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RNLI podcast 200 Voices talks to Sophie Dixon, creator of Grace Darling film

Lifeboats News Release

Artist Sophie Dixon, creator of a multi-screen film installation at the Grace Darling Museum in Bamburgh, has spoken of her research for the production of ‘Grace’ and what she learned about the ‘ordinary woman who did this amazingly brave thing.’

Sophie features in today’s episode of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) new 200 Voices podcast. Launched in August 2023 in the run-up to the charity’s bicentenary on 4 March 2024, an episode is being released every day for 200 days, exploring captivating stories from the charity’s history, through to the current day.

Recorded to coincide with the anniversary of the fateful rescue of crew from the stricken paddle streamer Forfarshire in 1838, Sophie pays tribute to the lighthouse keeper’s daughter, who earned international recognition for risking her own life with her father William, by rowing out to save the crew in a wild and stormy sea.

She tells listeners: ‘I think Grace’s story is fascinating for the fact she was an ordinary woman who did this amazingly brave thing.’

Launched two years ago today, ‘Grace’ was a multi-screen film installation that explored the heroine’s story from her childhood, right through to her death in 1842. Inspired by various, often conflicting accounts, Sophie described the installation as: ‘a poetic exploration of Grace Darling’s life and the impact of her fame.’

The 10 minute-long film, commissioned by Arts and Heritage and shown at the museum in 2021, transported visitors to Grace’s home on Longstone Island where digital reconstructions of objects from the museum’s collections bring her story to life. An original score by musician Kathy Alberici weaved together sounds of the surrounding Farne Islands and North East voices.

Sophie said: ‘The fundamentals of the project were these letters which she wrote for her family. ‘It was created in a game engine. What I did was I recreated her lighthouse family home as a full digital reconstruction. As you go through her home, you go through the story of her life.’

Her research showed her that the fame and media exposure Grace received until the end of her life revealed similarities to contemporary issues experienced by modern day people, particularly in a world with social media.

She said: ‘What I tried to do through the research was to really take materials and information that was out there through the museum or that could be found in the archives but make it more readily accessible and tie it to the story. I used letters written between Grace and her family but certainly music is quite important to the piece and Grace Darling’s father had a written manuscript of violin music that he would have played in the house itself. We took the violin notation, and played that music and wove it into a soundscape for the film itself.

'Everything the film was taken from the Northumberland archives, letters written between GD and her family, models in the museum, everything was based upon research that was carried out over the course of about a year. We also took objects from the museum – physical objects that are in display cases - and then I used a process known as Photogrammetry where I took hundreds of photographs of the objects and then created these highly realistic 3D models so then when I came to making the film inside a game engine, digitally I could take those objects and show them in situ inside Grace’s home.’

‘I came to this project with this image in my mind of Grace Darling being this incredibly brave woman. There’s a very famous painting of her, I think it’s the best known, where she is on her own in a boat rowing out into these stormy seas. The more I read about her, researched, the more I learnt about her, the more I dug into her letters and her story the more I realised that she was a normal woman who did a very brave thing, I think she is more like someone you might know.’

Grace Darling was not a member of any RNLI crew, but her actions embody the values of the charity which has been saving lives at sea since it was founded in 1824. In that time, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 144,000 lives. Funded by voluntary donations, and with lifeboats crewed by specially-trained volunteers, the RNLI is a truly unique rescue organisation with a remarkable 200-year story to tell – many highlights of which are shared through the podcast series.

Available across all podcast platforms and the RNLI’s website, listeners can hear from survivors, supporters, volunteers, lifeguards, celebrity ambassadors, historians and many more from across the UK and Ireland – and beyond.

The 200 Voices series also includes celebrity ambassadors such as The Sixth Commandment actor Timothy Spall, Gavin and Stacey actress Ruth Jones, Irish musician Phil Coulter, gold medal Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie and BAFTA-winning actress Joanna Scanlan.

RNLI Strategic Content Manager, Rory Stamp said: ‘We knew we had to do something really special to mark the RNLI’s 200th anniversary, which is such a monumental milestone.

‘200 Voices is an incredible collection of stories that are emotive, powerful, inspiring and heart-warming. The series gives us a chance to hear from a whole variety of amazing people who have played a part in or been touched by our lifesaving charity.

‘200 Voices is the first in a programme of activity planned to mark the RNLI’s bicentenary as we celebrate the world-class lifesaving service we provide today, remember our remarkable history and aim to inspire the future generations of lifesavers and supporters as we move through into the next 200 years.’

Launch into a podcast like no other: Listen to the RNLI’s 200 Voices daily wherever you get your podcasts or at RNLI.org/200Voices.

To find out more about the RNLI’s bicentenary, visit RNLI.org/200.

Notes to Editors

To listen in full to Sophie Dixon's behind the scenes of 'Grace' click here.

https://source.rnli.org.uk/share/300BBB91-1A7E-43C9-82D23928C9AC751E/

RNLI

Sophie Dixon

Thomas Brooks (1818-1891).

Grace Darling. Oil on canvas

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