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Exhibition shows how reformers left their mark on Tyneside; STREETS NAMES REFLECT OUR HISTORY.

Byline: Tony Henderson Reporter scoop.sundaysun@ncjmedia.co.uk

FOR two winters it was a life on the road for Damien Wootten.

The documentary and arts photographer visited more than 20 locations in the North East to document the socialist heritage of the region.

Starting in autumn 2014, he began picturing the streets, roads, terraces, crescents and closes named after socialist leaders, radicals and reformers.

The sheer scale of industrial output which characterised the North East also produced a powerful brand of politics as working people sought a better society.

Damien, 50, who lives in Gateshead, reflected on how the grassroots zeal for reform which led to the advances such as the Welfare State and the NHS contrasted with the present perception of career politicians and PR spin.

Also venturing into Yorkshire, Cumbria, Staffordshire and Scotland, he took hundreds of photographs of streets and roads called after figures from Lenin and Marx to the 14th century leader of the Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler.

Most were on council housing estates which had been built as part of the post-war drive to provide decent and affordable homes.

He recorded around 60 names and a selection of his images make up his exhibition titled The Radical Road on show at Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland until January 7. It also includes pictures of books and literature which Damien has collected on the topic.

"I primarily photographed streets in the North East from Northumberland to Teesside as that's were most of the streets named after socialist and radical figures were. Names like Labour leader Kier Hardie kept popping up," said Damien.

"Together, the streets and literature serve as enduring symbols of socialist ideas and values within Britain's history.

"I made the visits in winter primarily so the street signs weren't obscured by leaves."

First port of call was the former mining village of Chopwell in Gateshead.

He pictured the village's E D Morel Terrace, named after the Labour politician, anti-colonialist and staunch opponent of the First World War and Marx Terrace, after Karl Marx who published his Communist Manifesto in 1848.

Damien said: "I wanted to say something about a time when politics were based on communities and it felt like it really mattered. A lot of mining communities were politically very active and people were involved in politics in a big way.

"It felt like the political past was being forgotten but that the socialist past could still be seen in the street names.

"Those names were mostly to be found on council house estates. Private estates are usually called after plants and trees."

When he started the project, he felt that this contrasted with modern politics which focused on the centre ground with little difference between the parties.

But in the lead up to the last general election, he photographed the crowds who turned out for the visits of Jeremy Corbyn to the region.

"There seemed to be people from all walks of life and all ages there," he said.

"The project commemorates and celebrates the political past but it is also about creating a debate and inviting people to think about what we have now and perhaps take for granted.

"The NHS is slowly being undermined and one day people may wake up and find that the Welfare State isn't there anymore.

"It is a reminder to people to be politically aware.

"As Britain moves into a new era of change and uncertainty, the work urges the viewer to first look back before looking forward."

Street names pictured by Damien include: Attlee Terrace, Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, Northumberland.

Clement Attlee, Labour politician who was Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951 and presided over a radical agenda of social reform that led to the establishment of the Welfare State.

Lenin Terrace, Stanley, County Durham.

Vladimir Lenin Russian revolutionary and political theorist who played a leading role in the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

William Morris Avenue, Highfield, Rowlands Gill.

William Morris, textile designer, novelist and socialist activist associated with the British Arts and Crafts Movement.

He founded the Socialist League in 1884, publishing his influential socialist utopian novel News from Nowhere in 1890.

Bondfield Gardens, Ellen Wilkinson Estate, Gateshead.

Margaret Bondfield, first female cabinet minister. In 1943, she was a member of the committee which published a report highlighting the extent of inner-city poverty. Ellen Wilkinson was Labour MP for Jarrow and a prominent figure in the 1936 Jarrow March. Attlee appointed her as Minister of Education.

Ruskin Avenue, Ashington, Northumberland.

John Ruskin: art critic, social thinker and reformer, who published his critique of capitalism Unto This Last in 1860.

Keir Hardie Crescent, Middlesbrough.

James Keir Hardie. When the Parliamentary Labour Party was formed in 1900, he became its first leader and was the first working class socialist MP.

Henderson Gardens and Cole Gardens, Gateshead.

Arthur Henderson was the first Labour cabinet minister, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934 and served three separate terms as leader of the Labour Party.

He was born in Glasgow, but the family moved to Newcastle where Henderson worked at Robert Stephenson's works from the age of 12.

G. D. H. Cole, political theorist, writer and historian whose interest in socialism was prompted by reading William Morris's novel News from Nowhere.

Silkin Way, Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

Lewis Silkin, Minister of Town and Country Planning 1945-50 who piloted the New Towns Act. Housing was an area in which the Labour government felt it could achieve social unity.

Webb Avenue, Murton, County Durham.

Sidney and Beatrice Webb, members of the Fabian Society, socialists, economists and reformers.

Bruce Glasier Terrace, Shotton Colliery, County Durham.

John Bruce Glasier, member of the Socialist League who succeeded Keir Hardie as chairman of the Independent Labour Party in 1900.

Cobbett Crescent, South Shields.

William Cobbett, farmer and Member of Parliament, who died in 1835. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers. Best known for his 1830 book Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

A J Cook's Cottages, Highfield, Rowlands Gill.

A J Cook was general secretary of the Miner's Federation of Great Britain from 1924 to 1931.

Jack Lawson Terrace, Wheatley Hill, County Durham.

Jack Lawson, miner, trade unionist and Labour politician, who campaigned for the minimum wage for pitmen, and was a prominent figure in Durham during the Miners' Strike of 1912.

CAPTION(S):

| Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known as Lenin

| Photographer Damien Wootten's, right, exhibition - pictured is, clockwise, Attlee Street, Newbiggin-bythe-Sea; Ruskin Avenue, Ashington; and Lenin Terrace, Stanley
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Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 31, 2017
Words:1088
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