A doughty champion of his local culture.(Poet Tom Hubbard)Your performance at the city hall was soooooooooo good! Christoph thought it was excellent! (Carolyn)


strangeness on the shore

Tamzin Lewis The Journal

Poet Keith Armstrong and conceptual artist Rolf Wojciechowski welcomed the tide into their collaboration Out to Sea, as Tamzin Lewis discovered.


If you happened to see a man shouting poetry into a loud-hailer as North Sea breakers swept over enormous wooden letters positioned at the tideline, you encountered Keith Armstrong and Rolf Wojciechowski.

As part of a year-long project, the writer and artist toured the beaches of Spittal, Low Newton, Druridge, Blyth, Tynemouth and Marsden.

At each site Rolf constructed a 40-metre long poetic text-sculpture made of marine plywood. The wooden words were positioned into wet sand using metal stakes. The text was designed to move, disintegrate and interact with the tide. As waves washed over the separating words, Keith used a loud-hailer to broadcast his poem North Sea Fever, written especially for the project.

The public art project was photographed by Rolf and students at Tyne Metropolitan College. An exhibition of photos, video and poems by Keith, and also writings by artist Kurt Schwitters and writer Algernon Charles Swinburne, toured the North-East. Readings by Keith were linked to folk music, including Northumbrian pipes, at some venues.

Keith, of Whitley Bay, says: "The project was atmospheric and unique. Performing poetry on beaches certainly opened up possibilities, it was quite a surreal experience. I was initially nervous about performing with a loud-hailer in windswept conditions, but the loud-hailer has now become an indispensable tool!"

He adds: "I have lived by the sea for most of my life but I have never encountered it at such close quarters. Working on this project has inspired me to physically connect my poetry with the landscape and seascape of the Northumbrian coastline."

Rolf, originally from Berlin moved to the region seven years ago and lives in North Shields.

He created the wooden sculpture using the word `tideline' as a centrepiece surrounded by lines from Keith's poem North Sea Fever.

Rolf says: "It was a journey and the interaction between the sculpture and the tide was exciting to experience, as the conditions at the beach were always very different."

The exhibition visited St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay, Globe Gallery, North Shields, South Shields Central Library, Maltings Arts Centre, Berwick, Amble Library & Amble Development Trust Foyer, Druridge Bay Visitor Centre Observation Deck, Blyth Library and Morpeth Library.

It swells and welters and swings,

The pulse of the tide of the sea.

Let the wind shake our flag like a feather.

Like the plumes of the foam of the sea!

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Drifting in moonlight,

the dunes sing their songs.

Wings of old battles

fly all night long.

Cry of the seagulls,

curse of the ghosts;

aches of dead warriors

scar this old coast.

Keith Armstrong

the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur