Experiencing a life in the past – teens ‘live’ in 1840s

Acknowledgment on the photographs and all other publication should read: © gilmar ribeiro
Acknowledgment on the photographs and all other publication should read: © gilmar ribeiro
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A GROUP of youngsters from across Northumberland have swapped 21st century luxuries to get a better idea of living more than 170 years ago.

Dozens of youngsters aged 13 to 19 from Morpeth, Ashington, Cramlington, Seaton Delaval, Choppington, Ponteland, Seaton Sluice and Shilbottle, abandoned their hi-tech gadgets and gizmos last week to take part in a history-orientated version of the reality TV show Big Brother.

The house mates traded in their trainers and jeans for old-fashioned attire and took up residence at Featherstone Castle, near Haltwhistle, for five days, as part of the 1840s Heritage Big Brother project.

The scheme was thought up by the teenagers taking part after being struck by inspiration, and a yearning to find out more about the north east’s past, while delving into the archives at Ashington’s Woodhorn Museum.

The intrepid house mates have lived a 1840s lifestyle – experiencing everything from the food, music, arts, crafts, historical dancing, sport, games, fashions, map reading, make-up and hairstyles.

The young people worked with professional practitioners to learn about what it was like to live in 1840 whilst developing transferable skills.

Libby Howard, 17, from Ashington, said: “The whole week has been a blast from the past.

“I’ve really enjoyed Heritage Big Brother in particular I loved the singing and dancing.

“The whole experience has been something different – and not many people get the chance to spend time in a castle.

“I’m hoping to go into acting so being able to do character building in the drama workshops was particularly useful for me.”

Like the format of the popular television programme, there were strict house rules and ingenious tasks that were intricately devised by the young project team.

Nobody was voted out of the house but there were special awards, prizes and forfeits on offer. 

The Heritage Big Brother House even had its own ‘reflective diary room’ where the house mates could record their thoughts to camera.

The whole experience was also documented on film from a young person’s perspective by the young people themselves with help from local film making company, Act 2 Cam.

Juliet Hardy, creative mentor at Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives, said: “Seeing the confidence of the young people grow is magical, they sometimes don’t see it happening and the moment they realise they have achieved something is very rewarding.”

For further details log on to www.experiencewoodhorn.com