Remembering Doggerland

Doggerland was an area of land that once linked Great Britain to Europe, yet now it’s completely submerged underneath the North Sea. This afternoon at Hay, Julia Blackburn spoke about her account of the distant terrain, Time Song, which brings together the stories of its creation, existence and disappearance.

“Everything has its own continuous life”, said Blackburn. The author has always collected artefacts that tell us about the past, such as mammoth tusks and whale jawbones. Blackburn would walk on the coast and talk to strangers, and “hoover the ground, very gently”.

Blackburn is interested in things that have their “own vitality and transformative energy”. Although Blackburn’s work highlights the worry of historical erasure, she is praised for bringing fossils together and rearranging them in a way that celebrates their “greatness”.

Time Song is a metaphor for both absence and presence. As much as it brings Doggerland to life through accounts of its relics, extreme weather and animal life, it’s also a narration of Blackburn’s husbands’ death. It’s a story of “metaphors, mortality, memory and collection”, she said.

The book is a piecing together of landscapes that have been lost through time, and is so special as it is a collection of songs rather than chapters. It’s a “wish to get close to something that’s so very, very far away”, she said. 

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Picture by: Philippa Harris