Welcome to this uniquely collaborative and tactile exhibition, celebrating the transformation and re-opening of Sunderland’s fondly remembered Hills Bookshop.
Hills has re-opened as a new multi-use arts centre, and this project honours the building’s legacy; from its very first opening on Christmas Eve in 1852 until today.
At the physical exhibition, visitors were invited to read a collection of manilla envelopes, tacked to a cork wall. Inside each envelope; a memory, a piece of poetry, or prose, or creative expression; all which have been collected and sculpted from a series of creative writing workshops which I ran with participants, exploring ideas of memories, sound, books, bookshops, and the past and future of the high street.
“A great few weeks being able to share written work for the first time without fear of ridicule was a great positive experience. [I was] able to share memories and actually put something in writing and sharing that which as a dyslexic was a new experience as words are not my friend. Jay was very supportive.”​​​​​​​
From these stories, and with the invaluable contribution of the voices of Maryam Almahameed, Hester Dowling, Jo Howell, Daniel Richardson, and James Whitman, sound artist and audio producer Jay Sykes has created an audio response which mixes these stories into a piece of responsive digital art. Featuring music by Omri Smadar.​​​​​​ 
“It was lovely to be with other creative people socially - being inside Hills, meeting others.. Also, setting aside time away from my work to be creative for its own sake.”
“It was very fulfilling, I'd love to do more of it! Super fun experience and under guidance specifically the whole process was really smooth. I had a great time!”

This is Jay’s second piece of original work commissioned for Norfolk Street Arts; their first being ‘Rainbow Echoes’ in 2020, collecting and entwining the voices and experiences of people during lockdown into an intricate venue-specific arts piece.
Hills Are Alive is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and managed by Norfolk Street Arts CIC. Norfolk Street Arts is a not for profit aimed at developing artists and independent spaces in Sunderland using culture and heritage as a vehicle for change.
Press play on the video above, beautifully constructed by Christie Chan & Rory Williams at Art Matters Now, to see Jay and participant Hester Dowling share more about the creative writing workshops.
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