Fl10s: False Lights Seaham is inspired by East Durham's maritime heritage, and responds specifically to the 1962 George Elmy lifeboat disaster. Fl10s comprises an installation, composition, and a site-specific live performance.
The name is taken from the description of Seaham’s lighthouse character in the Admiralty List of Lights, which flashes once every ten seconds.
The structure installed in St. John’s Church until November 13 incorporates 10 large-scale tuned steel plates controlled by electromagnets. As the bell plates resonate, the large oak-framed instrument emits dense otherworldly tones. The oak frame is formed from a series of rotating crosses, representing the imposing coal staithes that lined the Seaham shoreline, and the motion of the lifeboat as it capsized. A sense of motion is created as lights arc around the skeletal, timber form and shadows are cast and re-cast throughout the space.
The instrument plays a new composition written in response to the narrative of the George Elmy disaster. Structural elements of the piece are drawn from the rhythm of the lighthouse lamp, and from numeric patterns and key incidents mentioned in witness statements taken at the time.
The installation will move outdoors for a one off performance in Seaham Marina marking the anniversary of the George Elmy disaster. An expanded version of Carter’s new composition will be performed by Carter, joined by a local brass quintet and percussionists.
Carter’s The False Lights of Durham (a short film and composition, recorded in Durham Cathedral for Channel 4’s Random Acts) was inspired by the intriguing history of East Durham’s treacherous coastline, and the tale of unexplained lights which caused so many ships to wreck in the 1860s. Reports of these 'false lights' (which officials controversially blamed on local fishing communities) ended with the construction of the region’s 10 electric lighthouses.
Fl10s is an ambitious work building on the context of The False Lights of Durham, focusing specifically on the Seaham coastline. Carter’s approach imagines the Seaham lighthouse as a metronome, the landmark innocently marking time as events gradually unfold around it.