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Arts Centre Washinton

Nissan: 30 Years On

Nissan: 30 Years On

02 October 2017 - 04 November 2017

by James Sebright and Rachel Cochrane.

The North East of England has a longstanding relationship with Japan, dating back to the export of North East technology in the late 19th century, through to the building of Japanese warships on Tyneside in 1905. In 1984, against a backdrop of the miner’s strike and a Conservative government lead by Margaret Thatcher, Nissan Motors signed an agreement to build a car factory on a greenfield site in Washington. Two years later, the first car rolled off the production line. Since then Nissan has become the biggest employer in the region, with production passing 8 million vehicles.

Although much has been documented of the long mining and industrial heritage of the North East and its legacy, little has been gathered about today’s way of life for those working for modern day manufacturing organisations like Nissan. Working collaboratively, photographer James Sebright and writer/audio artist Rachel Cochrane sought to redress this balance. Taking a broad remit, we explored how Nissan has impacted the lives of people in the region, to create a present-day snapshot of the effect of 30 years of Nissan in the North East.

A number of site visits were made, during which we were able to observe the plant in action and engage with the workers. We also met with a cross-section of people in the community who have associations past and present with the company. This has resulted in a range of both artistic and documentary material, expressed through photography, film, audio, creative writing and oral history.

The material created for this project will be donated as an archive to Durham University.

The project is sponsored by Durham University and Arts Council England and is supported by The Oriental Museum, North East Chamber of Commerce and Nissan Motors UK.