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Monday, 6 July 2020

News: Musical theatre CD on sale now to raise money for NHS heroes

Musical theatre CD on sale now to raise money for NHS heroes

A successful musical theatre group has produced a compilation of lockdown classics to help support the National Health Service.

Darlington Operatic Society has released a CD called “Strictly Lockdown” – comprising 18 musical theatre songs – with 50 per cent of the profits being donated to the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust’s Charity. All of the songs have been created by members singing in isolation from their spare bedrooms, under-stair cupboards, bathrooms and conservatories during the period of lockdown due to the Covid 19 outbreak.

The result is around 80 minutes of “virtual musical theatre magic”, with the CD on sale now. DarlingtonOS spokesman Julian Cound said: “I’m so happy to be able to say the CD is on sale now as it has been such a challenging project over the past three months.  The idea of creating a compilation CD came fairly soon after the lockdown happened. It has taken many weeks of planning and organisation to get the CD on sale.”

Sarah Singleton Darlington OS and
receptionist at Darlington Memorial Hospital
The process involved choosing the right mix of songs, arranging backing tracks as well as making sure the project meets all legal requirements.  “Over 40 members have submitted individual vocal tracks to be used on the CD which contains a mix of duets, small groups and full company numbers. This would be challenging enough in a recording studio but to create a CD of this quality in isolation has required a fantastic effort from everyone involved.  The CD is full of songs from the best loved musicals including Wicked, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Sister Act, Hairspray and many more.”

Commenting, Pat Chambers, charity manager at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, “We’re enormously grateful to Darlington Operatic Society for sharing the profits from sales with us. The volunteers who run our hospital radio are also looking forward to playing the CD. Donations are used to fund a variety of projects to enhance the experience of both patients and staff and are much appreciated.”

As well as supporting the NHS, sales of Strictly Lockdown will also help DOS through a difficult period until it can resume staging its shows at the Hippodrome.

The CD is priced at just £10 plus p&p and is available to buy now through the DarlingtonOS website

Sunday, 5 July 2020

News: Tyne Theatre & Opera House set to ‘Light It In Red’, to appeal for government support for the UK events industry

The Tyne Theatre and Opera House are collaborating with Tyne Audio to join the ‘Light It In Red’ campaign on Monday 6th July. #LightItInRed serves as a mass appeal to politicians to save the events industry. By lighting buildings red, they hope to draw attention to the dramatic situation in which over twenty-five thousand businesses and over half a million workers throughout the UK’s event industry, are directly suffering the ill effects of being unable to operate.

North East based equipment hire & production services company Tyne Audio, will be working with staff at Tyne Theatre and Opera House to light the entire front of the Theatre and auditorium red from 7pm on Monday 6th July. As is the situation with hundreds of venues across the country, Tyne Theatre and Opera House is currently unable to operate, meaning a loss of almost all income. This is not only affecting the venues themselves, but also all those in the numerous trades that are involved in putting on events.

Photo: - Google Map of
locations set to join Light It In Red project
The Light It In Red project, inspired by Germany's #NightOfLight2020, is created and managed by Clearsound Productions Ltd, a UK based production company, in partnership with the Backstage Theatre Jobs forum. A statement on their website reads “Our goal is to have a conversation with politicians and the government about how the billion-pound events industry can be saved from a massive wave of insolvency and how the preservation of over half a million jobs can be ensured.“

The specific bailout requests include grants for businesses in the event supply chain, an extension to the furlough scheme and an extension to the self-employed scheme.

Images and videos of the illuminated buildings and structures nationwide are set to be uploaded and posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under the hashtag #LightItInRed – so that anyone interested can look at the nationwide installations online and support the movement.
As an independent venue, the Tyne Theatre and Opera House relies entirely on ticket sales and donations to survive and keep the theatre’s 150+ year heritage alive. Having seen a dramatic loss of income, Tyne Theatre and Opera House are asking audiences to support their theatre directly by donating, joining their Friend’s Club or naming a seat. They recently live-streamed their first show since lockdown – an Evening of Comedy hosted by Carl Hutchinson, featuring Gavin Webster and other North East comedy talents. Over 5000 people tuned in to watch the show that was put on to help fundraise for the theatre.
Gavin Webster 
Geordie comedy legend and Newcastle’s very own original alternative comedian, Gavin Webster will be returning to the theatre on Saturday 6th March 2021 with a brand new one man show, following a 5 year break.
His show will be about ageing, lockdown, being on hold on the phone, young people not being able to drive properly and his apparent lack of understanding of what boomers, Generation X and millennials aspire to, according to his teenage daughter.
His growing hatred of the world and growing love of complaining is here to stay – joining the ‘crash bang wallop’ jokes, angry ukulele songs and dark one liners. He’s here to ‘play live to actual people’ and you won’t want to miss the man who’s been around for years, but is just getting to his angry peak. The North East Theatre Guide reviewed his 2017 show LINK.
Tickets for Gavin Webster’s show go on sale on Tuesday 7th July 2020 from 10am online from Eventim UK: #Ad

More information on how to support the theatre at:
More information on the Light It In Red project at:

Thursday, 18 June 2020

News: Flash sale to mark the summer solstice at Darlington Hippodrome


Flash sale to mark the summer solstice
To mark the summer solstice, Darlington Hippodrome is offering tickets for a variety of shows at just £20* during daylight hours on Saturday 20 June.
Councillor Andy Keir says “This week we’ve seen the town centre come alive as shops have re-opened. It’s been a tremendous step forward, and now we are looking towards the resurgence of the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. I can’t wait to visit the theatre and experience the buzz of a live performance, and I’m spoilt for choice for shows to watch in 2021 and beyond.”
Darlington Hippodrome’s Sales and Marketing Manager Rebecca Howarth explains “Traditionally, the summer solstice has been celebrated as a time of new beginnings. As restrictions start to ease, and life feels a little more normal, we can begin to look to the future. We know, however, that these are uncertain times, so we want customers to know that if they book for any show, and it’s postponed, or they’re unable to attend for any reason, then they are entitled to a full refund.”
The summer solstice sale includes the following productions: Anything For Love, By The Waters of Liverpool, Islands In The Stream, Radio Ga Ga, Kate Rusby, Walk Right Back and Strictly Ballroom.
To take advantage of this flash sale, book online at using the code SOLSTICE between sunrise at 4.43am and sunset at 9.21pm on Saturday 20 June.

*Includes a £2 restoration levy

Wednesday, 17 June 2020

News Commissions wanted for Listen Up @ Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre

New writing commissions from Alphabetti Theatre aim to increase under-represented voices in North East theatre.

Listen Up @ Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre

Alphabetti Theatre is offering 9 micro commissions write a 10-minute audio play. Writers will be paid £100, have their work professionally performed by casts of up to two actors, and hear their work produced and released via Alphabetti Theatre’s online programme.

To apply, writers must identify as one or more of the following: identify as a woman; identify as LGBTQ+; identify as a member of a BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic) group; live with a physical or cognitive disability.

Alphabetti Theatre’s Listen Up commissions come at a time when many fear the theatre industry’s hard-won gains on increasing diversity is in danger of becoming undone due to the Covid-19 crisis, as reported by The Guardian’s Arifa Akbar on 09/06/2020 ( Ali Pritchard, Artistic/Executive Director at Alphabetti Theatre, explains why he decided to launch this scheme now:  “Since starting Alphabetti in 2012 we have always strived to be a socioeconomically accessible space, with an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. 99% of our tickets are priced at £10 and under or are part of our Pay What You Feel ticketing policy. We’re not housed in a shiny building – we are based in a space found and repurposed for local artists and audiences.”

Ali goes on to explain, “According to the last census, 14% of the UK population identifies as a member of a BAME (Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic) group, 6% identify as LGBTQ+, 51% identify as women and 24% live with a physical or cognitive disability – so why is the theatrical writing scene dominated by cis, white, heterosexual men?  If you want to write professionally, build a longer relationship with Alphabetti and identify as one being part of one of the groups listed, then please apply to Listen Up. There is no age or experience requirement.”

Alphabetti wants to build long-term relationships with writers commissioned through Listen Up. Writers who have taken part in previous similar schemes at Alpabetti have gone on to develop successful careers in theatre. Local writer Arabella Arnott had her first play performed in May 2016 at Alphabetti Theatre as part of a scheme where emerging writers were commissioned to create short “reaction pieces” to an Alphabetti Theatre production. Thanks to the support from Alphabetti, Arabella has gone on to co-found her own theatre company, Coracle, and build a regional presence as a writer. Ali hopes she will soon be recognised nationally for her incredible writing.

Audiences will have a chance to hear audio performances from these writers for free via from September 2020 and throughout the remainder of the year. Directors will include Ali along with Live Theatre’s Senior Creative Associate – Paul James. The full creative team will be announced soon.

To apply, writers need to provide a short synopsis of the audio play they want to be commissioned, a 5-page example of their writing, and a brief statement to explain why they are applying for this opportunity. For full details visit

Alphabetti Theatre is currently closed due to Covid-19 and is facing significant uncertainty. Despite this, the theatre remains committed to their audiences and artists. Alphabetti Theatre has launched ‘BETTi Recommends’, a weekly curated selection of free bitesize online content, as well as online performances and the Listen Up writing commissions. You can donate and help save Alphabetti Theatre at

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Preview: 24 Hours in Isolation - Online

North East artists unite to create unprecedented loneliness project

24 Hours in Isolation
Sunday 21st June 2020

Musicians, poets, writers and comedians from North East England are uniting to share untold stories of loneliness from before and during the Covid19 crisis, as part of an unprecedented round-the-clock storytelling project. 24 Hours in Isolation will release a new micro-episode on the hour, every hour from midnight to 11pm on 21st June 2020.

26 artists are creating short musical, spoken word or drama episodes based on real people. Contributors include singer Beccy Owen, “Door To Door Poet” Rowan McCabe, Journal Culture Award winner Jessica Johnson, Royal Court writer Mhairi Legerwood, Stand Comedy Club regular John Scott, broadcaster Viv Wiggins, award winning poet Rachel Burns, and BAFTA Crew member Allison Davies. The full running order is at the bottom of this post.

Pre-Covid episodes include supermarket staff heading off for an early morning shift; nervous joggers circling parks; confused older people waiting for care workers; autistic children singing to themselves. Stories from the pandemic include sports coaches losing their online audience, nurses pinning doves on the doors of dying patients, parents hiding from home schooling and lonely neighbours having “just one more bottle of wine”.

Released on 21st June as individual episodes of no more than 3minutes, people can visit the 24 Hours in Isolation podcast site every hour, to be inspired, heartbroken and made to laugh all day long. Or they can wait for the full collection to be released as a single 45minute collection on 25th June.

Among the stories Claire Tustin’s song “one more zoom” is an anthem for 2020 with an epic lump-in-the-throat moment, whilst John Scott’s “nurse story” is a closely researched insight into the impact of working on in intensive. Both have been released early as an exclusive preview of the full collection:

Conceived by producer Ben Dickenson and poet Sky Hawkins, the project is a response to self-isolation during the Covid19 pandemic and to the epidemic of loneliness that was already growing in British society before the virus arrived.  A 2019 YouGov study found 53% of adults in the North East felt lonely. This is not the same as social distancing but the powerful stories in 24 Hours in Isolation show that one has exacerbated the other.

Speaking about the inspiration for the project Ben said: “Covid19 hit unexpectedly, bringing sickness and death but also separation and hardship. I was furloughed from my Executive Producer role with City of Dreams. As a creative with a social mission, having nothing to get up for was hard. Being cut off from my family was too. I talked to a lot of people who had it worse than me – nurses, parents, shop workers - we all had similar feelings. What stood out was that all of us had felt some kind of isolation before Covid arrived, and not told anyone.”

Sky Hawkins added: “I was working on a project about women’s identity for the British Library and had to finish it in isolation. It was weird but I could get it done from home by using digital media. Its’ amazing how connected everyone is online now and how separate we are in reality. We wanted to take the digital tools creatives are using and do something different - bring people together through stories about how it feels to be apart.”

The episodes in 24 Hours in Isolation have been recorded by the creators, or actors, in their own homes, using whatever equipment they could find and with advice from sound supervisor Matt Tuckey. All artists are working without fee, as is the production team. As Ben puts is: “The queue to get involved was long. The commitment to tackling loneliness and working together during a tough time for the arts was inspirational”.

24 Hours in Isolation will present a day of diverse and enlightening stories, each episode casting light on a different experience of isolation. With episodes released every hour, on the hour, starting at midnight on the longest day of the year - 21st June - audiences can have a unique round-the-clock experience, dipping in and out as the day goes on.  Or they can wait till June 25th and listen to the complete collection in a single package.

24 Hours in Isolation starts midnight Sunday 21st June 2020, episodes released hourly until 11pm, audiences should subscribe at (all content is audio).
The episodes will also be available on podcast services including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts & Spotify.
The full 24 Hours in Isolation collection will be released as one podcast on Thursday 25th June

Donations: The artists would appreciate donations via: 
      The full 24 Hours in Isolation running order is:

when the kids are in bed
written/performed by Emily Wiseman
on the ventilator
written/performed by Oli Welham
Mulberry House (I can’t sleep)
written/performed by Rachel Burns
cold air
written/performed by Lindsay Hannon

and WHO benefits
written/performed Viv Wiggins
we all wake up alone
spoken word
written/performed Tracey Tofield
shop worker leaving for work
written by Allison Davies, performed by Jessica Johnson
joggers in the park
written by Claire Tustin, performed by Steve Byron
breakfast alone
written/performed by Beccy Owen
good morning gabba
spoken word
written/performed by Don MacDonald
YouTube home fitness
written Mhairi Legerwood, performed by Sarah Boulter
another bloody Zoom meeting
written/performed by Claire Tustin
home schooling
written/performed by Kelly Rickard
talking to my carer
written/performed by Allison Davies
nurse story part 1
written/performed by John Scott
young, broke, on benefits
written by Sky Hawkins, performed by Luke Maddison
leaving school
written/performed by Emily Wiseman
here we are now
spoken word
written/performed by Tracey Tofield

nurse story part 2
written/performed by John Scott
6 feet apart at the supermarket
written/performed by Oli Welham
normal or now
written/performed by Amy Mitchell

the watch party
written Mhairi Legerwood, performed by Bob Nicholson
little songs
written by Rachel Burns, performed by Luke Maddison
I left without the money
written/performed by Claire Tustin
another bottle of wine
written/performed by Viv Wiggins
grief (the nurse)
by Ben Dickenson
the comedian
spoken word
written/performed by John Scott