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News: Doorstep Music project offers residents the best seat in the house

Doorstep Music project offers residents the best seat in the house

While the theatre remains closed, Northern Stage is taking the show on the road this summer with a pop up music programme for residents on the Byker estate in Newcastle. The Doorstep Music project has been made possible by funding from by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness and Well Newcastle Gateshead.

Musicians will play live while residents are encouraged to come out onto their doorsteps to listen and sing along, in line with social distancing rules.

Musicians Hannabiell Sanders & Linday Hannon
perform live for Byker Estate residents
Northern Stage has a long term commitment to working in Byker, one of the most disadvantaged wards in the UK. The company’s main rehearsal space is next to Byker Primary School and Northern Stage plays a lead role in the Byker Children and Young People’s Partnership (BCYPP), a pioneering initiative comprised of almost 50 organisations working together to raise aspirations, enrich lives and achieve social change. 

During lockdown, the team quickly adapted to meet the changing needs of residents - delivering food parcels and activity packs, and regularly speaking to isolated members of the local community.

front l-r Lucy Stobbart & Damereo Witherspoon and the Nwankwagu family -
back l-r Lindsay Hannon Hannabiell Sanders Caroline Ryan + Jeremy Bradfield
Northern Stage Associate Director Louie Ingham explains, “We’ve been working in Byker for two and a half years now, making great creative things happen with our community.  Lockdown has given us an opportunity to get to know even more local residents in new ways, and we have continued to find out what people need and how they’re feeling, so it’s been been really exciting to co-create Doorstep Music together.  A lot of the people we’ve chatted to don’t have access to digital content - they don’t have data on their phone or wifi at home - so it was important to do something live. We’ve also talked to residents and the Byker Community Trust about how we can make the show accessible, where to set up in different locations around the Estate to make sure everyone can see and hear from their own homes."

Doorstep Music in Byker - musicians Jeremy Bradfield
LIndsay Hannon & Hannabiell Sanders give
a pop up performance for Byker Estate residents
Louie and the team have been taking song requests on their delivery rounds to compile a ‘people’s playlist’ so residents can enjoy some of their favourite tunes from their gardens, doorsteps and balconies. Songs will be played live by musicians Hannabiell Sanders, Jeremy Bradfield and Lindsay Hannon, with BSL by Caroline Ryan. Louie says, “We hope that Doorstep Music will bring people together, even though we have to be two metres apart. It’s a way of connecting people through excellent live music and art, to entertain and bring a bit of joy to the neighbourhood while making sure the musicians, our staff and residents stay safe.”  

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, who part-funded the programme, said: “As soon as I heard about this idea it excited me.  It’s a really open, accessible project designed for the good of the community, bringing everyone together. It‘s about building a sense of pride for local people within their neighbourhood, helping everyone feel safer.

“It’s a real stand out project for me, with really fantastic performances designed to inspire, and it fits in perfectly with my plans around improving lives and preventing crime. I’m confident it’s going to be a real hit with the people of Byker.”

Musician Lindsay Hannon plays while Byker Estate
residents watch from their doorsteps
Well Newcastle Gateshead Programme Director, Mark Mulqueen added, “The people of Byker have a strong cultural identity and with our support we want to encourage creativity community connections especially following the coronavirus lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of changes to our daily lives, not least to how people and communities stay connected. We are using the Well Newcastle Gateshead Arts Fund to support community focussed projects that celebrate their place and their culture, with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of our communities. The Doorstep Music project is just one of them!”

Northern Stage Associate Director, Mark Calvert said, “It’s been an incredibly strange time for all us during the last 4 months and this project couldn’t have come along soon enough for both the Byker community and our freelance community. It’s so important for our industry and our region that we find ways to unite by creating things together. This project is hopefully the first in a series of projects that supports our independent artists and makers in the North East while also bringing some happiness to this brilliant Byker community. It’s so exciting that after 17 weeks of lockdown, in which we’ve all been isolated, this project allows music to bring us all back together – socially distanced obviously.”

Photos: North News

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