Antonia Barraclough – Postcards from Sunderland

Posted on Posted in Project Reviews

Antonia Barraclough talks to us about ‘Postcards from Sunderland’ which looks at how this northern city is rapidly changing and how memories of it’s past are still alive in it’s older residents.

Postcards from Sunderland (c) Antonia Barraclough
Postcards from Sunderland (c) Antonia Barraclough

Tell us about ‘Postcards from Sunderland’.

When I started university in Sunderland in 2013, developments all over the city began taking shape. I was inspired by witnessing the changes as an outsider and took interest in researching images of Sunderland from the past. The most evident changes were along the river Wear which I could see from my university halls window, and it made me eager to learn more about the history. I learnt of a thriving past with ships, coal and glass, but when I looked out of my window, there was no sign of it. This drastic change of landscape intrigued me and I wanted to be able to talk to those who have seen how Sunderland had changed from the time it was an industry focused city. Learning more about Sunderland helped me form an emotional connection to it, which I find an important aspect to comfort.

In my second year of university, I was part of a collaborative site-specific exhibition entitled 80 Metres Above Sea Level. My chosen location was the Age UK Charity shop on Blanford Street in Sunderland city centre where I displayed a series of postcards amongst the items for sale on the shops’ shelves.


Why postcards as a format?

All the stories, statements and feelings expressed on the back of the cards are true memories shared by attendees of Age UK’s Thursday Morning Club in the community centre on Stockton Road and the photographs are of locations of the memories shared. Postcards tell us a story, giving us information about someone else’s experiences and, over time, they become nostalgic and precious which can also be said for the objects within a charity shop. These are not images as you might expect of a postcard, rather they are ‘snapshots’ creating a sense of detachment

These are not images as you might expect of a postcard, rather they are ‘snapshots’ creating a sense of detachment between the memory and the reality of the location as it is today.

What attracted you to this specific project and how it is different from your other work?

I was attracted to this project because of my interest in landscape development and was particularly intrigued by the changes that Sunderland was undergoing whilst I was living there.

Postcards from Sunderland was the first project I did that involved the process of reaching out to locals for help. It was also different because it was site specific which I had never tried before and the media I used (postcards) was also new.

Can you talk us through how you researched the various locations?  You’ve mentioned that the text all relates to real memories.  For example, some of the locations must have been easier to identify than others.

I used the internet to research the locations such as google maps and also through talking with the participants. But as most of the locations no longer exist, some were quite hard to find. For example, finding ‘Claxheugh Rock’ was the hardest because that isn’t the formal name of the area, and also without knowing the spelling or being local to Sunderland it took a few attempts to figure out. I eventually found the name on an online forum about Sunderland, and whilst using google maps satellite view.

What is your favourite and least favourite aspect of this project?

My favourite aspect is the of the work is how it was a socially engaging project. When the work was viewed by people in the charity shop, it got a lot of positive reactions and it created conversations about other people’s memories of locations around Sunderland.
My least favourite aspect was the way the postcards were displayed in the shop. As customers browsed the shop, sometimes the postcards would get lost amongst the items so they needed to be re-arranged every day. If I was to redo the project, I would use stands to display the postcards.


Have you studied photography or art? If so where and when?

I studied Photography, Video and Digital Imaging at the University of Sunderland from September 2013 – June 2016.

What is it about the north east that attracts you?

Apart from the obvious cheapness and friendliness in the North-East, I also find there is a huge community for photography which I haven’t been able to find in my current hometown of Sheffield. There seems to be a lot more photography-based opportunities in the North-East too.


Postcards from Sunderland (c) Antonia Barraclough
Postcards from Sunderland (c) Antonia Barraclough

What is your connection to the north east?

I moved to Sunderland for University for three years.


Where can people find out more online?

Website :

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