How Geordie Mackem Magick brings Sunderland and Newcastle fans together

An artist has channelled her inner Shaman to unify Mackems and Geordies using rave culture and tribal magic.

Thursday, 26th May 2016, 2:10 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st May 2016, 12:23 pm
Sophie Lisa Beresford with a selection of her designs. Photograph by FRANK REID

Sophie Lisa Beresford, from Washington, was born to a Geordie mum and Mackem dad. Growing up, she was influenced by people’s passions for both city’s football teams, which informs her striking Geordie Mackem Magick (sic) exhibition at Arts Centre Washington.

Though the crests of SAFC and NUFC are never normally seen in the same outfit, Sophie, 30, has blurred the lines between the two to celebrate our regional identity as a whole in one dress.

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As part of the exhibition, she caused a stir by donning the footy frock at locations including Market Square in the city centre and Backhouse Park, as well as dressing like a rave goddess in Hendon’s long streets.

“It’s an image of empowerment,” she said. “It’s one that says I can do what I want, I’m not confined by society’s conditioning, I’m neither Geordie, nor Mackem, I’m both.”

As well as the daring dress, the exhibition features photography and accessories created by Sophie which features a melting pot of symbolism associated with football, Native American culture and the neon make up of ravers.

Speaking about her influences, she said: “I lived with my mum and my uncle when I was younger and he was a fierce NUFC supporter, to the point where he was in a firm. He was so passionate that if I spoke Mackem words like dinnit, he would correct me with the Geordie and say divvnt, but he did it in a playful way.

“My uncle Tom would wear sportswear, Stone Island, Adidas Gazelles, and he had all these posters and a Union Jack on his wall. As a visual artist I’m fascinated by geometry and I was fascinated by the symbols in his bedroom, the Union Jack, the three stripes on his sports wear, the patterns. It has a really powerful resonance and people covet it. It all felt magical to me.”

After finishing her studies at Biddick School, Sophie moved to Hendon in Sunderland and attended Sunderland University. There, she further became immersed in rave culture, which is also expressed through her work.

“It feels like medicine woman music to me,” she said. “I remember hearing the track Children of the Night and walking round the Galleries trying to buy it and you couldn’t. I remember thinking that was because it was a magic song.”

Sophie, who has had previous work displayed in Vienna, Miami and New York, says she hopes the exhibition will unify people. “Geordies and Mackems all have the same heartbeat, whether we like it or not,” she said. “When we dance on the dance floor, we all have the same rhythm.”

The exhibition also uses the motif of the Wearmouth Jarrow twin monasteries, incorporated into a print with the black cat and magpie mascots of the football clubs and as a jewelled necklace.

“I never understood why everyone had to be separate, like tribes,” she said. “The twin monasteries had this unification but, over the years, the cultural archetype is that Geordies and Mackems don’t like each other, that we’re different, and that’s had a subconscious impact.

“This exhibition is a celebration and you can’t celebrate one without the other. The different elements are complementary, not separate. We have a highly creative culture in the North East, but it’s been overlooked for too long. Some people call it charver culture, it’s been dragged through the mud, but I want it to be recognised for its fierce creativity.”

•Geordie Mackem Magick is on display at Arts Centre Washington until June 5 before it moves to NGCA in Fawcett Steet from June 25.

Sophie in Backhouse Park
Sophie's exhibition at Arts Centre Washington
The twin monasteries symbol is incorporated in her work
Sophie in Backhouse Park
Sophie's exhibition at Arts Centre Washington
The twin monasteries symbol is incorporated in her work