got the stone from and how they shaped it the stone to make an impressive defensive construction. It was a mixture of force and craftsmanship, as well as a mixture of cultures to create the Wall.

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