Northumberland’s Electric Coast

Audio / 2022 / mins
BBC Radio 3

This piece Slow Radio on BBC Radio 3 focuses on the evolution of energy in Northumberland’s former industrial heartlands, from past eras of mining and coal-fired power stations to its present-day role as a leader in the green energy industry.

Our sonic journey begins beneath a vast wind turbine, situated on the North Blyth Peninsula. We hear the rhythmic, atmospheric sounds of the spinning, whirring wind turbine blades, suspended between water. To the west, we hear ships travelling into the port of Blyth - still an important working port. To the east, we hear the crashing waves of the North Sea against the sea wall and screeching seagulls dive-bombing for fish.

We continue our journey north, following the hum of overhead electric wires and the roar of the dual carriageway up to the biomass power station in Lynemouth, a huge industrial building nestled alongside a beautiful coastline.

We then move into the town of Blyth through its cafes, bus stations and the high-street shopping centre before wandering back along to the port opposite the peninsula where our journey started. We hear the water lapping.

It is the geographical placement of this part of Northumberland that makes it such a rich place for renewable energy - the port, the sea, the wind and the space that has not been developed. Once a fertile ground for fossil fuels, the area has continued to be a place supporting industry, now in the form of renewable energy.

This soundscape reveals the way that human intervention can harness the power of our natural world, whilst also protecting and sustaining it.