Consultant in maritime history and creative lifestory
Welcome to my website
I'm a creative historian who works with the maritime industry, museums, television, theatre, social media, universities and in the community. Women who went to sea - whose travel transformed their lives forever - are my special area of expertise.
My especial interest is in the stories of people who have led marginalised lives in the past - and sought adventure, freedom and the space to be all they are, and might become.
In particular this means recording people, or helping them write their stories. They tend to be people who've taken jobs at sea despite the odds - like women, ethnic minorities and LGBT+ people - for whom seagoing meant sometimes liberation and sometimes injustice.
Ships are hypersexualised spaces for those confined in them. As a cultural historian, that's fascinating to me. They're heterotopias (meaning other places, like Wonderland) and liminal zones, (which means they explain a lot about our societies on land.)
I live in Marsden in the Pennines, the home village of Poet Laureate Simon Armitage. He describes it as a uniquely 'transcendent and transgressive location' but I celebrate it as a warm Alternative community.' And I work a lot in London and abroad. At Liverpool John Moores University I am Visiting Senior Research Fellow. At the University of Hull's Maritime Historical Studies Centre I am an Honorary Research Fellow.
What am I doing now, 2023
My seminal blog Gender and The Sea genderedseas.blogspot.com will be full of still more unusual stories about people connected to the sea. I will be carrying on exploring, explaining and sharing path-breaking information about race, gender, class, status and the many other characteristics that intersect tellingly. You'll read histories of diverse hyper-mobile people in the maritime world, with a fresh focus on emotions, identity and voyages' potential to transform lives. And you'll be able to see more illustrated PowerPoint presentations about maritime diversity, via YouTube.
I'll be especially helping you find out about:
- ayahs (South Asian nannies) working at sea and the families who employed them
- safeguarding seafaring women today from sexual abuse at sea (Keith please use a cropped version of the pic at https://www.humanrightsatsea.org/2021/02/08/diversity-inclusion-and-hope-a-reality-check-in-2021/, i.e. the one that says HR at sea: We are all - 2021)
- the global history of LGBT++ seafarers, their culture, and the ways that trips could feel like radical universities and gay pride demonstrations
STORIES. Researching and re-presenting still more microhistories of marginalised seafarers. That includes helping Lloyd's Register Foundation Heritage & Education Centre's major new project: "Rewriting Women into Maritime History" https://bit.ly/LRFHECwomen. Currently I'm collaborating on the stories of Scotland's first women deck officer, a camp Dutch seafarer on UK ships, a steward who became a Pride media activist, a female marine polite and two women captains. Watch my blog for news.
TV. I'm working with several TV companies on programmes to include maritime women, especially Battle Of The Atlantic 80th anniversary events: 26 - 28 May 2023 (#BoA80).
SANITY. With my EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusion) lenses - and completing my training as a counsellor - I'm researching mental wellbeing on ships in history. Of course it links to safety at sea, as well as connecting to sexual harassment and LGBT++ handling of destructive homophobia aboard.
DANGER. Finishing a history book on civilian women at sea in WW2. Provisional title: Dangerous Adventures: civilian women save the wartime seas. Yale University Press. Publication date tba.
COMING UP IN SPRING 2023
MARCH tba: "Entertaining 4 sanity@sea: Roy 'Wendy' Gibson: steward, Falklands Conflict hero, and Hull's answer to pianist Liberace". See the YouTube version of my talk about how gay seamen contributed to the morale of passengers and other crew bit.ly/HullUniHist
MAY 24. Mike Stammers Memorial Lecture 2023. Ayahs as "worker-passengers.' Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool, 17.30pm BST. Free. Not online.
MAY 31. "Revealing Queer Maritime History: International Museum's LGBT++ Sea Exhibitions". My online talk 18:00 to 19:30 BST at Blaydes Maritime Centre, University of Hull. Online only. Register for free at register.gotowebinar.com/register/4593219049635447132. See the YouTube video a few weeks later at bit.ly/HullUniHist
Things I'm proud of doing recently
Explaining: Writing a helpful introductory, "Exploring Gendered Sea Life," within "Life at Sea" to the wonderful Adam Matthew Digital collection of archived documents: www.lifeatsea.amdigital.co.uk/research-tools/essays-and-video-interviews/exploring-gendered-sea-life.
You can see evidence of women's maritime pasts including Emma P Gray's letters about sailing as a captain's wife. I enjoyed writing an ulta-clear overview introducing new researchers a clear way into the subject.
Recognising. Researching and writing the first history-based account of sexual assault and harassment on ships for Gender at Sea. See my chapter in lnkd.in/eHaRHc3S.
Creating: Producing the first Pride in Maritime Day logo, with the help of my cousin, a whizz with Photoshop.
Commemorating. I contributed to the celebrations around the unveiling of a blue plaque at one of the Ayahs' Homes in Hackney. The initiative by English Heritage and Farhani Bello, nee Mamoojee, and its follow-ups, can be especially seen on Instagram at @ayahshome. See this website's pages on ethnic minorities for my articles referring to ayahs' voyages. Plaque pic.
What they say about me
MY CURRENT FAVOURITES
My favourite reading and viewing just now
New Exhibitions :
- Amsterdam. Netherlands, till March 30 2023. "Queer Spaces at Sea", lnkd.in/emZQNrJW
- Bergen, Norway, till end of Dec 2023. Queer at Sea/ "Skeive sjøfolk", lnkd.in/eUsJYvps
Making Waves project created by Royal Museums Greenwich: lnkd.in/eqawqbYP
- Rewriting Women into Maritime History project, Lloyd’s Register Foundation Heritage & Education Centre: bit.ly/LRFHECwomen.
- I exist too. A forum focused on improving LGBT+IQ+ rights in the maritime industry. www.linkedin.com/in/iexisttoo/
- Gender at Sea, ed by Djoeke van Netten , Verloren , Hilversum, ISBN 9789464550399, 9464550392. See my blog for contents list https://lnkd.in/eHaRHc3S. Get it via verloren.nl/Webshop/ Detail/eid/58732
- Maritime Men of the Asia-Pacific: True-blue Internationals Navigating Labour Rights 1906-2006 by Diane Kirkby, Lee-Ann Monk and Dmytro Ostapenko). ( 2022) Liverpool University Press. ISBN 9781802077513, 1802077510.