A Tryal of Witches: Isolation and the Other within Lowestoft’s Narrative Landscape
The remote coastal town of Lowestoft situated on the most easterly point of the British Isles is a site of ancient settlement. Ravished by re, plague, wars, a fraught relationship with the dominant port in Yarmouth plus the decline and complete loss of the herring trade, the location embodies much historical, cultural con ict, erosion, trauma and decay. The physical geographic landscape has also greatly suffered; it was the most heavily bombed town per head of population in the U.K during WWII and the coastline continues to erode due to the effects of the long-shore drift.
Woven within Lowestoft’s darker social narratives are the trials and executions of Rose Cullender and Amy Denny in 1662. Both outsiders within the local community known as ‘blow in’s’ the women were accused of witchcraft during a wave of convictions within the Suffolk Area that would become known as the Bury St Edmunds Witch Trials. These specific cases are of particular historical significance as the comprehensive trial report was used to set a precedent during the infamous Salem witch trials.
Expanding on the idea of the outsider, in this case myself within the role of the ‘blow-in’, this new body of work draws from collaborations with a local artist / illustrator, local historian and heritage archives and investigates what residue of Lowestoft’s historical and narrative past is present within present collective consciousness, (Samuels 1999) how is this knowledge is preserved, intentionally or otherwise, and whether these traumatic histories (Caruth 1995) can be used as a lens to explore social and cultural narratives manifesting today.
Furthermore the paper considers the function and role of the illustrator as a facilitator/raconteur to generate and disseminate anthropological information and of knowledge; one who enables communities and societies to navigate through their historical, cultural and geographical past (Benjamin 2006).
Mireille is an illustrator and lecturer whose practice is ultimately concerned with visual storytelling and the documenting of local history and social and cultural narratives. Currently she is undergoing a practice-lead PhD titled Facilitator, Interpreter & Archivist: Generating Vernacular Histories through Participatory Illustration Practice with Kingston University, supported by LDoc.