The winner of this year’s Sid Chaplin prize is India Gerritsen for her essay about people’s memory of Newcastle landscapes and how they affect their consciousness. India’s essay: “Memory Lingers Here”: Are Newcastle’s Monuments Sites of Collective Memory? will be published in next year’s North East History.
For a second year we were delighted to have Grahame Chaplin, Sid’s grandson, to present the prize. Here is his speech.
It’s once again a pleasure to be here this evening to present the annual Sid Chaplin prize, and to thank the Society for continuing to remember and honour my Grandfather in such an apposite manner. As some of you will recall both Sid and his wife Rene enjoyed all that the Society offered.
The Sid Chaplin prize is awarded for a piece of academic writing, so it differs, by definition, to the majority of Sid’s published work, and although I am not on the judging panel, I am grateful to that cadre for their work, and twice now I can see they have not lost sight of Sid’s underlying motivation to write. You see my Granda was driven to write and record stories of people and place that he thought were verging on extinction, but more than that they were people and places, and a way of life that he knew intimately and undoubtedly held close to his heart. And he was right to do so, because today I would say his legacy in a plethora of words both entertains, but importantly educates us all as well.
So turning to the work that tonight claims the Sid Chaplin prize: It’s a fascinating piece exploring the relationship between, people, their memory or collective memory and well known and less well known monuments within the City of Newcastle, and how over time the landscape those monuments occupy can change consciousness of the public to purpose and history of the very monument.
What the work makes clear – it seems to me – is that the people regardless of their knowledge of the purpose or original intent of the monument was that they are fiercely defensive of the presence, I think because over time those monuments, like bridges and buildings become intrinsic to place.
In the 1960’s Sid wrote of his first visit to Newcastle as a young teenager, not all that long after the Tyne Bridge opened, the trip from Durham, most likely by bus must have been around 1930/32.
“I stood on the Gateshead side of this top-heavy bridge and looked down into the mighty trough. On one side was the little wonder of a swing bridge and high above it was the great High Level……That was one view. The other was from the heart of the City and a scamper up the one hundred and fifty one steps of Grey’s Monument. Up the hollow heart of reform I went running and came out at the top to see the merry go round of the city. Because I hadn’t learned to swear I remember saying to myself ‘By Gum – I’d give two years from the back end of my life to come and live in the heart of all this”
And there we have the link to Tonight’s winner and Sid’s work – the academic exploration of the philosophy behind the architectural landmarks that make a landscape that in turn creates a community.
And now I’d like you to warmly congratulate the winner of the 2019 Sid Chaplin prize as I invite India Gerritsen to come and accept this trophy.