We Chat To Sara Calgie About What #ThisNorthernGirlCan Means To Her


This is the final #ThisNorthernGirlCan interview of 2017. We have been enormously inspired by every single Northern woman we have got to know and there is so much more to come for 2018. We are so excited!!

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself

A. My Name is Sara Calgie and I am a teacher who is passionate about creativity. Having left full time primary teaching to work for myself as an art teacher and consultant to educational settings I have now opened a community art studio – The Start Studio UK.

It’s a Community Interest Company so all of the profit from our work with the community goes back into delivering professional development training for teachers and educators, hopefully giving them a bit more confidence and ability for their arts teaching. We have a Children’s Art Gallery too, holding termly exhibitions and awards ceremonies so that we can raise the perceived value of creativity for arts for well being.

Q. What did you love about growing up in the North?

A. I really have always had a lot of pride for my family and for being from the North. I loves the beaches and the cities alike. It’s such a place of contrasts.

When I was growing up communities were strong. We had big celebrations for the Silver Jubilee, Royal Wedding and all sorts of occasions. I liked that. I thought I wanted out for a while, moved to fancy London town and even bought my first house down there. When I realised that I actually wanted someone to walk in my back door, shout hello and put a brew on (it was never going to happen there) I moved back sharpish!

Q. Did you have any challenges growing up in the North?

A. I felt it was sometimes a challenge growing up in Durham. My mum was on her own with my brother and I and many of my friends at school were from very secure and very academic families, often with both parents working in the university and with very enquiring approaches to life. I felt very aware of intellectual snobbery and class distinctions too.

I’ve always been very proud of my  grandfathers, who worked in shipbuilding and mining. They were great men who were humble but hardworking. My mam ran a youth club in a colliery town right through the miner’s strike so I was very, very aware of the vast contrast between my school friends, the friends at home and my family. They were tough times.

Q. Have you or do you face any challenges being female?

A. Absolutely. I had some early jobs, working as a barmaid (no legislation around working in a private bar then) and waitressing, where I was vulnerable really. I think that working from a very young age, 13, put me into some situations that I shouldn’t have been in. At the time, in those environments I think it was the cultural norm to put up with a certain amount of ‘near the knuckle’ banter. Totally unacceptable now of course, thank goodness.

Q. What or who inspired your journey to where you are now?

A. Tony Hart!! I loved him. I loved to watch the gallery. I spent a lot of time with my Grandad, drawing together on weekends so I think I get my creativity from him.

Then magazines like The Face, Dazed and Confused and I-d showed me variety in life that I craved. That was a big driver for me, long before the internet, they showed me other worlds.

My husband Kieron, who I met when I was just 17 inspires me, too. He works so hard that I’ve felt obliged to pull my weight and then it becomes addictive, achieving your goals. My friend, Karen Squillino with her utter zest for life and all its experiences. I’ve grown up with them both and they hold the bar pretty high!!

Q. What advice would you to give to girls growing up in the North?

A. Just be yourself. Don’t conform too much. You can be whoever you want to be and the world is there for you when you’re ready. I think it’s so much easier now with tech to be connected to others so the world literally is your oyster now. You have to educate yourself though and follow your interests. Be interesting and interested, you will find the place you need to be.

Q. How to do think we can encourage more young people about the importance of gender equality?

A. By treating them equally. We need to model that behaviour to boys and girls growing up. I try not to get to into the gender thing and just treat everyone as individuals. Let everyone BE!

We need to be able to say when something doesn’t sit well with us, too. Just say, perfectly nicely, “That makes me feel…….”

Q. Tell us some of your favourite Northern places.

A. I spent my early life in Stanhope, Weardale so that has given me a bit of a hardwired affinity with the moors. I spent a lot of time playing in the old quarry up there which wasn’t the most risk averse place to play but I can still spend a lot of time mucking around with rocks given half the chance. Then I moved to Durham so I love the city, the riverbanks and Cathedral.

Weekends were with my grandparents in Walker so I’m proud to be part Newcastle, too. Fenwick’s was my Mecca as a youngster and fortunately as much as my mum liked outdoors, grandma loved shopping!!

Holidays were always Beadnell as a child or the Lake District and while I’ve brought my family up I followed that tradition of an annual trip to Northumberland beaches.

Q. Who are your favourite Northern people (alive or dead?)

A. I love Catherine Cookson. I love the way she brought a voice to the working class northern people and represented them with empathy. A Woman of Substance is my favourite. I love a story where the underdog wins. She was a prolific writer and a real philanthropist too. Great lady.

Hank Marvin, he was from Newcastle and my mam loved The Shadows, so he’s pretty important.

I loved Mo Mowlem, she was a great woman who contributed so much in politics whilst being so down to earth. I was so sad when she got poorly.

Q. Explain your love of the North in one sentence.

 A.  I’m committed to the North East.

Q. What would you like to see the #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement do?

A. I think anything that opens lines of communication between women, holding them up as inspiration, is fabulous. So keep on going, I love it!

As well as celebrating our wins, having a place we can talk about our struggles too, in a risk free environment, is equally important.

If you want to be become part of our growing #ThisNorthernGirlCan movement then you can join over 1,ooo like minded women and men in our Facebook group. We’d love to see you there!

This Northern Girl Can Facebook Support Group


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