From Nagasaki to the North East: Creative Writing at The Oriental Museum

I love is to visit inspiring places.   They are wonderful environment not only to fire up my own writing but also to help others unlock their own creativity.  And they don’t come much more inspiring than The Oriental Museum at Durham University, filled with exquisite objects and of course the Nissan: 30 Years On exhibition put together by myself and photographer James Sebright.

I recently ran a workshop there with the Dunlem U3A writers’ group, where we had the opportunity to handle some Japanese artefacts: kimonos, shoes, dolls, tea ceremony sets and through this and the Japanese collection on display in the museum, we were able to learn something of Japanese culture past and present:

From 1603 to 1868, Japan had a period of isolation from the world with limited trade links through the port of Nagasaki and only with Dutch and Chinese ships.  After international pressure, Japan opened up to trade and began a rapid period of industrialisation.  It’s at this time that the country’s links were forged with our North East shipbuilding.  There was also Western interest in Japan and many of the Japanese artefacts produced for the Western market were often a fusion of the two cultures.  There are many examples of these on display at The Oriental Museum from cabinets to a pair of cufflinks with Japanese engraving.

One thing that stands out is the craftmanship and skill, something which is prized whether in the performing of a tea ceremony or in instruments of killing such as daggers and swords, the latter tautology explored beautifully in a poem by Irene Wilkinson.

Dunelm U3A Writers’ produced more great writing, taking their inspiration from folding fans to Samurai armour to portraits of Nissan workers.  In addition they produced a range of haikus (Japanese 17 syllable verses) which we have put together to form a Renga.  We had a further session at the Oriental Museum recording this work which of course it is available for you to listen and enjoy as a podcast CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE to find out more about the Nissan: 30 Years On exhibition.