A LIFE IN PICTURES – Snapshot of Victorian Photographer, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941)

In October 2017 I was at the Goth weekender held in Whitby on the North East UK coast. The town was revelling in the darker side of life, people walking around in colourful costumes celebrating the dead.

The reason behind the spooky theme is the town’s connection to Dracula. In 1890 writer Bram Stoker stayed in the town where he was inspired to write his vampire novel. Another reason to visit the town was the Frank Sutcliffe gallery.

Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was born in Yorkshire on 6th October 1853. He came from a large family, his parents had six children and made the ancient port of Whitby their home. At 17 Sutcliffe was a photographer and assistant to his father Thomas, an Artist and lecturer.

By the time he was 35 he was married to Eliza, the couple had four girls, one son and were living at 9 Burrowfield Terrace. By 1901 the family had moved to Sleights Cottage in the town where his oldest daughter Kathleen was his photography assistant.

Sutcliffe paid the rent by taking studio portraits, but the main subject of his work was everyday working life, with the fishing community a main focus.

Capturing Victorian life brought him international recognition and an award from the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society in 1935.

Included are some of his photographs taken from a 1988 calendar I have called, ‘A Photographic Heritage’. One of the pictures features two of his children, Horace and Irene fishing for newts.

The naff quality copies here aren’t a patch on the images in the calendar, if you search out his pictures, they are worth spending time with.

On the Second World War register he is an 86-year-old widow, employed as Curator at Whitby Museum. His daughter Irene lived with him until he died on the 31st May 1941.


Alikivi   March 2020.

DARK THOUGHTS with Gateshead musician Esme

At the start of 2017 Penance Stare started as a solo project. Now it’s a duo comprised of Esmé on vocals, guitar and electronics and Graeme on drum kit and electronics. Esme remembers the first gig…

It was in the dark Boiler Room at the Old Police House in Gateshead. I was using a broken microphone so I had to yell, unamplified over the music.


The Old Police House is bringing incredible shows to Gateshead. Drone/noise/ambient gigs at either the Soundroom or the Art Gallery. Across the river Tyne in Newcastle we have places like the Star & Shadow. Bands are still playing in bars just as much as DIY indie venues.

Newcastle and the surrounding area have a really good scene for both metal and experimental music, with a lot of crossover between.

What’s your music background ?

I was a child in the ’90s when Britpop and Alternative rock were popular. The earliest music I owned were the Shine cassette compilations of indie hits from around ’95/96. I still revisit that music occasionally. .

Our influences include Cranes, Velvet Cocoon, Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. We’ve both played in bands for many years before this, and have projects outside of Penance Stare. We currently rehearse in Gateshead’s Soundroom.

Are you from a musical family ?

My dad played guitar, not well or in bands but he would pull faces while jamming bad blues licks. He bought me some used equipment as a teenager.

My mother exposed me to a lot of music too. Growing up I would steal her records and tapes. She sang a lot, not very well, but she got a lot of enjoyment from it. I can relate to that.

When did you first pick up an instrument and what was it? 

Aged 12 or 13. My first electric guitar was a black Encore Stratocaster. A horrible guitar, the quality of cheap instruments has increased dramatically since then. I plugged it into a tiny Kustom amp.

Like a lot of kids my age I was really into Kurt Cobain. I moved on to Sonic Youth and started writing my own songs.

What do you think of crowdfunding, have Penance Stare taken that route ?

We haven’t done anything like that. I’m not sure its what listeners want. I note that one of the big platforms recently went bust.

Have you recorded any of your songs ?

Penance Stare recordings are deliberate in their rawness and intimacy and all of the recordings thus far have been made at home. We anticipate that future recordings will continue in this tradition. All releases were made available on limited edition cassette and digital download.

Much like a lot of the UK underground at the moment, we deal in cassettes and downloads. That’s out of necessity as much as anything. Hardly anyone can afford to make vinyl now.


House Of Bastet EP  (summer 2017)

Scrying (spring 2018)

Solananceae (early 2019)

What are the Penance Stare plans for this year ?

We won’t be playing any shows in a while as we’re writing a brand-new live set. So far, progress has been fast, so we expect to be back by the summer. There will also probably be another release by the end of the year.

 Contact Esme at  https://www.facebook.com/penancestaremusic/

 Interview by Gary Alikivi     February 2019.