On May 14th 2019, Sunderland Road in Horden was transformed in the middle of the night by a pop up arts event for 1 day only.

The residents of Horden woke up on Tuesday 14th May to find Sunderland Road filled with a series of unique art installations that turned bus shelters into a variety of rooms ranging from a social club to a kitchen. Since September 2018 artists Sally Southern and Nicola Lynch have been working across East Durham primarily with people aged 55+ to capture the magic of everyday life by looking at people’s stories.

Artists, Sally and Nicola began working with groups and individuals across East Durham delivering visual art workshops to local residents, many of whom had never previously engaged with the arts before. If These Walls Could Talk worked with local people in a broad range of settings including care homes and community centres and has involved groups ranging from Tai Chi to Rag Rugging. Hundreds of older people from across East Durham were involved during the workshop process and the participants contributed in a number of ways such as telling their stories, making clippy mats, allowing their homes to be photographed to making art that was displayed in the final exhibition.


The event on the 14th May saw all the participants stories, artwork and photographs come together in an art trail of installations sited in bus shelters along Sunderland Road in Horden.  The work featured a mixture of text, audio and imagery inspired by the stories collected from across the former mining community and included original pieces of furniture and crafts created by the local people involved. The warmth of the participants’ stories and their enthusiasm to be a part of the project resulted in artwork that was touching, personal and often humorous. Additional workshops were developed to the request of the participants. Celia Bryce worked with residents from Langley House to create original songs that were performed on the day. Annette Poulson worked with The Ark and Horden Hub House to create ceramic tea-sets and plates that were inspired by participants favourite foods, hobbies, local history and stories, which were exhibited in The Ark’s window. Artist’s Sally and Nicola then transformed the various participants’ artwork into installations that represented rooms and were fitted overnight into five bus shelters in a surprise pop-up event. The installations in the five bus shelters represented elements that were important aspects of the participant’s everyday lives;

  • The Social Club – Inspired by the bingo and singers at the ‘Afternoon Out’ workshops at Acre Rigg Social Club, the bus shelter was transformed into a social club – for many participants’ they stated that this space was the social heart of the community. Throughout the day there was impromptu performances of local ‘turns’ and even a game of bingo!
  • Home Sweet Horden – This installation was developed from the participants’ joy of traditional crafts that you do in your home and in community groups. It took the traditional cross stitch sampler and played with scale and the participants made their own super sized tapestry.
  • The Kitchen Table – This bus shelter was transformed into the traditional home kitchen. Ceramic plates and objects were specially made by local people and the images depicted on them showcased the tales and stories that are often shared around the kitchen table.
  • The Clock – The If These Walls Could Talk project looked at the habits, routines and everyday life of the participants involved. A giant clock was made that used the words of local people to describe their day to day routines. There were objects within the shelter that were either photographed or given by local people that held a special meaning to them.
  • Lampshades – Installed in the bus shelter were working lampshades. These were all designed and created by local people. Each lampshade told a unique, personal story and reflects the personality of its creator. Some reflect major events in life, some reflect on childhood, some are based on hobbies and some just portray humorous situations!

8 - Clock Bus ShelterCredit Richard Kenworthy

The trail ran the length of Sunderland Road. The event also included arts activities taking place at the Ark, bingo at Horden Labour Club, free refreshments and entertainment, as well as free accessible transport for those unable to walk the route themselves. Local acclaimed film-maker Maxy Neil Bianco also premiered his new documentary film ‘Precious Things’ featuring participants from If These Walls Could Talk and the stories that were integral to the project. There were around 30 volunteers on the day who were on hand to provide information and maps for those wanting to walk the trail. The event was free to attend and everyone from young families to older adults visited throughout the day, with almost six thousand local people from across East Durham seeing the installations.

“This was an amazing experience for our Community, as well as giving local people a unique opportunity to experience high quality art this is a great way of putting Horden on the map for all the right reasons.”

Malcolm Fallow, CEO of East Durham Trust

“Superb day full of wonderful and moving stories and beautiful artwork.”

“It was cool because nothing else happens around here”

“A piece of magic today”

“Fabulous, well prepared event. Loved the idea it just appeared one morning”

On 7th August participants of If These Walls Could Talk came together to celebrate the project and reflect on the day that totally transformed their village.

The showcase event reflected on the day in May that saw Horden Colliery host a series of major art installations in local bus shelters. A free celebration event was held on Wednesday 7th August at Horden Welfare Centre as a thank you to local people. The day included a screening of a professionally produced film by Maxy Bianco called Precious Things, which documented the lives of older people in East Durham. There was also a photographic exhibition, the distribution of commemorative items from the day and arts activities. Over 120 people from who were involved in the project attended the events, many of whom were able to collect pieces of artwork they had created as part of the project.

Malcolm Fallow, CEO of East Durham Trust who leads the East Durham Creates project said “This was our opportunity to say thank you to everyone who was involved in this groundbreaking project and reflect on the potential impact art can make”.

Horden Parish Council worked in partnership with East Durham Creates to host this event.

Precious Things by Maxy Bianco

Precious Things is a specifically commissioned short film by artist Maxy Bianco. Maxy worked with Sally Southern and Nicola Lynch to create a film with the participants of the If These Walls Could Talk project. The film gives further insight into the lives of local people aged 55 and over and the magic of the everyday.

“As well as a physical landscape East Durham has a psychic landscape within its own archaeological layers of memories, a palimpsest of jumbled histories and resonances that echo through time. Precious Things is a voyage of discovery finding things as we move, everyday ephemera, history, geography. personal memory and a lyrical response to the spirit of place, creating a subtle, poetic, multi-layered ‘deep map’ of this magical, marginal place on the edge of England.

From the debris of mining that washes up on the shores of Horden every day, we follow to take in the bingo at the afternoon out club. This ageing population shares with us the items their memories are bound up in. An old Tai-Chi master taches is what it is to love.”