We interrupted our summer break to attend a very special writing workshop at Arbeia, South Shields.
Hidden amongst the terraces of Baring Street, the imposing West Gate stands, a reconstruction from Roman excavations found in 1870s but not fully explored until the buildings on top were removed in the 1979s.
This fort and museum is not connected to the First World War directly, but is connected to everything Empire, migration and immigrants.
Standing above the entrance to the River Tyne, Arbeia Roman Fort guarded the main sea route to Hadrian’s Wall. It was a key garrison and military supply base to other forts along the Wall and is an important part of the history of Roman Britain. ( See here for more information).
A possible meaning for “Arbeia” is “fort of the Arab troops”, referring to the fact that part of its garrison at one time was a squadron of Mesopotamian boatmen from the Tigris. We also know that a squadron of Spanish cavalry, the First Asturian, was stationed there. It was common for forts to be manned by units originally from elsewhere in the empire, though often enough these would assimilate and end up by recruiting locally ( Source: Wikipeadia).
The workshop was facilitated by Jennifer C. Wilson. She writes:
I’ve loved reading and writing about historical characters (both real and imagined) since I was a child, and was delighted to try and bring this love to my first writing workshop, based around Arbeia Roman Fort. This was a place filled with ‘Romans’ from across the Empire, people uprooted from their homes and brought all the way to one of the extreme boundaries of Roman rule, not necessarily of their own free will.
There were some great discussions about what history meant to everyone, and the problems with trying to understand the past, as well as some great ideas for new pieces of writing generated – helped massively by the unexpected presence of the Roman Market, with food, falconry and re-enactors all ready to talk about Roman life and times.
My debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London will be released by Crooked Cat Publishing on the 27th October; please visit the Online Launch Party for further information: https://www.facebook.com/events/753290594780701/
Thank you Jennifer for a most enjoyable morning.