Fl10s: False Lights Seaham

Film by Alan Fentiman
Photo by Colin Davison


Fl10s: False Lights Seaham is inspired by East Durham’s maritime heritage, and responds specifically to the 1962 George Elmy lifeboat disaster. Fl10s comprises an installation, composition, and a site-specific live performance.

The name is taken from the description of Seaham’s lighthouse character in the Admiralty List of Lights, which flashes once every ten seconds.

The structure incorporates 10 large-scale tuned steel plates controlled by electromagnets which cause the bell plates to vibrate at their resonant frequencies. The oak frame is formed from a series of rotating crosses, representing the imposing coal staithes that lined the Seaham shoreline, and the motion of the lifeboat as it capsized. A sense of motion is created as lights arc around the skeletal, timber form and shadows are cast and re-cast throughout the space.

The instrument plays a new composition written in response to the narrative of the George Elmy disaster. Structural elements of the piece are drawn from the rhythm of the lighthouse lamp, and from numeric patterns and key incidents mentioned in witness statements taken at the time.

The expanded version for live performance was premiered alongside members of Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band at an outdoor performance in Seaham Marina, marking the anniversary of the George Elmy disaster.

The piece continues the previous themes of The False Lights of Durham, and imagines the Seaham lighthouse as a metronome, the landmark innocently marking time as events gradually unfold around it.

November 1 – 13, 2014
St. John’s Church, Seaham

Performance premiere:
November 15, 2014

Musicians: Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band
Sam Collins: Tech Director
Caroline Smith: Senior Producer
David Cranmer: Magnet and lighting control
Nicky Kirk: 3D design
Matt Nolan: Bell plates
Constructive and Co: Controller casing
MDM: Frame fabrication

Fl10s: False Lights Seaham was commissioned by East Durham Creates. Produced by Forma Arts.

East Durham Creates is managed by Beamish, Forma, and East Durham Trust working in partnership. The project is supported by Durham County Council via East Durham Area Action Partnership and funded by Arts Council England.

Matt Nolan
Dave Cranmer
Nicky Kirk
East Durham Creates
Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band