Swede Cecilia makes herself at home in Berwick

Cecilia Stenbom is Berwick's new artist in residence.
Cecilia Stenbom is Berwick's new artist in residence.
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SHE’S barely even set foot in the town, but Cecilia Stenbom already has a hunch she’s going to be massively inspired by her time in Berwick.

Last month she was unveiled as Berwick Visual Arts’ first artist in residence, providing her with the opportunity to work with the moving image to respond to the town and produce new work to be premiered during the Berwick Film and Media Arts festival in late September.

Cecilia is originally from Sweden and was based in Iceland and Finland, graduating from a course in Helsinki, before deciding to travel to Glasgow to do a Masters in Fine Art in 2003.

She is now based in Gateshead but having admired Berwick from a distance whilst passing through on a train and up close when she attended the Film Festival she was keen to apply for the artist in residence role.

“As I was already on the Film Festival mailing list I received an email about the role and others must have also had me in mind as I had the same email forwarded onto me from three or four others,” she told ‘The Guide’.

“Berwick is such a contained place but a very interesting one nonetheless. It is architecturally compelling and is extremely photogenic.

“With it being a small town it’s easier to get a grip on but at the same time it has so many interesting places that it’s going to be incredibly hard for me to select locations.

“I’ve only been here three days but I’m already filling my notebook with ideas.”

Cecilia’s proposal was selected from one of 70 submitted to Berwick Visual Arts, shortlisted in partnership with the Film Festival and Arts Council England.

Her submission took its inspiration from British crime dramas and the Nordic Noir genre in response to the Festival’s 2013 theme, ‘North by Northeast’, which explores our region’s historical, cultural and trade links with our neighbours across the North Sea.

”When putting my proposal together I sat down and thought about the similarities between the north east and Scandinavia. I would definitely say north east England and Scotland have more in common with Scandanavia that southern England.

“The north east seems to be more vulnerable when it comes to issues like the economy, education and health. The UK shares many of the same ideals although like Scandinavia the country is seeing cracks in some important areas.”

Cecilia admitted that the title of artist in residence for Berwick came with its fair share of pressure but she said that was all part and parcel of being in the arts world.

“Being in the world I choose to be in you quite often feel pressure,” she continued.

“I put a lot of it on myself. I begin every new piece of work with the ambition of making it my most interesting to date.

“Having visited the Film Festival I’m well aware of what a fantastic event it is and its reputation is growing all the time.

“I first submitted my proposal to the committee in October and was then asked to attend an interview in November along with the other shortlidted artists.

“I received a call that same afternoon to say I’d been selected and I was very chuffed! I’ve made sure I’ve cleared my diary so I can focus all my attention on the project.

“In some respects six months seems like no time at all but in the grand scheme of things it’s quite a luxurious time scale. I’m sure it will go quickly though!”

Cecilia will spend the early part of her residency getting a feel for Berwick and learning more about the town’s history and the stories behind some of the structures she’s already grown fond of.

Her task is to have two pieces of moving art ready in time for this year’s Film Festival and she already has a clear vision of what she’d like to come up with.

“My work will be based on crime and the perceived notions of crime,” Cecilia explained.

“There are some strong cultural connections between the UK and Scandinavia when its comes to crime; largely a shared passion for crime fiction.

“Crime fiction and dramas have been popular in the UK for a long time and they have really taken off in Scandinavia in the past decade or so with one of the most popular ones ‘The Killing’ becoming very popular over here.

“I want to produce an invented fictional crime drama set in Berwick. I want to examine the underlying socio-economic motives for a crime.

“I’m envisaging that the film will last around 10 minutes and for the second part of my project I want to host a series of discussions about crime in Berwick.

I want to juxtapose what crimes people think are most common in Berwick against the facts. I will make audio recordings of the discussions and then turn these into a moving image piece.”

Cecilia introduced herself to Berwick last Thursday evening with a talk at The Maltings and she’s hoping to see a lot more of locals.

She is looking for volunteers to come along to her crime discussions which she plans to hold next month.

Any one interested in taking part should email berwickvisualarts@maltingsberwick.co.uk.