MODERN gadgets were taken out of service for Northumberland teenagers as they journeyed back in time to try out life in the 19th Century.
A group of 50 youngsters, aged 13 to 19, decided to leave home comforts behind and move into Featherstone Castle, near Haltwhistle, for an 1840s’ Heritage Big Brother project.
And there was no room for bling, mobile phones, games consoles or other modern luxuries in the suitcase as participants got into the part by dressing in the style of the era and enjoying traditional activities.
The initiative was devised by young people over the past 18 months through the Time Travel Northumberland project at Woodhorn Museum and Northumberland Archives that seeks to engage youngsters in a variety of creative, cultural activities.
Ten young people from across the county were involved in planning, researching and developing the project, as well as organising events to challenge and entertain the ‘housemates’, taking inspiration from archive material and a poster promoting Felton Fest from 1836.
Fifteen-year-old Robert Naylor, from Morpeth, was one of those involved.
He said: “The Heritage Big Brother project has offered north east teenagers the opportunity to experience life like their great, great, great grandparents. It has been a culture shock, but they have really relished the challenge.
“Time Travel Northumberland captures a great way of connecting young people from across the region and uniting a vibrant culture. It is important that north east teenagers should not forget where they come from as in some cases young people can feel uninterested in their heritage.
“This project is a valuable chance to put across our way of thinking as in some situations older people do not understand the cultural expressions of us young adults.”
Housemates were chosen in a tough selection process, based on what they could contribute to the scheme.
And everything they experienced in the house was based on the 1840s’ lifestyle, including food, music, arts, crafts, dancing, sport, fashion, make-up and hairstyles.
They worked with experts to learn about what life was like in the era, and there were strict house rules and tasks to complete. No one was evicted, as happens in TV’s Big Brother, but there were special rewards, prizes and forfeits.
Participant Kyrain Stewart, 16, from Morpeth, said: “Heritage Big Brother has been excellent, trying new things that I’ve never done before.
“This week has been great fun and really tested my mind. It’s been an interesting lesson in history, showing exactly how people used to live.”
The only departure from 19th Century living was a reflective diary room, where housemates recorded their thoughts on camera, and the whole process was documented on film by the young people, with help from Act 2 Cam.
Film-maker Hugh Kelly also followed the experience and the documentary footage will be placed in Woodhorn’s archive.
The project aimed to encourage commitment, excellence and teamwork, as well as develop transferable skills.
Director of the Woodhorn Trust Keith Merrin said: “Not many young people can boast they’ve lived in a castle for a week. This innovative project has been a positive experience combining learning with having a great time.
“This heritage project also cleverly enabled young people to imaginatively research the Northumberland Archives held at Woodhorn, which are such a fantastic resource of stories and are often being under valued.”
Woodhorn Creative Mentor Juliet Hardy said: “Seeing the confidence of the young people grow is magical. They sometimes don’t see it happening and the moment they realise they have achieved something is very rewarding.
“Time Travel Northumberland is an amazing rollercoaster project that really gets young people enthused about their heritage. Every day is different, there is never a dull moment.”