Dr Julie Carter



(Local note – A Mackem is a person who comes from Sunderland in the north-east of England.)

One morning before dawn about three years ago, I set off from my front door near Keswick to run to Gateshead stadium over ninety miles away. It was both a pilgrimage to an ancestor and a journey of self-discovery. Last week a special envelope arrived in the post—it contained the first proof copy of the book which tells the whole story. To have a physical copy of this book in my hands is a milestone. The writing has tested and challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I conceived of the project. I feel nervous and proud about the book, like a teenager which almost has its bags packed ready to leave home. The book, Makin a Mackem—the journey of running into my skin, represents both a physical and emotional journey which weaves together scientific insights, history, ethnography and personal reflection. It’s hard to describe one’s own book so here is a description from Maggie Gregson, Professor of Vocational Education at Sunderland University.

“ This is the story of a woman, the place and the people she came from and how she learned to "run into her own skin". It traces the long shadow cast by experiences of trauma as a child and reveals how these can follow and compromise a person into adulthood. It is utterly candid, compelling, poetic and staggeringly good. She invites us to join her on an evocative and breath-taking journey across the elements of the landscape of her life past and present. This raw, wise, humorous and touching memoir is an inspirational and compelling read for any human being engaged in the often troubling and difficult endeavour of growing into the history of their own life.”

I wanted to write a book which will not just entertain but will also mean something to you in a personal way. Everyone who reads it will make their own relationship with this work, since reading is not passive but is a way to participate in each other’s lives. I offer it to you with a degree of excitement and curiosity and can’t wait to hear what you make of it. But wait I must, just a little while longer, as the launch will be on Sunday 26th November in Portinscale Village Hall at 4pm. Here is the link to reserve your ticket. At the event there will be food, drink, live music and an interactive illustrated book presentation from me. I really hope to see you there.


 back cover 1


After my physical copy of Makin a Mackem arrived I turned it over in my hands, and took a few moments to feel it, to take in the fact that it exists. The painstaking and nitpicking work of micro tweaks to the design and tiny corrections is to be done. But I didn’t want to dive straight into that. Writing this book has been one of the most tricky things I have ever done and for most of the way along the writing journey I thought it unlikely that this moment would ever come. I’m really grateful to my editor Kelly Davis and to the small handful of people who have read it and even given some early reviews. Some of the reviewers are people I do not know but who have done this out of a sense of authorial kinship and their reactions so far have at least given me a little confidence.

When my first book, Running the Red Line, was launched I likened the experience to walking stark naked down the high-street on a busy weekend. I imagined that by book three I might feel a little less exposed. But it doesn’t work like that. Writing is a process of discovery which requires me to be open to interrogating my own biases and ways of narrating the world. We are all storytellers, constantly telling ourselves stories to make sense of ourselves and of the world we live in. The stories are fluid and dynamic as we receive new insights and information and have fresh experiences. But where I think writing is important is that it asks me not be sloppy about my processes of making sense. I don’t mean I have to be logical or even agree with myself all the time, but that I keep pushing for versions of the story that contain more truth, both emotional and factual. In the end Makin a Mackem was a project which has helped me make more sense of life and even though that work is never finished, to sit here with this book in my hand is a satisfying moment.

back cover 8

Soon I’ll be sending it out into the world, to make its own way and to have relationships with the people it meets, some of whom I will know and many of whom I won’t. Although this is nerve wracking, like running, writing has now become a way of life to me. There may be weeks and even months in my life when I cannot run, or cannot write, but I feel I will always be wanting to do both. Both are now so bound up my way of being in the world. So having prepared the Mackem to leave home there are more books in my head. And although they may seem like distant dreams just now I have to remind myself that probably every book will feel like that to begin with.


back cover 2

Makin a Mackem

 You need a long time to mak a Mackem—

It takes buckets and spades and Seaburn beach

and holding to dreams

that are miles out of reach.


It takes Roker Pier and ‘Haway the Lads’

and late-night beatings of mams by dads.

It takes pints of cider and vats of Blue Nun;

knowing when to hide and when to run.


It takes courage and patience

and the News O’ The World,

and a clout round the lugs

when ’er tongue’s unfurled.


But when she is welded—

the Mackem is made;

she’s as soft as a bairn

and as hard as nails.


As hard as a nail

that waits for the hammer,

as soft as the dream

that once began ’er.