Interview with North East actor Andrew Finnigan – newly appointed Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2020

I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Andrew Finnigan – North East based professional actor AND the newly appointed Customs House’s Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2020. This news is hot off the press so I was buzzed to be one of the first interviewing him!

I’m working with the folks over at The Customs House for Takeover 2020 to champion the festival – you can read my blog post all about the Takeover HERE and find out more about it; but just to remind my fellow Culture Vultures, The Takeover is an annual week-long arts festival at The Customs House that is produced by, with and for young people. The festival is led, planned, marketed, delivered and evaluated by the Takeover Team, a group of 12-18 year olds, who are recruited from diverse backgrounds and have varying leadership and arts experiences. I chatted to two of this year’s team Harrison and James HERE.

 Takeover 2020 was set to happen May half term but for obvious reasons it has been postponed – so instead it’s (hopefully) something for North East young people later in the year to look forward to and enjoy; new dates are yet to be announced.

The Takeover Young Writer residency is an opportunity for an emerging theatre writer, under 25yrs old, to write a piece of theatre with young people’s voices and a North East narrative rooted at its heart. This piece will be staged at The Customs House as the finale piece of Takeover Festival 2020! The residency comes with support from the Takeover team and mentoring from a professional writer; this year’s mentor is the eminent playwright Tom Wells.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2019 – Elijah Young; you can catch up on that interview HERE. But now it’s time for Andrew Finnigan – I caught up with Andrew by phone and had a really good natter; I was super impressed that this is his first writing experience and got such a sense of bubbling energy, enthusiasm and talent. And his piece for this year’s Takeover Festival, sounds brilliant and I’m excited for him to share with you a glimpse.

So step right up Andrew, here we go go! An interview with Andrew Finnigan, this year’s appointed Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2020. BOOM!

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Andrew Finnigan (Photo credit – Andrew Reed)

Hiyer Andrew – lush to digitally meet you! So can you tell my fellow Culture Vultures, who you are….

I’m Andrew Finnigan; I’m 23 and work primarily as an actor. I’m based in South Shields but kind of up sticks to wherever work takes me.

Textbook question – can you tell me about your journey into the creative industries?

Oddly it wasn’t a route; I didn’t even realise I was starting at the time. Me and my best were kind of forced into doing the school musical when we were about 13, but it turned out I quite enjoyed it so I started taking looking for ways I could get more into that kind of thing outside of school.

I joined the Customs House Youth Theatre when I was 16 and from there, started to appreciate theatre and storytelling even more. In 2016, I was cast in a play called Broken Biscuits, from an open audition where you didn’t need to have any formal training or an agent to go along; I had neither at the time. And that was the start!

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Andrew Finnigan in Broken Biscuits (Photo credit unknown)

Youre primarily an actor – can you tell me about the most recent production you acted in?

The last production I worked on was a Sam Steiner play, You Stupid Darkness!. It tells the story of 4 volunteers who answer the phones at Brightline during the a time when society is on the brink of collapse – the volunteers listen patiently, once a week, to outpourings of  stranger’s woe, offering the hope of connection – a hope they come to rely on just as much. You Stupid Darkness! had a five week run down at the Southwark Playhouse in London and actually finished up not long before the lockdown was put in place so timing wise we were quite lucky!

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Andrew Finnigan in You Stupid Darkness! (Photo credit Matt Austin)

So on to the main subject of this interview – Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2020 – HUGE congrats on being appointed! So lush to hear some happy news like this, during this challenging period – what prompted you to apply for the residency?

I’ve known about the Takeover Young Writer in Residence scheme since it started in 2018 but hadn’t considered applying as a writer!  For the application stage, you had to submit 10/15 pages of a script and a friend of mine said I should try and think of an idea and produce something. It was quite a nice low pressure way of working and felt like a well “why not?” situation.

Can tell me about the moment you found out and how it felt to find out you’d been successful?

I actually got the email telling me on the first day of lock down so I was really pleased I’d have something to work on. I was also hit with a sudden realisation that I had to actually finish writing it and that 10 pages was just the start, but the thought of finally seeing it on stage during Takeover 2020 really keeps me motivated.

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Andrew Finnigan in Drip (Photo credit Sam Taylor)

This is the first piece of theatre youve ever written (exciting!)  – where are you seeking inspiration for your writing?

I’ve been using my time to watch any TV or movies that I feel sit in the same world as what I’m writing. I often think there’s nothing worse than reading or watching how an adult thinks teenagers act or talk, but shows like Sex Education on Netflix really seem to capture the awkwardness and goofiness of what being that age is like, so I’ve definitely been coming back to that for reference points.

Agree with the adult perception of young people depicted in media– it can be SO cringe! Can you tell us about your piece? A flavour of what it is about, the storyline and the vibe?

So, the play is called Cherryade Supernova. It follows Josie, whose mam has convinced her to throw a house party while she’s away in the hope that she can make some new friends. She throws the party and an array of different personalities show-up! The piece is really about Josie kind of navigating her way through the night as best she can. Vibe wise, it’ll hopefully be reflective of how awkward house parties actually were (or are!) when you’re a teenager and just the messiness of it all.

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Andrew Finnigan (Photo credit Rich Kenworthy)

I was the Queen of social awkwardness as a teenage so I can relate – sounds brilliant and absolutely love the name! How far have you got with writing and can you tell us a bit about your writing process?  

Currently I’m about half-way through my first draft. I’m going at a steady pace at the minute but I’m happy with the progress it’s making. Since I’ve haven’t written theatre before I’m kind of figuring out what kind of writer I am during this process; whether I work best writing chronologically or if I start with the scenes I see a bit more clearly first. It has just been trial and error really seeing which way fits me best. I have so far drawn a lot from my own life when writing too; injecting some of my own experiences at pretty tame house parties.

I know this is your first writing experience – but how do you think lock down has impacted your writing? Many creative folks are struggling with being creative and concentrating (I hear ya!), how are you finding it?

It has been a challenge but I’m starting to get used to it now. For me personally, it has been about finding my rhythm of when I get the best work done. I’ve found that I actually focus more later on in the day so I make sure that most nights I sit down and try and get some stuff written then. Not putting pressure on myself to get lots written each day helps too; if I’ve had a bad day and not gotten much down, I tell myself it’s okay – right now even half a page’s work is a small victory in itself.

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Andrew Finnigan in You Stupid Darkness (Photo  credit Ali Wright)

What are you excited about within the residency? What do you hope to get out of it?

Since I only really have experience being on stage, I’m really looking forward to being on the other side and seeing how it feels watching my work performed by others. I’m also so pleased that my piece is being directed by Abigail Lawson too. We worked together on Wormtown and I think she makes great choices as an actor so have total faith she’ll do an ace job when it comes to the play.

You just mentioned Wormtown by Reece Connolly – Takeover Young Writer in Residence 2018’s piece. I didn’t get to see it – as one of the actors who starred in it – can you tell me about the production and your experience?

Wormtown was Reece’s take on the old piece of North East folklore, The Lambton Worm. It followed a group of teenagers from stopping a giant monster wreaking havoc on their town. I’m a massive fan of sci-fi in movies and tv, so for Reece to make a piece of sci-fi theatre, it was something I hadn’t really read or seen before and he’s such a unique and talented writer so I feel very lucky to have been a part of one of his early productions.

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Andrew Finnigan in Wormtown (far left – photo credit unknown)

Sounds amazing! As part of the Takeover residency experience – you have access to a range of support and a mentorship – can you tell me a bit about that and how that is working so far?

Each year the writer in residency is paired with a professional writer as a mentor and this year’s mentor is Tom Wells. Tom and I have actually worked together a few times over the past few years and I’ve acted in two of his past productions, Broken Biscuits and Drip. We usually schedule FaceTime catch ups every couple of weeks where I’ll send him any progress I’ve made and we’ll discuss them over a cuppa.

When I feel I’ve hit a bit of a wall, it is nice knowing that Tom is there to give me advice on how to work through that. I feel like I couldn’t have been paired with a better writer, as Tom’s work is always so warm and playful, and that is definitely something I hope to mirror in my own writing.

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Tom is just brilliant – you’re going to learn so much! Like last year’s Takeover Writer in Residence Elijah Young, you’re an actor! Do you think your actor experience could make you a better theatre writer and maker?

I think it helps in the sense I’m seeing what I’m writing from the perspective of an actor too. Since the play has to accommodate eight actors, I’m always aware of having to juggle so many characters on stage at one time and not wanting a character just sat there without bringing something to the scene. I also don’t want it to feel like it’s overcrowded without purpose in the story.

It is hoped that your production, Cherryade Supernova will be shown later in the year (everything crossed!)- you’ve certainly whetted my appetite – can you tell me a bit about what you hope the audience experience to be?

I think the main thing I want is that the audience has fun when watching. I want people to have an experience where they maybe see a bit of themselves in some of the characters and have a few laughs in there too.

You used to be a part of Customs House Youth Theatre, you’ve performed as part of previous year’s Takeover performance and now you’re 2020 Young Writer in Residence! What do creative opportunities like The Takeover at Customs House mean to you?

Over the past 8 years the Customs House has become a second home so I’m dead pleased my play will be given a life there. There is real history in that building so to be able to add to that is really special.

I think the most important aspect of the Takeover is being able to give chances to young people who might not have had creative opportunities otherwise. It is rare you’ll find opportunities like this where you don’t have to have any previous experience or relevant professional training. The Takeover is all so inclusive and accessible so I think it makes it a lot less daunting to get involved.

Youre from South Shields – what does having a venue like Customs House mean to you? Why is it important to young people?

The most valuable thing the Customs House have given me is guidance and support; especially in a world where being an actor is considered “a pipe dream”. I think that is really important for young people, especially with creative subjects being dropped or overlooked in schools; the Customs House is somewhere for us to go and be encouraged to engage and develop without a sense that working in the arts is unachievable. I’m doing it!

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Andrew Finnigan in Drip (photo credit Sam Taylor)

Are you a theatre goer” yourself? If so – have you got a production that you recently enjoyed that youd like to tell me about?

The last piece I watched actually was a video recording of Sea Wall, a monologue by Simon Stephens. It was a piece that was originally performed at the Bush Theatre in London in 2008 and then later recorded a few years later. It was put on YouTube free to watch for a short period during lock down; which I think is a great idea making it more accessible. It is performed by Andrew Scott (Moriarty in BBC 1’s Sherlock) who I just think is brilliant. He just melts into the part and makes it so quiet and truthful; it’s really moving. It’s definitely worth a watch if it’s still online. (It is currently available to watch here!)

Any advice youd like to share, to anyone like yourself this time last year, who haven’t written theatre before but curious about it?

I think my advice would be that if you have an idea, just start writing to get it down. Don’t worry if it won’t be read straight away by anyone else, just write for yourself and see how it feels.

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Andrew Finnigan in Drip (photo credit Sam Taylor)

Well thank you Andrew – really excited to see Cherryade Supernova and for Takeover 2020 – make sure you keep your eyes out for Takeover 2020 dates and come and see it! I will be there with bells on! It’s always such a pleasure to meet someone towards the beginning of their creative career on the edge of something brilliant and if you’re reading this and feeling creatively curious, please take Andrew’s advice about just getting started! If a global pandemic has taught us anything – it’s that life is too short to sit on something and wait; just get out there and have a go!

For all things Takeover 2020 – follow @CustomsHouseLP on social! For all things Customs House follow @theCustomsHouse on social too! I will be championing happenings and more features on Vulture so keep an eye out too!

That’s all for now Culture Vultures!

 

 

Interview with Elijah Young – script writer, theatre maker, actor, Takeover’s Young Writer in Residence 2019.

Those who read my blog and/or follow my social will know that I’m working on Takeover Festival this year. You can read my previous post about Takeover festival, opportunities and call-outs for young people open now AND hear from Takeover Festival 2020 team members Harrison & James.

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The Takeover is an annual week-long arts festival at The Customs House that is produced by, with and for young people to develop and showcase their leadership skills. The festival is led, planned, marketed, delivered and evaluated by the Takeover Team, a group of 12-18 year olds who are recruited from diverse backgrounds and have varying leadership and arts experiences.

The current call outs are an opportunity for young people to contribute their creative work and/or to get involved and shape the festival. This year’s Takeover dates are 25th-29th May (get them in your diary!) & a five-day festival awaits for young people. Each year The Customs House is taken over by young emerging artists and arts professionals (25yrs and under) for a week of theatre, cinema, music, dance, poetry, hip hop and visual art.

But there is one call out in particular that is the feature of this blog post today – Young Writer in Residence 2020 . This call out is a fantastic opportunity for a current or aspiring theatre maker/writer to get their work from script to stage and seen! The successfully appointed Young Writer in Residence will benefit from mentoring from a professional writer alongside working on their piece and developing it for the stage within Takeover festival team and Customs House. The Young Writer in Residence’s play will be staged at Customs House as the finale piece of our Takeover Festival on 29 May (another date for your diary!).

Takeover Festival team are seeking submissions from a North East based young person, 25yrs and under and submissions should have young people’s voices at its heart, and a narrative that is firmly rooted in the North East. You can find full details about submission process HERE – and the deadline is Monday 16th March at 5pm.

Takeover Young Playwright in ResidenceNow I could wax lyrical about how amazing this opportunity is for a young writer – but I thought I’d interview last year’s Young Writer in Residence 2019 – who thanks in part to the residency has been making waves in the North East theatre scene, evidencing what an amazing platform this residency is. Elijah’s play Isolation (last year’s Takeover play) was shortlisted in the British Theatre Guide’s best of North East theatre in 2019 for Best New Play category. Elijah also won Most Promising Newcomer. BOOM! #ganon

I recently caught up with Elijah to find out more about his experience as Young Writer in Residence 2019, what he got out of it, what he’s gone on to do after the residency and why (in his opinion) other young people should apply for Young Writer In Residence 2020! Elijah and I have met a few times in passing but it wasn’t until last week at Live Theatre that I formally said “HIYER!” So without further ado – a Culture Vulture interview with Elijah Young!

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Elijah Young

Hi Elijah, please introduce yourself to my readers…..

My name is Elijah Young, I’m a playwright/actor from Teesside and I’m one of my parents seven loud and annoying children.

How would you describe the melting pot of all the creative lushness (writing, acting, day job?) you do?

What a lovely worded question! I’d describe it as a massive bag of pic ‘n’ mix, my day job being a mouthful of unwanted liquorice haha! I recently had a job in a panto as a skunk where I finished a show at one theatre, took off the makeup and raced across town in an Uber to see my play performed at a different theatre so yeah, a bit of a mixed bag.

Oh I hear you – Uber queen over here balancing MANY spinning plates! So tell me about what you were up to before being appointed as Takeover 2019 Young Writer in Residence?

I’d just graduated from the Project A acting course at Theatre Royal Newcastle and had a few jobs after finishing training. In the November of that year, I had my first finished piece of writing staged. That was my short play Fag Break and it was in ‘a 10mins to’… scratch evening at Live Theatre.

You do lots of acting on stage as well as write too – does one help the other?

Being an actor makes me a better writer, period. I like writing the sort of scripts that would excite me as an actor and that’s always something to refer back to when I’m reading a draft. I’m obsessed with writing dialogue. When I check if a scene works, I tend to record a character’s lines and leave the gaps in, for the other character and speak them out loud to hear how the rhythm of the dialogue sounds and see if it flows.

That is so interesting; how would you describe your writing process?

It’s chaotic and stressful but what keeps me calm and centred is that I always know how my play will start and how it’ll end. So, for me, it’s about getting from A to Z and figuring out what letters go I the middle.

Everything I do is pretty chaotic, I think it’s a sign of a true creative brain – How would you describe the types of subjects you write about?

I would probably describe them as personal because I put a lot of myself in my writing as I think all writers do. But before any of that, I want to make people laugh so I’ll always try and find humour no matter how depressing the subject matter is. You can imagine I was a very attention seeking but also entertaining child.

So let’s move on to Takeover Festival and your involvement in 2019. Had you heard about or been involved in Takeover before applying to be Young Writer in Residence 2019?

I hadn’t been involved but I heard about it as I remember literally everyone talking about WORMTOWN (Young Writer in Residence 2018 Reece Connolly wrote WORMTOWN). There was a major buzz about it and anyone involved were like the cool kids in school. It was, for sure, the hottest ticket in town at the time.

Why/what made you apply to be Takeover 2019 Young Writer in Residence and how did you feel when you were applying?

When I saw the opportunity I knew, despite how daunting it was, if I didn’t apply, I’d be utterly stupid. I think ultimately what scared me most was committing to writing a full-length play which I had never done before.

All brilliant, new things are daunting at first! The amount of call outs I’ve applied for that I’ve been excited and terrified in equal measure! Did you link up with Reece – Young Writer in Residence 2018 at all about WORMTOWN? Did you see it?

Yes! I got so much encouragement from him and I still remember our conversation after I’d seen WORMTOWN which is just mental because little did I know I’d be in his place a year later.

How did it feel pressing “send” your Young Writer in Residence 2019 submission?

Well I submitted quite late in the application process. I was really pushing it close to the time but that doesn’t surprise me as I’m such a perfectionist. Pressing “send” was actually a relief that I’d got it done.

How did you find out you were successful and what did that moment feel like?

It’s actually a really funny and lovely story because at the time I was with a guy, who’s now my boyfriend, but back then we’d barely been seeing each other for a couple of weeks. And I got this email and I’m in his living room suddenly shaking, screaming and jumping around and he’s stood in the kitchen baking and not knowing what to do with himself haha!

That is lush! So, tell us about your experience as Young Writer in Residence – what happened following being told you’d been appointed?

Things just sprang into action. I had a lovely meeting with Jake, the director and Fiona from the Customs House. I remember going to the toilet at one point and I did a five second dance party like a right dweeb.

I was then mentored by the talented and lovely Tamsin Daisy Rees who luckily was already a good friend of mine (and I was also a big fan). She made the process so easy, really took care of me and her advice was priceless as she has a brilliant eye for detail. We would have weekly updates whether that was a cuppa or a phone call and I felt proper looked after.

Being in the casting room was bizarre but lush as it was the first time I heard the script come to life. We took a really long time to cast it but our final decision on casting was the perfect fit.

I love that this residency not only provides a huge opportunity for a young writer like yourself but by having 8 characters, also provides a mega opportunity for aspiring and emerging young actors too. Did you feel daunted at any point with this being your first full length piece coming to life on stage with 8 parts?

Yes, a thousand times yes. It’s crazy to go from writing short plays for two to writing a full-length play for eight. But I also really enjoyed playing around with eight distinct characters. It would have taken me so long to dare to write more than three people in a play if it hadn’t been for the residency.

But it just felt like an incredible opportunity and I was awarded the residency when I was 20 years old which is just mental. I really see it as a major turning point despite being so early on in my writing career. In a lot of ways, I’m still reaping the benefits of that commission.

So, onto the piece you wrote as part of your Takeover residency Isolation – tell us about the piece?

Isolation follows the story of six students and the day they all spend together stuck in an isolation block at school. The day also a year since another student had killed himself. With that layered on top of them being in a small room together for eight hours tension starts to rise and eventually hell breaks loose.

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Isolation – Takeover Festival 2019 at Customs House

Isolation tackles some really complex themes which are so pertinent to many young people – what was the inspiration for the show?

The play originally was just two characters which were two young lads struggling with their mental health. The Young Writer in Residence opportunity then allowed the piece to be on a much bigger scale but it still carried similar themes. All the characters in the play have all at one point felt isolated and that’s something I think resonates with many peoples school experience.

Isolation received rave reviews – how did it feel audiences seeing your work on stage as part of Takeover Festival 2019?

Absolutely terrifying. I remember a friend saying before the show that he’d never seen me so nervous. In the end, the audience we had were so lovely and people were so kind to me after the show. Although nothing will ever top my Grandma saying “I’m a fan of your work”.

Nothing better than a proud Fam! What did you want audiences to take away when watching Isolation – did you have a “mood” in mind?

The way theatre is, an audience will take away whatever they want really but I personally like a hopeful endings. In saying that, I always want to create a sense of reality, I’m not into playing “happy families”. Isolation ends with Dale staring at the electric tea light and I like that simple representation that there’s a flicker of hope.

So, what happened to you and Isolation after the residency?

I started work on my short play ‘NASA lie the Earth is flat no curve’ (Which is the longest title I’ll ever have for a play). That happened in September at Alphabetti Theatre as a part Three Shorts and it had a week’s run which was the first time I’ve ever had a run. Isolation then went to Alphabetti in October for a week which was absolutely chaotic but completely worth it.

What are your next plans for Isolation?

Bigger and better is the plan! There is a theatre that is interested in taking it before it potentially tours and I’m unaware if I’m at liberty to say where but that’s very exciting! I’m definitely wanting to extend it as it was only an hour before and with there being so many characters it’s hard to say everything you want to in under an hour!

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Isolation – Takeover Festival 2019 at Customs House

Can you sum up what you learnt, professionally AND personally, during the residency?

I believe the Young Writer Residency taught me about the kind of playwright I want to be. I learned so much about my process and what matters to me when it comes to writing. I really see it as a major turning point despite being so early on in my writing career. I mean I was 20 years old when my first play was produced, how insane!?

And I’m still reaping the benefits from the residency!  From the success of Isolation, I’ve had a performing arts school contact me about studying it, I’ve been made an Associate Artist at Live Theatre and I’ve been offered seed commission from a theatre to write my next full-length play. I wouldn’t be in the position I am in my career without it.

As last year’s writer – do you have any advice to any folks, thinking or curious about applying?

They should apply because it’s not only brilliant but it’s the kind of opportunity that is unheard of for young writers in the North East. My advice would be to go for it, full throttle and really show why your story needs to be heard.

Why are opportunities like Takeover’s Young Writer in Residence important?

These opportunities are important because they kickstart your career. Also, it’s a massive learning experience to be mentored by another playwright. You can learn so much from them and I really did!

This year’s Young Writer will have Tom Wells as a mentor, how incredible!

I bliddy love Tom Wells! Do you think there are potential writers who would be perfect for this residency but are gigging actors or creatives who don’t see themselves as a potential writer? Any advice to them to spark that writing process?

I know a lot of actors who write but don’t realise they do. I was in a similar position when I was first encouraged to write. The beauty and the curse of being a freelancer in this region is that it’s hard to make a living off just one discipline but I don’t think there’s any shame in that. Being a writer doesn’t make me any less of an actor and like I say it actually helps that I am both. My advice is to test the water!

I saw a scratch of your piece Golden Daffodils at Live Theatre as part of Queer & Now 2020…Tell us about Golden Daffodils?

Golden Daffodils is an extract of a play I’m working on that was staged for Queer and Now scratch night as a part of Live Theatres first ever queer festival. It’s about the relationship that blooms (pardon the pun) between a woman and her new care worker.

Do you think you’d be writing and working on a play like Golden Daffodils if you’d been Young Writer In Residence 2019?

Golden Daffodils is actually my fourth commission since Isolation so a lot has happened in that time. I definitely feel the residency got me into just constantly writing and I’ve had something to always be working on since then which is a massive blessing.

What are the plans for Golden Daffodils longer term?

I definitely want to extend it. What you got to see was only a 15 minute piece and that relationship

between the two needs so much more time to grow. I love the concept and the characters but I’m also wanting to share more on the research I did about gay elderly women in care and I’m very passionate about getting that story told.

And finally, what else you got going on in 2020!?

A play I was commissioned to work on by Blowin’ A Hooley theatre company at the back end of last year has just announced its tour! The project is called Yarns from ‘Yem and it’s four short plays by local writers which tour to venues around the North East. My piece is called Biscuit Tins and it’s directed by Tracy Gillman. We had our first read through recently and I think it’s going to be a lush evening of theatre!

Ohhh I need to go and see that! And wow – what a year it’s been for Elijah Young last year’s Young Writer in Residence 2019 – sounds like the residency really did kick start his career! Young Writer in Residence 2020 call out is open now- all info and details HERE – and in Elijah’s words “just go for it, full throttle and really show why your story needs to be heard.”

Takeover Young Playwright in Residence

Takeover Festival 2020 : What is it, how to get involved & meet #teamtakeover Harrison & James

I had the pleasure of attending the Takeover 2020 launch event and hearing about the plots & plans for this year’s festival – you know when you leave somewhere and feel buzzing with ideas and can’t wait to get home and write about it – well here I am!

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The Takeover is an annual week-long arts festival at The Customs House that is produced by, with and for young people to develop and showcase their leadership skills. The festival is led, planned, marketed, delivered and evaluated by the Takeover Team, a group of 12-18 year olds who are recruited from diverse backgrounds and have varying leadership and arts experiences.

I am working on Takeover 2020 advising & supporting with audience development and marketing. I will also be working with the Takeover Team supporting them with marketing, PR, social media & supporting their skills development. I’m buzzing.

The Takeover is authentically a festival by & for young people – the Takeover Team have full control. In a similar ethos to Mortal Fools’ approach with young people – they treat & support young people as creative practitioners & professionals from day one, investing into them and their learning journey as the future generation of creatives, freelancers, entrepreneurs, innovators, writers, performers, artists, facilitators, business professionals etc. And they have an amazing time too!

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Young people may get involved with a specific ambition of realising an event, others may want to learn more about an art form or professional element of practice, others it’s about meeting & connecting with young people and for others, it’s to develop the transferrable skills for their future career or education choice.

This year’s Takeover dates are 25th-29th May (get them in your diary!) & a five-day festival awaits for young people; each day into evening. Lots of the programme is unknown (at this stage) because it’s worked up with young people – but there will be a visual arts exhibition displaying young people’s work, a poetry evening, a new theatre show, film awards, music, workshops and who knows what else!? I’m excited for what the team comes up with!

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Recruitment for the Takeover Team is currently open – they will meet every Monday from 24th February, 5pm-7pm at The Customs House. This is open to ALL young people aged 12-18yrs old. You don’t have to be able to attend every session (great if you can though!), you can dip in and out and if you can’t make the first session, you can get involved at a later Monday. To get involved & find out more all you have to do is email Izzy@customshouse.co.uk

I was blown away at the Launch and it was great to hear and see from last year’s young people about why they got involved, their REAL experience, what they learnt and what they are excited about doing & making happen for this year’s festival. Now I could wax lyrical about what a brilliant opportunity this is for young people and why other young people should get involved…. Or I could share mini interview profiles with two of last year’s team, who are also part of Take Over Team 2020 as Team Assistants. I had the pleasure of meeting them at the launch and what BRILLIANT humans. It’s young people like this, that make me feel a bit better about the future of the world….

Over to James & Harrison

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Takeover Assistant James

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I’m an 18 year old college student currently studying for my A levels in Maths, Chemistry and physics. I enjoy going out to gigs especially locally.

Why did you join The Takeover Team last year?

I joined last year as I have always been interested in the running of different venues and always wanted to organise such events for myself so when I heard about takeover festival it was an opportunity I simply couldn’t miss.

What was your favourite part of Takeover 2019?

For me my personal favourite part of the festival was The Lake Poets gig as it was the main thing that I helped in organising and seeing it go as well as it did felt really rewarding after putting in all the effort in the build up to prepare.

What did you learn from being part of the team last year?

Last year, I feel like I learned a lot about the inner running of a venue; as well as learning a lot about other communities that were involved in the festival – the different theatre groups, dance groups and LGBTQ+ artists that aided us with the festival.

As Takeover Assistant this year what will you be focusing on?

This year I will be concentrating on developing my leadership skills as I’ve never been in any kind of leadership role, so this is a whole new experience and challenge that I’m excited to undertake.

Why do you think being part of The Takeover 2020 team is a good opportunity?

For me, it gave me an opportunity that will help me in the future showing me the ins and outs of organising a festival. It also is really rewarding when you have put in weeks of work building up to one event and seeing it go brilliantly is a great feeling you rarely get the opportunity to achieve at our age.

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Takeover Assistant Harrison

Tell me a bit about yourself?

I am an 18 year old sixth form student currently studying A level Maths, Computer Science and BTEC Business. During my spare time I enjoy playing football and have a particular interest in business finance. In the future, I would like to complete an apprenticeship in this field.

Why did you join The Takeover Team last year?

Last year I joined The Takeover Team as I felt it was a unique opportunity to gain real-life work experience as it’s something not easy to come by. When Natasha approached me, at first, I was hesitant as I was unsure of what my role would be in the team but I was not disappointed.

What was your favourite part of Takeover 2019?

My favourite part of Takeover 2019 festival was the North East Young Filmmaker’s Award as some of the talent on display was immense. However, I really enjoyed leading the finances of the festival as that is where my aspirations lie and the experience was invaluable.

What did you learn from being part of the team?

Last year, I learnt all the different entities needed to run a successful festival and how every member of the team has value and brings their own skill sets. I also gained leadership qualities as I was team leader on 2 of the days.

As Takeover Assistant this year what will you be focusing on?

This year, I will be focusing on the finances of the festival again but I also hope to develop my public speaking skills as well as furthering my leadership qualities with being in a more senior role.

Why do you think being part of The Takeover 2020 team is a good opportunity?

The Takeover Festival is an opportunity for any young person to express themselves in whichever way they want. No matter what your interests are, there is a place for any young person wanting to gain work experience and a place for you to aid with your own festival. For me, my interests were in finance but many of the team had backgrounds in the arts and each team member was valued equally bringing different qualities to the table.

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Well how cracking is that – I wish there had been opportunities like that when I was a young person instead of spending time learning about biscuit making (long and strange story!).

Take Over team recruitment is open – email Izzy@customshouse.co.uk for more info. Sessions are Mondays – 5pm-7pm at The Customs House in South Shields.

There are also LOADS of other ways for young people to get involved & call outs open too! Let me take you through them…..

Other opportunities:

Visual Arts Call Out for the exhibition part of the Festival.

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Poetry Call out for Young Poets

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Young Film Maker Call Out

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Writer in Residence Call out – (Future Culture Vulture blog coming with last year’s writer Elijah Young.)

Takeover Young Playwright in Residence

That’s all for now Culture Vultures – I’ve got a back log of blog posts to publish – so expect them coming in thick & fast from now!

#AD – Interview with musician Anthony Vacher ahead of his Lindsfarne Fest main stage shenanigans…..

I’m off to Lindisfarne Festival next weekend, 29th August – 1st September for the ultimate end of Summer party on the Northumberland coast; born out of the desire to create something special for the North East, Lindisfarne Festival came to life in early September 2015, when a 2000 strong crowd descended onto the glorious fields at Beal Farm to experience a weekend like no other. Now into 2019…this lush independent festival is growing year on year – there are still tickets left (less than 400) so you can still join the party.

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Being the Culture Vulture means I get to meet and interview absolutely amazing creative folks – it gives me a total buzz. Folks who are passionate, doing exciting lush things and full of ambition to make a creative mark on the world. For 2019 Lindisfarne Festival ran a Musicians Against Homelessness Unsigned band competition – those who follow social might remember a post, I did about the final short list encouraging votes. Check out the short list, as all of the folks are mega and that’s what festivals are truly about to me…. Discovering new music and shaking myself out of my usual Spotify playlist comfort zone.

MAH put on 100s of gigs & festivals across the UK, creating opportunities and spaces for up-coming talent to play and raise money for homelessness services. Now that’s a double bubble of Culture Vulture love right here, as I’m all about champion independent new talent alongside advocating for positive social change through using my voice. Homelessness is a real issue – I was totally humbled by the recent exhibition across Newcastle “History of Homelessness” – especially when moving from venue to venue, homeless folks were in doors all over the city being ignored and their stories unheard so projects like MAH are imperative.

The winner of the MAH competition secured the opportunity to perform at Lindisfarne Festival 2019 on the bliddy main stage……which for an up and coming musician/band is an amazing opportunity to play to thousands! I was super excited when I heard the winner – he was one of my short list faves and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing him this week, before his Lindisfarne main stage shenanigans….

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So let’s get this interview started…. Step right up ANTHONY VACHER & THE SILHOUETTES; you can catch Anthony on Friday at the main stage at 1.30pm. Look out for me fan girling at the front, thrashing my elbows around and stomping my feet (a.k.a. “dancing”)……

Singer-songwriter Anthony Vacher has been a familiar name on the North East music scene for some time. Often accompanied by his trademark ukulele and accompanied by his band The Silhouettes; his songs are as beautiful as they are honest but with a real zest for life that fills the heart with joy. He’s also got a LOYAL social media and fan following which have surely helped him to win this competition….

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So hi you, who are you?

I’m Anthony Vacher, hi!

Tell me about your journey into the music scene – when did it all start?

I launched my solo music roughly 2 years ago when I released my first single I Don’t Wanna Wake Up. The legends at Punch-Drunk Comedy who are also at Lindisfarne gave me my first stage to perform on, opening before the comedians play, and it wasn’t long after that I won a competition to play at the O2 and I knew I needed the band behind me to make the shows a much better experience. They’re more just my good mates as opposed to my band because I make nowhere near enough to pay them – hahaha. Chris has been with me from the start but Dom and Gary have just recently joined me.

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So they do it for the love! Sum up your music in three words?

Really tough one cause there’s quite a lot of variety between the full band and acoustic stuff! I think I’ll go, energetic, fun but emotional.

Sounds like you’ve described my life so far…. Can we listen to your music pre-fest to get in the mood? 

Of course! You can find me on all streaming services, Spotify, Apple Music etc, or just head over to my facebook/twitter/insta/whatever your preference is and you can find stuff there too!

facebook.com/anthonyvachermusic

Twitter @anthonyvacheruk

Instagram @anthonyvacher

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What made you enter the Musicians Against Homelessness Comp?

I’ve followed MAH on social media for a while and I only saw the competition on the final night! But a chance to play at Lindisfarne and work with Musicians Against Homelessness was something I couldn’t not apply for.

Aha a last minute larry, a man after my own heart! Why are projects like MAH important?

Homelessness is a huge and growing issue at the moment, and what MAH are doing is incredible. Simultaneously helping homeless people whilst giving upcoming artists huge opportunities to grow, it’s quite simply amazing.

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How did it feel being shortlisted and then seeing the love for you on social media?

It was crazy really, but if I’m honest I had totally forgotten about it! I was just sat at home at the time and saw that MAH had tagged me in a post, and I was like, huh? Then when I looked at it and saw we’d been shortlisted, and it was to play on the main stage, It felt mad! I instantly messaged the lads and we all got hyped up and knew we had to win this.

I’ve actually been away from playing music for a few months due to illness, but seeing that I still had so much support after all that time out was a feeling I simply can’t explain. The amount of shares, comments and people passing the link around was something I’m so grateful for.

Well I was one of the folks championing you – I hadn’t heard of you before the competition shortlist and now you’ve got a firm fan! What did you do when you found out you won and you’re playing the main stage? What went through your mind?

The first thing I did was ring my Mam hahaha! There was a day between the competition ending and them announcing the winner so I actually thought we didn’t get it as we’d heard nothing. I woke up the next day, opened my laptop and the first thing I saw was a picture of my face saying we had won and I went crazy. Great way to start a day!

Happy dances a hoy! What can festival goers expect from your set?

This is a massive opportunity to play in front of a lot of people who have highly likely never heard of me before so we have to put absolutely everything into it. We’ll be playing a mixture of full band & acoustic tunes, so something for everyone!

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Well I’m really looking forward to it and your set. Festivals are all about discovering new music and stepping outside of your comfort zone – is there anything on the festival line up that you think “I might go see/do that!”?

Lindisfarne has a tonne going on. Comedy, street art, even fire walking! I’m planning on making the most of it and catching as much of everything I can!

Who are your top three fellow musician ‘must sees’ at the festival…the line-up is a cracker this year so I know it’s hard to choose?!

The line-up really is amazing this year, so I’m going to avoid the obvious ones and plug some smaller musicians/friends haha!

  1. HATi. I’ve worked with HATi in the past and played alongside her, and she is an incredible songwriter and an amazing musician.
  2. C-Collective. C-Collective are so much fun and they put on an incredible show. You cannot miss them.
  3. Can I name a stage? Cause the MAH Stage has an incredible line up with some amazing local musicians, Sarah Connolly and Sleeptape to name a couple. It’s a stage everyone should 100% go and check out!

Have you played a festival before and/or are you a festival goer?

I’ve only ever played more local festivals which are a tonne of fun, but Lindisfarne will be my biggest to date. I used to work at music festivals too so I’ve been to most!

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Do you have any advice for fellow festival goers?

Yeah, come see us play! But really, just enjoy yourself. There’s so much going on at Lindisfarne so try to catch a bit of everything. Head over to the smaller stages every now and again, go see a bit of comedy, try something new like fire walking or yoga.

Forget what the weather may be, relax or get drunk, whichever you prefer, but pretty much just forget real life for the weekend and enjoy yourself.

Festivals are a total escape from life “good time2 bubble” – Festival drink of choice?

If its sunny get yourself a fruity cider, goes down perfectly!

Are you staying the full weekend? If so I hope you’re embracing the Viking theme and expect mega outfit! 

Sadly due to other commitments the band and I can’t stay the full weekend but we’re staying the full Friday! To be honest I wouldn’t make a very convincing Viking, I have a total baby face and I have tried but can’t grow a beard to save my life!

What’s next for you after Lindisfarne fest? Where can people keep in touch with you post Lindisfarne?

I only have one show lined up following Lindisfarne which sadly I cannot talk about yet! If you follow me on all my social media links then you’ll hear about it very soon:

facebook.com/anthonyvachermusic

Twitter @anthonyvacheruk

Instagram @anthonyvacher

Mainly though, I recently released an acoustic EP, and now we’re planning on recording a lot more music in the very near future so keep your eyes peeled for that too!

𝘽𝙞𝙩𝙚 𝙢𝙮 𝙏𝙤𝙣𝙜𝙪𝙚 is out NOW on all streaming services.

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2KiMq9o

Apple: https://apple.co/2YSydba

Physical edition: http://bit.ly/2YQxNSB

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Well thank you Anthony, you’re totally mega! Absolute pleasure to see and meet an upcoming musician – I’m excited to see what he does next!

Tickets for Lindisfarne down to the final few hundred so nab them quickly….. http://www.lindisfarnefestival.com

(#AD) Sundown Social -the new mini festival on the block.

So one of the wonderful things about being the Culture Vulture is that I have my ear to ground and seek out all the lush new happenings and stumbling across or finding a new event is one of my favourite things – I have a serious constant case of FOMO.

And if this was a superhero movie, I’d class this chapter as “the rise of the independents!” The event and festival sector is extremely dominated in the region by big corporates or same old same old and I don’t know about you lot, but I’m hungry for more, things that are a bit special and new. Independent event organisers and commissioners are nailing it at the moment –putting on lush events, with a community heart that focuses on audiences having a great time and are able to experiment, take risks, be bold with their programming. I’m loving watching independents thrive.

I’ve had my eye on Saltwell Park for some time….. I’ve lived at the top of it for 30 years and it just screams potential.. I’ve had three ambitions for Saltwell Park as The Culture Vulture – I wanted festivals, I wanted outdoor theatre and I wanted a Silent Disco. My silent disco ambition has become a bit of a joke across my networks as I’m always banging on about it – but going off Beccy Owen’s success and their beach silent disco – I’m happy that other folks are finally buying into how mint it is! So how excited was I when I heard Third Space events (an amazing independent events company) was building on the smash hit successes of their Gateshead food markets and launching Sundown Social on 27th July – an outdoor event with a festival vibe AND a silent disco. And to use Meatloaf’s song title…. two out of three ain’t bad!

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Thirdspace are doing fantastic things and they are certainly ones to watch – their food markets are full of folks who really “get” their events, food traders who love being a part of them (this is not an easy task believe me!), audiences who return month after month and people just having a bliddy good time. It takes a long time to establish an event and A LOT of hard work has gone into things – so hats off to them…..they were on my list for some Culture Vulture love!

Visit their Low Fell Food Market facebook page to see other events they’ve run!

A head of the launch of Sundown Social THIS Saturday in Saltwell Park (Tickets and more info available HERE) – I thought I’d sit down with them for a weeee interview to find out more about the event, what to expect, why tickets are must have and what’s next!

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Of course, sitting down with me a few days before a new event…perfect Culture Vulture timing (haha!). So tell my readers who you are and what you do?

We are Liz and Sally from Third Space Events; a 3 year old events company which specialises in pairing up interesting, beautiful or underused spaces with high quality events. We each have an MA in Event Management along with a total of 15 years’ experience in events, exhibitions and hospitality between us. So it’s fair to say we LOVE events and creating memorable experiences. We are also friends who go way back and share a passion for good food, the outdoors and making the most the time we have with our nearest and dearest.

Well I can’t think of a more underused space than Saltwell Park’s Grove and all the best friendships are formed over food…..What is Sundown social?

A chilled out gathering in beautiful surroundings with a fun, festival vibe – that’s it in a nutshell! The first one is on Saturday 27th July – this weekend. We like to think of it as an exclusive party in the park where you can sip a craft gin or beer under the trees, be entertained by a host of pop up performances and have a bite to eat from some of the regions’ best street food stalls.

We’ve got two slots – one is 4.30pm – 7pm and is family friendly (adults £4.50 & Children £3) and then a more adult session 7.30pm -10pm (Adults £4.50 & Children £4.50). Babies under two are free but need a ticket.

Who should go to Sundown social?

For all! We’ve split the event into two and packed a lot into both. The afternoon session has more of a family vibe with activities such as a play bus and free kids yoga, dance and storytelling sessions. When the kids have run off enough steam the adults can sit back and enjoy a summer tipple along with the finest regional street food. The evening session is more for adults, so people can take full advantage of the food, wine tasting, holistic treatments, amazing local ales and fizz whilst enjoy amazing live musicians, comedians and of course our silent disco.

Why did you pick Saltwell Park for this event?

Because we love it! It’s leafy, lush and green. Add some live entertainment, street food and folk kicking back and relaxing whilst enjoying a cool drink – well you’ve got the best beer garden in the North East!

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As you know, I’m allllll about the food. My Buddha belly is a testament to that….so come on, what food traders have you got?

Well – not only will we be delighting the senses with live music and performances we’ll also have your foodie favourites to feast on. Folk can choose from freshly cooked wood fired pizzas from Noshbox Pizza, Catalinas Newcastle with their flavoursome topdog kebabs and bruschetta, loaded fries and tasty wraps from Hatch76, Acropolis Street Food with the best gyros in the North East, delicious rolled naan with your choice of tasty curry from CurryRolls and Churros Barcelona will be serving up their dangerously delicious fried treats drizzled in chocolate!

Mama Horts LOVES Churros… I shall alert her. I’ve got friends with minis who want to come…what’s there for families?

We’ve got this covered in the afternoon session. As well as the street food and free live entertainment, there is free activities with yoga, dance and storytelling. We also have a play bus and for just £1.50 for your child to climb, slide and play in the ball pool! We also have the amazing Kay Ella who’ll be adding a bit of extra sparkle to the event with her glitter creations.

I’ve got a troop of my child free pals coming…. What is there for them? I’ve heard rumours of a Silent Disco (literally screamed with excitement and hope Britney is on repeat) and my pal Si Beckwith providing some funnies!

If you’re pals are planning to come to sessions 2 then we’d fully expect to see them dancing the evening away with our Silent Disco. We’ll be keeping it old school with hits from the 70s, 80s and 90s – so we recommend your pals to wear these dancing shoes!

The evening will also feature amazing live acts with Duke – Duo – acoustic music, Matt Grant and comedians Si Beckwith and Andrew Flood from Off The Wall Comedy.

They won’t be going thirsty either with regional ales from Black Storm Brewery, fizz on tap with Fizz On The Tyne and a great selection of gins, lagers and wine with The Tipsy Trailer.

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Mama Horts is coming with me and she loves all your events – which is high praise indeed…. What is there for Mama Horts and her pals?

We know Mama Horts is a lady of refinement so a spot of wine tasting with Laneberg Wine Ltd would be right up her street – you can book onto a slot via this link or at the event. Gateshead’s first and only Urban Winery, Laneberg Wine Ltd invites you to a night of wine tasting like no other! Head Winemaker Elise Lane will guide you through their very first vintage made here in the North East, sampling four fantastic 2018 English wines, explaining how each wine was made and giving you the chance to taste.

Or if Mama Horts is after a bit of pampering then she should head over the our Holistic Treatment tent which includes Indian Head Massage and Organic Facial Treatment with Neal’s Yard.

I’m obsessed at outdoor events – at being head to toe covered in glitter….my boyfriend has embraced this by getting involved too….i need glitter deets?

Who isn’t?! We love a bit of sparkle! Expert in all that shines and glimmers Kay’Ella will be at Sundown Social creating that glasto vibe with glitter face and body creators.  We love Kay’Ella because all her products are water based, biodegradable and alcohol free so everyone can be part of her fabulous festival services.

Why are you so passionate about championing and supporting North East (and often Gateshead based) independents?

As we’ve said, we both live in Gateshead so what can be better than supporting your home town by hosting a range of events. Keeping it local is always part of how we operate. From the food, to the drink, to the live entertainment – Sundown Social, like all our events, showcases the melting pot of creativity and hard-working small independent businesses we have here in the North East.

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Blackstorm Brewery

Why do you think people are really buzzing about Sundown social and that tickets have been flying?

Hopefully we’re adding something different into the mix of fabulous events that are offered in Gateshead and the region already. For us the setting of Saltwell Park for this kind of event could not be any better. We can’t wait to welcome everyone in the event on Saturday 27 July and to have a well earned drink (or two) when it’s finished.

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Sum up the event in 3 words

Chilled, feel-good, fun

Is there going to be more Sundown socials?

The next Sundown Social lined up is Friday 23rd August. Stay tuned for announcements about that! Next year, as well as Saltwell Park, you will be able to find us at some new exciting venues and locations across the region.

P.S. For any of you festival loving couples who are looking for an alternative wedding, give us a shout as we offer individually curated Sundown Socials for your special day. How exciting!

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If I was going to get married, I’d want an outdoor festival vibe! You’ve certainly tapped into something there….and we’ve got some collaborating to do in 2020 haven’t we!? I’m super excited for Saturday and to see how this grows and grows.

Well you will find me down at Sundown Social on Saturday as The Culture Vulture with my gal Marion in tow – so if you’re around and coming along– make sure to say hello!

Tickets for Sundown social are available here!

Disclosure : I have not been paid to write this post but I have been given comp tickets to the event and doing a social media take over on the second second.

(#AD) GemArts Masala Festival 2019: strutting into Summer like a Bengal Tiger….

We are so blessed in the North East for wonderful events and festivals all year round – there are often total gems in the event/festival calendar that due to you all being busy bees that you might not know about or discovered yet. I see my role as Culture Vulture to tell you about them and champion them!

Well let me tell you about a PROPER Culture Vulture festival gem – GemArts’ Masala Festival….

This award winning, multi venue festival has been running for several years and has been growing each time. It’s back for 2019 across 15th – 21st July 2019 with a mix and blend of the finest South Asian Arts and Culture. They’ve got an incredible line up of film screenings, theatre, music, yoga on the beach, Bollywood dancing, crafts, spoken word, poetry and free family fun!

I sat down with Vikas Kumar MBE, GemArts Director recently for a catch up (I’ve been a GemArts supporter for many years now and he’s been a Culture Vulture champion since the beginning!) and to interview him about this year’s festival. But before I get into our interview, I thought I’d walk you through this year’s Masala Festival programme…because it’s a corker!

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GemArts in The Crack Magazine

Masala Festival launches on 15th July, at Sage Gateshead, with an incredible collaboration and special evening of music composed and performed by the internationally renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Wajahat Khan with a String Quintet from our region’s fantastic chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia. And if you’re like me, and have to be the first at everything, then you’ll be joining me at this feast of music. I’ve seen RNS quite a few times and they are quite something, so I’m excited for this collaboration.

This is followed by, on the 16th July at the Lit & Phil, two of the most prominent women on the contemporary jazz scene, pianist Zoe Rahman performs alongside saxophonist Laura Macdonald. These two ladies are at the top of their music game and so accomplished…. I will be fan girling from the audience. And after the show, why not continue the Jazz theme and swing Prohibition Bar…that’s why I will be headed!

For spoken word and poetry, look no further than Luck and Hope: an evening of poetry with two of the best poets writing today Mona Arshi and Imtiaz Dharkar at Culture Lab on 16th July. I know those in the poetry scene are extremely excited about that one! They also have a a stellar line up of regional spoken word talent in Strictly Spoken with at Arch16 on18th July which is now sold out. Spoken Word largely thanks to Button Pottery and the likes of McNish has jumped in popularity and the fast, Strictly Spoken has sold out highlights that – but good news is, that I’ve nabbed tickets just in time, so I will let you know what it’s like!

Masala Festival has a fantastic line up of films and this is music to my ears as since turning 30, I’ve really got back into my independent films and visiting the cinema at least once a week. At Masala Festival they’ve got the heartwarming, ‘feel good’ comedy of the year Eaten by Lions on 15th July; half-brothers Omar and Pete are on a journey of discovery via Blackpool, featuring Jonny Vegas, Jack Carroll and rising star Antonio Aakeel. At Tyneside Cinema on 17th July, they’ve got The Sweet Requiem with stunning cinematography and subdued tension highlights the ongoing and often forgotten Tibetan refugee crisis. This film, feels extremely timely and I’m sure will provoke a lot of reflections.  At BALTIC on 19th July, GemArts are screening Woman.; a specially curated evening of  contemporary South Asian film shorts about freedom, desire, resistance and the indomitable spiriot of women.

Writer, performer and professional wrestling manager (natural combo!), Pariah Khan brings his ‘shrewd and bitingly funny’ An Indian Abroad to Northern Stage on 20th July; we follow the story of Krishnan, who is stifled by life in middle class India and decides to visit the exotic island of Great Britain. This is a hilarious journey of self-discovery especially when he falls in love with one of the “natives”.

If you want to get yourself moving, why not try out Bollywood dance on 20th July,  yoga on the beach  on 21st July or if you are in need of a little TLC before your summer holidays try out an introduction to Meditation on 15th July.

Masala Festival is back at Dabbawal Street Food Kitchen. Over seven days, you can sample a specially crafted and delicious menu created by Dabbawal’s talented chefs. I’m a HUGE fan of Dabbawal’s food – as soon as I found out they did gluten free onion bhajis and lush spicy curries, I’ve been visiting lots ever since. I’m planning on going a few times to work my way through the menu…..

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GemArts Masala  Festival ends on a total high on Sunday 21st July at Live Theatre’ Garden with a spectacular FREE fun packed Mini Mela finale, with South Asian arts, craft, music and dance workshops for all of the family to enjoy! This year enter a seafront arcade in a caravan with ….. Elvis’ Bingo Balls, neon, sounds of the slots and an Indian Elvis as your bingo caller! Not to mention Circus Raj, a circus troupe from India performing throughout the day, with stilt walkers, extreme juggling, sword swallowing and acrobatics, plus dancing marionettes, Dabbawal serving up delicious Indian street food, and much, much more…..

Visit www.gemarts.org to find out more and book tickets.

Look out for GemArts Masala Festival beautiful brochure around Newcastle and Gateshead or download your full brochure here GemArts Masala Festival 2019 Brochure

And if that hasn’t convinced you to come along to Masala Festival starting on Monday, well…. Let’s hand over to Vikas Kumar MBE, GemArts Director to find out more!

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So I know how important GemArts is to our region but for those who haven’t heard of GemArts, tell us what GemArts is?

GemArts is an arts organisation and charity based in the North East of England.  We are a nationally recognised leader in the South Asian and diversity arts sector, and we create, produce and programmes high quality concerts, events, festivals, workshops and commissions with regional, national and international artists across all art forms. GemArts is committed to excellence in our participatory arts practice, particularly supporting artists working in the diversity sector, and we specialise in delivering arts projects with schools and community groups across all age ranges, to provide creative and enjoyable learning experiences, and to promote a greater understanding of people and their respective cultures.

Why and When did GemArts start?

GemArts started in 1992, working in Gateshead primarily and then across the North East.  We now work Nationally and Internationally through our commissioning and touring programme.  We passionately believe the arts enrich the lives of individuals and communities through celebrating our shared cultural diversity – Raising aspirations, building stronger communities and breaking down barriers.

We know that inequalities exist, and many communities and artists face social, economic and cultural barriers, so are excluded from taking part; this is disproportionately more so if you are from a Black, Asian, minority ethnic, asylum seeker or refugee background.  GemArts mission and focus is to increase equality of opportunity for everyone to engage with culturally diverse arts – as artists, producers, participants and audiences.

I’ve told everyone about what Masala Festival is in the present (top of this blog) – but can you tell us what was the inspiration behind starting it?

The festival is a mass of GemArts yearlong programme condensed into one colourful and creativity fuelled week in July.  We wanted to really show the breadth of incredible artists and art forms from the Indian subcontinent and diaspora, and celebrate the fantastic contribution that South Asian communities and culture has made to the region, UK and the world.  Masala itself is a mix of spices that goes in a curry or tea; we’ve taken that concept and replaced the spices with amazing arts and culture!

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Oh I like that Vikas! Masala festival is award winning (in fact I can remember “whooping” for you in the audience) which is just fantastic as I know you are such a small but perfectly formed team who work so hard, so to get that recognition is lush; can you tell us about the award? 

GemArts Masala Festival won the coveted Arts Council Award at The Journal Culture Awards in 2017, which was brilliant for everyone involved!  And we were runner up for Best Event Tyneside in 2018, which again is great recognition…..hopefully more in the future!

How would you describe Masala Festival to someone who hasn’t been before?

Since its launch in 2016, the weeklong festival has become a yearly celebration of South Asian arts and culture, bringing thousands of people to experience the best music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, performances, workshops, pop, ups, talks, family fun days, food events and much more.

The programme presents a diverse mix of contemporary and traditional South Asian artists, art forms and identities, produced and curated by GemArts, working with artists from the UK and Indian sub-continent.

This year the festival is across even more venues than ever before and the programme feels jam packed – is the intention to keep growing it year after year?

We’ve always had aspirations and ambitions to grow and develop the festival, and it has year on year.  We are very lucky in Newcastle and Gateshead to have so many amazing flagship venues who we work in partnership to present work.  Accessibility and ownership is something which is fundamentally important to GemArts, and we are absolutely committed to working with independent and community venues to programme arts and cultural experiences by, with and for communities, so we always want to build on our current work.  It would be great to expand the festival further South of the region……..watch this space!

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Last year’s GemArts festival launch as part of Gateshead Council’sGreat Exhibition of The North programme

Why are independent festivals like this important in the North East? 

Independent festivals are massively important because they shine a light on artists and art forms which might not get a look in otherwise.  They are culturally relevant and enable communities to celebrate their identities; people see their traditional and contemporary lives and stories reflected in venues and spaces.  Independent festivals, like Masala Festival, absolutely demonstrate that in the North East creativity and diversity is thriving and championed, and that we can connect on so many levels across so many experiences  whether that’s food, music, dance, etc .  We need more of this now than ever.

We absolutely do Vik!Tell me a bit about this year’s festival programme?

The design of this year’s Masala Festival brochure is just brilliant, if I do say so myself….you need to see it to believe it!

GemArts is (literally and visually) strutting into summer like a Bengal tiger as we bring the region another magnificent Masala Festival!  Over 7 days, from 15th to 17th July we are thrilled to present another  incredible line up of classical, traditional and contemporary artists from the UK and Indian sub-continent exploring themes of home, belonging, freedom, resistance, luck and hope.  We have music, dance, theatre, visual arts, film, literature, performances, workshops, pop, ups, talks, family fun days, food events and much much more.

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I’m excited! You always start the festival with a big of a bang with a launch event, what’s in store this year for the launch? 

Launching Masala Festival on 15th July, at Sage Gateshead, we have an incredible collaboration and special evening of music composed and performed by the internationally renowned Sarod maestro Ustad Wajahat Khan with a String Quintet from our region’s fantastic chamber orchestra Royal Northern Sinfonia.  It’s going to be epic!

I’m really looking forward to attending Woman at BALTIC – feels like a very pertinent time to be showing film shorts about women in the current climate; have you seen any of the shorts? Is there one that you are most looking forward to seeing?

Curated by Bobby Tiwana, this year’s shorts programme on 19th July at BALTIC is inspired by the political act of being a woman; exploring themes of freedom, desire and resistance. You can read about Bobby’s film choices in his blog post here and why as a man he has curated a programme about women.  I have seen all the films, and ‘The Field’ is a beautifully crafted short set in rural Punjab in India.  I’m from Punjabi heritage, and go see family in Punjab whenever I visit, so it particularly resonated with me, especially the scenery.  I’m looking forward to seeing War-ia again as it was written and directed by Bobby. We also have a post-screen discussion with filmmakers Sandhya Suri and Riffy Ahmed which will give a great insight into their creative process.

Don’t forget your complimentary glass of wine or juice on arrival!

I’ve fallen in love with poetry – both written and spoken word performance – I literally hit 30 and it just happened. You’ve got quite a few poetry related events as part of the event programme, can you tell me a bit about them?

We are working in collaboration with curator Dr John Challis and NCLA to present Luck and Hope on Tuesday 16th July at Culture Lab, an evening of poetry with two of the best poets writing today, Mona Arshi and Imtiaz Dharkar, whose poetry explores the nuances of luck, grief and hope within our often violent and unsettling contemporary world.

Then on Thursday 18th July we have a stellar line up of North East talent in Strictly Spoken (it’s sold out!) at Arch16.  We have Tahmina Begum, Prerana Kumar and Wajid Hussain presenting spoken word and poetry on identity, South Asian heritage and inspiration.

It’s really exciting that you’ve taken some of the festival out to Whitley Bay – WB is having a real evolution as an independent cultural hub of the region – what made you take some of Masala out there? 

GemArts has been working with Jam Jar cinema for a while now, and they are always up for working with us and programming films with a South Asian flavour during Masala Festival.  It enables us to expand our cultural offer and engage new audiences up in Whitley Bay.  We’ve got heart-warming, ‘feel good’ comedy of the year Eaten by Lions, which follows half-brothers Omar and Pete on a journey of discovery via Blackpool, featuring Jonny Vegas, Jack Carroll and rising star Antonio Aakeel.

For those who attend Masala Festival every year/have attended before, what would be your recommendation as a “must experience”?

I’d recommend two things:

If you’re looking for a night out and a good laugh – Definitely recommend An Indian Abroad, as writer, performer and professional wrestling manager, Pariah Khan brings his shrewd and bitingly funny show to Northern Stage on Saturday 20th July.  It’s getting great reviews as it tours the UK, and we are delighted to be presenting at Masala Festival this year.  It follows the story of Krishnan, who is stifled by life in middle class India and decides to visit the exotic island of Great Britain.

I’d also recommend The Sweet Requiem at Tyneside Cinema on 17th July with stunning cinematography and subdued tension it highlights the ongoing and often forgotten Tibetan refugee crisis

For those who haven’t been to Masala Festival before, what would you recommend them checking out to introduce them to the Masala vibe?

The true Masala vibe will be at the Lit & Phil on the 16th July; we have two of the most prominent women on the contemporary jazz scene, pianist Zoe Rahman performs alongside saxophonist Laura Macdonald. This will be a powerhouse of a performance, and guaranteed to sell out so get your tickets quick!

What about for those, who prefer to have a go at something….what do you suggest?

We’ve got a whole host of workshops that people can take part in Bollywood dance, yoga on the beach, or an introduction to Meditation.

Also check out the Chai & Chat exhibition at Gateshead Central Library, beautiful textile artwork inspired by traditional chai recipes.  You can also take part in paper tea cup making.

Full details to book on workshops see www.gemarts.org

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GemArts Bollywood Dance workshops as part of Late Shows 2019

Through-out the festival, you’ve got a bespoke special menu at Dabbawal, which is my favourite place to get a curry, so i’m excited for the Masala menu! Can you tell me a bit about the (commissioned!?) art work, you have on the walls at one of Dabbawal’s restaurants?

Dabbawal are the original authentic street food restaurant in the region, and it’s always a pleasure to work with them – their food is simply outstanding!  Each year their talented chefs craft a special menu which is available during the festival, and we can’t wait to sample it!

Our artist Kate Hunter Parker will be creating art work inspired by this year’s Masala Festival brochure design, as well as elements from the programme and the menu, so expect to see vibrant, luscious and colourful work at both High Bridge and Jesmond restaurants.

So the finale…. any yearly Masala Festival goer knows that you round off the festival in style with a mini Mela at Live Theatre courtyard for families and adults alike. Can you tell me about this year’s Mela programme, what can attendees expect?

GemArts Masala  Festival ends on Sunday 21st July at Live Theatre’ Garden with a spectacular fun packed Mini Mela finale, with FREE South Asian arts, craft, storytelling, music and dance workshops for all of the family to enjoy! If you love caravans, bingo and Elvis, then look no further as this year’s finale brings you…….. Elvis’ Bingo Balls –  enter a seafront arcade in a caravan with neon, sounds of the slots and an Indian Elvis as your bingo caller! We’ve also got Circus Raj, a circus troupe from India performing throughout the day, with stilt walkers, dhol drummers, extreme juggling, sword swallowing and acrobatics, plus dancing marionettes, Dabbawal serving up delicious Indian street food, and much, much more…..

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How on earth, did you stumble across the Indian Elvis bingo caller? He sounds brilliant and fellow Culture Vultures who love things a bit out there and different will be all over this! ?

This is going to be so special!  We really wanted to introduce something new and exciting to this year’s mini mela which will connect with young and older audiences alike, and Elvis’ Bingo Balls absolutely will.  The theatre piece has been produced by Black Country Touring and it’s great that we can bring it up here for the finale.

It’s perfect, as it’s the start of the summer holidays and you’ve got a bingo caller clad in his Elvis outfit, telling stories of moving to this town ‘so every day can be a holiday’……what’s not to love!?

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And finally, if you could sum up Masala Festival 2019 in three words, what would they be?

  1. Epic

2.Vibrant.

  1. Fun

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Mini Mela 2018 as part of Masala Festival 2018

Well thanks Vikas and I just can’t wait! I’m taking over GemArts social media during the launch on Monday AND during Mini Mela, AND I will be attending lots of Masala events so you can follow my journey on my Facebook & Insta.

Visit www.gemarts.org to find out more and book tickets.

Look out for GemArts Masala Festival beautiful brochure around Newcastle and Gateshead or download your full brochure here GemArts Masala Festival 2019 Brochure

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Circus Raj Puppets which are set to be at Mini Mela

That’s all for now Culture Vultures – until next time!

P.s. I’ve had the exclusive opportunity to interview several Masala festival artists and performers – so look over for those interviews coming out in the next week or so!

(Full disclosure: I am not being paid to write this post but I have received complimentary tickets to the full GemArts Masala Festival 2019 programme and I am working with them on the festival’s audience development).

Make & Mend Festival 2019; A feast & a festival for creatives, crafters & makers…

Well the festival season is fully upon us now and I don’t know about you, but I’m SUPER excited. There are festivals out there to tickle everyone’s fancy; food, music, film, South Asian arts, LGBTQ+, design and even craft!

Make & Mend festival is a one day festival on 7th July at Preston Park in Stockton all about celebrating colour and championing creativity – it’s a day in which you can take the whole day just for you to have a go at different crafts during workshops and take part in Big Makes, watch demos, meet fellow makers, buy creative product lushness from independents and just absorb the creative atmosphere. It’s also a day which invests into wellbeing – so there are wellbeing talks with experts (in this busy world, we all need a bit of advice and empowerment to help us be our best selves), yoga sessions, time to explore the grounds of Preston Park and lush foodie options to purchase through-out the day to keep that creative fuel high!

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Tickets are flying now with their only being one week to go and some workshop slot are sold out and others about to….but there is still time to get your ticket (Starting price £10). Visit website for tickets and here to check out the line up on the day to whet your creative appetite!

I heard about Make & Mend festival last year – I didn’t go and I had a SERIOUS cause of FOMO. One of those events, that everyone who went and everyone who took part in it, raved about and the festival decorations were so innovative – insta worthy x a million. If you’re like me, well you’ll hate missing out too. So this year, when I heard it was happening again, whilst chatting to fellow creatives at Thought Foundation, again everyone was raving about it and how excited they were and I vowed to go!

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Well low and behold – how buzzing was I when Rachel and Lyndsey, the imaginers behind the whole festival got in touch and invited me along on the day to do some live social media taking over their channels to chart the event and all the happenings. One of the things, I always said when I started out with Culture Vulture, was that I’d only work with and champion things that were part of the culture vulture ethos and after chatting to Rachel and Lyndsey, I can confirm they are fearless good eggs with big ambitions for this festival…..

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As that has become tradition on this blog – well I thought I’d catch up with them and interview them to tease out from their perspective why Make & Mend festival is the craft festival you’ve been waiting for and to give the full low down….

So over to Rachel and Lyndsey….

Right let’s start at the beginning…..who are you?

Rachel – We are Make & Mend Company, two friends Rachel & Lyndsey who wanted to set up in business together after redundancy from our day jobs. We combined our passions for making and well being to create a company that celebrates the positive benefits making and in particular sewing can have on your mental health.

The Culture Vulture – As a passionate advocate in the mental health agenda, that sounds right up my street. I advocate the power of drama and writing and you sewing…..basically being creative and having creative opportunities are essential to a balanced happy mind!

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So tell me about the festival?

Lyndsey – We have a strong belief that making is good for the soul and the festival basically shares this passion. It will be a fantastic day filled with lots of creative opportunities, in a relaxing environment with other like-minded craft addicts – what’s not to love?!

A fun day of colour, character, positivity and wellbeing and we hope people will leave feeling inspired and rejuvenated. There will be the opportunity to enjoy workshops ranging from embroidery to aromatherapy; floral watercolour to bookbinding. There will be artist demos in weaving, letter press and printing from expert makers. We are offering inspiring talks from wellbeing experts which will give you tips on how to integrate more positivity and self-care into your life. There will also be yoga classes where you can unwind for a while and a maker marketplace where you can buy some beautiful handmade products and supplies from some fantastic local makers and artists.

The festival is basically an opportunity to take some time out in beautiful surroundings, relax and unleash your creative spirit!

The Culture Vulture – I’m a firm believer that everyone has a creative spirit bursting to get out!

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Tickets have slightly changed this year from last….tell me about the ticket options available?

So this year we have a few different ticket options;

  • Entry only which gives you access to the full festival site, drop in workshops, craft demos, makers market, talks from well-being experts and access to the well-being garden area for delicious food and relaxing in the sunshine!
  • Then you have the option to add 1 hour workshops into your day with our team of expert crafters making something to take away and learning a new skill and the ticket options include entry +1 workshop, entry +2 workshops and entry +3 workshops (which is our best value ticket).

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Why are crafting and creative opportunities so important?

Lyndsey – We set up Make & Mend because we recognised the importance that craft and creativity has on improving our well-being and we wanted to share this with the world! For us, crafting is a way to relax and unwind; we find it very therapeutic and it is our way of switching off. Everyone is creative (whether they believe it or not!) and doing something creative regularly is a way of exploring your individuality and expressing yourself, giving you freedom to explore new ideas. It’s also a great antidote to sitting at a computer or being on your phone – there’s nothing better than creating something beautiful by hand!

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Advice to someone who has never crafted before but fancies coming along to the festival?

Rachel- Just get started! There can be a real fear that ‘I’m not arty’ or ‘I can’t draw’ but guess what neither can I! It is as much about enjoying the process as it is the end result plus there are so many brilliant crafts out there, that if you don’t get along with one, then just try another! Buying a kit is a great way to try a craft without having to spend a lot on buying materials and equipment.

The Culture Vulture – Oh gosh – I hear you. I was told all through school I was “bad at art” meaning I couldn’t draw…but I’m actually one of the most creative people I know…. I just REALLY can’t draw!

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If you used to craft all the time, but you’ve just got out of the habit or stopped having the time – what’s your advice?

Lyndsey – Same as above – just do it! Start somewhere – it doesn’t matter what the outcome is; it’s about developing confidence again and getting back into the habit. I think we sometimes put high expectations on ourselves about the outcome which can take the joy out of something, but it’s just about enjoying the process and seeing where it takes you. And if it all goes wrong, who cares?

The Culture Vulture – I totally agree with you – I attended a Crafthood event many moons ago and made a red nose day pompom…..it went totally wrong and provided much hilarity for myself, my mum and the gals from the Crafthood, but actually I had such a good evening and loved having a go at something new. Also Sebastian loves chasing it around my kitchen to this day, so everyone was a winner!

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Favourite type of craft?

Rachel – My favourites are all things textile, love a bit of needle felt to stab the stress away, plus embroidery of course!

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Why do you think crafting has come back into fashion?

Lyndsey – It’s great that things seem to have come full circle and there is such an interest in craft again. I think people have realised how beneficial it is to our wellbeing in terms of it being a way to relax. It’s also an anti-device activity! We spend so much time on our phones and on technology that I think people are craving something practical that they can do with their hands. Obviously the interest in sustainability and recycling has had a big impact as people are seeing the value in making and mending again.

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What gave you the inspo for the festival last year?

We run smaller workshops and really enjoyed sharing our ethos with more people and figured why not do something a bit bigger. Our backgrounds are in event management and outdoor festivals so it seemed like an obvious next step. Plus we couldn’t find anything nearby to go to ourselves and it felt like a good time to start celebrating making again!

The Culture Vulture – They say not to put on events for yourself, but actually I’m same, when I see there isn’t something out there that matches what I want, it usually signifies a gap and opportunity!

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So, this is year two for the festival, tell me what’s new for this year?

Lyndsey – We have new workshops such as macramé, bookbinding, printing, aromatherapy, origami and floral wreath making. Our artist demos are also new – opportunities for people to watch the experts and learn a new skill. We also have an artist in residence this year – Raquel Rodrigo who creates beautiful large-scale cross stitch installations. She will be creating something special for us this year at the festival and will be holding workshops where people can get involved and learn more about her techniques.

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One of Raquel Rodrigo’s pieces on a building in Barcelona

Many of last year’s visitors raved about the decorations – where did you get the inspo for them?

Rachel – It’s really all about the colour for us, anything bright and colourful we love! It always starts with a Pinterest board and looking for inspiration online, we create everything ourselves as we are working to a really small budget so we keep it simple and luckily we have a beautiful venue which helps!

The Culture Vulture – The best decorations are done on a budget, it gives the opportunity to get REALLY creative…I LOVED the umbrellas from last year- they are so simple an idea, but yet I’ve never seen it before and it just looked amazing!

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How did you select your list of workshops/facilitators for this year?

Lyndsey – We look at crafting trends and integrate what is current – for example, macramé is hot at the moment! We spend a lot of time researching local artists and finding out what skills are available locally. We always try and keep to local artists where we can.

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An embroidery hoop design you can have a go at one the day with Make & Mend Co

For the more avid crafter, what’s unique about this event?

Rachel – I think it is the range of different workshops on offer and they are such a high quality; we have selected the best makers we can find to teach the workshops so there is bound to be a new craft to learn.

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If YOU were attending as a punter – what activity or workshop would you be most excited about doing yourselves?

If I was coming I would be desperate to make a macramé pot hanger, an origami lampshade and I would love to make a floral wreath (sorry that’s three!). Also really interested in learning more about aromatherapy and the benefits of essential oils.

The Culture Vulture – I have seen the macramé pot hanger and I’ve seen it modelled with a bottle of prosecco in which obviously spiked my interest….crafty, lush AND functional for my Friday feeling vibe…I want to have a go at macramé too!

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You’ve united crafting, making and mindfulness and well-being together….why did you make this connection?

Rachel – I guess the connection has always been there for me, in stressful times I have always turned to sewing to help me, same as some people go running, do gardening or cook. It was always my way to relax and switch off so making people more aware of the mindful benefits of sewing was always something I wanted highlight – that’s why in our embroidery kits we give instructions on how to sew but also on how to appreciate the process and make it a mindful experience.

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To a complete creative nut slash workaholic like myself, I’m actually the most super excited about the talks…can you tell me a bit about them and how you curated them?

Lyndsey – We’re super excited about the talks programme too! We have huge interest in self-care and improving our wellbeing and think that these talks will offer lots of valuable tips which people can integrate into their everyday lives.

We’re wellbeing addicts and are always buying books and attending courses as it has made such a huge different to our lives and helping us to adopt a more positive and resilient attitude. We have been really inspired by our speakers – we either follow them on Instagram, have done their courses or read their articles. We think the topics they will be covering can really make a difference in terms of supporting people to look after themselves and improving their mind-set.

The Culture Vulture – One of the things that I’m learning as The Culture Vulture, is that barriers exist, stopping people being creative or jumping at opportunities – the whole, not having time, feeling guilty for taking time out, lacking in confidence at trying something new etc – so I think with your talks, you’re hitting the nail on the head. I’m really looking forward to live tweeting them!

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What do you want people to take away from the festival?

Rachel – We want them to have fun, make something, relax, meet new people, enjoy a little time for themselves and leave feeling inspired to try and include a little more making in their lives!

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Well there you have it – a colourful day with a festival vibe of making, creating and taking time out for yourself awaits at Make & Mend Festival on 7th July at Preston Park in Stockton. Tickets are still available but they are selling really quickly now with one week to go, so don’t be like me and spend the rest of the year with FOMO, get your ticket now!

And if you’ve already got your ticket – then YASSSS- make sure to use #makemendfest on the day so I can spy on your creative shenanigans.

(Credit given for the majority of photos used above to Clare Bowes Photography)

Gateshead Silent Film Festival 2019 – the low down

So now we are half way through January (how did that happen?!?), I hope you have your diaries full of events, happenings and plans for 2019…….there are so many amazing things going on in the region and my last post covered just a few of my top picks! One of my recommendations was the Gateshead Silent Film Festival – I’ve got my ticket and I’m so excited to go! It will be my third time attending and each year it just gets better and better, and as a Gateshead lass, I’m so proud that something like this happens right here, on my patch!

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This year’s Gateshead Silent Film festival, a collaboration between St Mary’s Heritage Centre & Side By Side Arts; two nights of silent movies accompanied by ‘live’ piano music.

Friday night is ‘Horror’ night showing the 1925 seminal American silent horror ‘Phantom of the Opera’. Scream for Pizza are serving a range of their ghoulishly gorgeous fresh made pizzas from 7pm, and a pay bar is available too. Tickets available here.

Saturday night is ‘Comedy’ night showing ‘Girl Shy’. The Poor Boy (Harold Lloyd) is a bashful tailor’s apprentice who longs to be a published author. Heading for the city to sell his romantic anthology, he encounters the Rich Girl (Jobyna Ralston) on a train, and he helps her hide her dog from the conductor. Excited about a budding romance, the Poor Boy goes off to a publisher and gets rejected. Disheartened, he gives up on the Rich Girl. However, when the publisher changes his mind, the Poor Boy tries to rekindle the spark of romance. Scream for Pizza will also be back serving from 6pm and bar open from 7pm. Tickets available here.

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But instead of me jabbering on about why you need to get tickets for Gateshead’s Silent Film Festival, I thought I’d catch up with Mr Gateshead Silent Film Festival, the Director of Side By Side Arts – Stuart Angus. We caught up recently (before Christmas) and bonded over Stuart’s FANTASTIC gin collection and I had the privilege of finding out all about Side by Side Arts and what is in store for this year’s Silent Film Festival!

Let’s start at the beginning for my fellow Culture Vultures – who are you?

My name Stuart Angus and I am the Director of Side By Side Arts.  I’m originally from Northern Ireland, but moved across when was 18 to study music at Newcastle University and fell in love with the North East so stayed!

The North East tends to do that, once you arrive here, people don’t want to leave/we don’t allow you to leave. So Side By Side Arts, what is it and what does it do?

Side By Side Arts is a Community Interest Company which aims to bring performing arts opportunities covering music, dance and drama to people in the North East who would not normally have the opportunity to take part. Currently we run stage schools for children, supported by partners and various funders, which enable young people from lower income backgrounds to take part. We also lead the Low Fell Community choir, have a music tuition studio, run group and individual piano lessons and even run an annual Silent Film Festival!

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Stuart leading Low Fell Community Choir at BALTIC as part of Great Exhibition of the North

You’ve just mentioned The Silent Film Festival, that’s what I want to hear more about! Tell my fellow Culture Vultures, what’s happening and what’s on across the festival?

The Silent Film Festival is now in its third year and run jointly with St Mary’s Heritage Centre. This year we are even bigger and better running three events, all celebrating the magic of silent film, over the 25th & 26th January.

Friday 25th January is horror night! Enjoy the gothic settings of St Mary’s while watching the all-time horror classic ‘Phantom of the Opera’.

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Saturday 26th sees the venue transformed into the St Mary’s Speakeasy where the hilarious Miss Dixie Swallows introduces the comedy film ‘Girl Shy’ featuring Harold Lloyd. This is a great love story about a guy who thinks he knows how to make women fall in love with men, but in reality can’t speak to a girl without stuttering!

Both evenings will be accompanied by myself live on piano, a pay bar open and the delicious Scream for Pizza will also be cooking up a storm!

This year for the first time we are also holding the family funny bones hour where we will be showing three short comedy silent films, one of which will be accompanied by myself on piano. These are three of my most favourite short films and the one I am accompanying live is my all-time favourite (Buster Keaton’s One Week). This event is especially for families to come along, be thoroughly entertained and have a great time together as a family.

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I really like your choice of films – Girl Shy is just fantastic. What made you select this year’s films?

I chose Phantom Of the Opera because most people are very familiar with the Andrew Lloyd Webber version, but the silent film is where it all began and a true class. I wanted to show the original film and surprise people with a similar story line but with music that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with the film.

Last year for comedy night we showed Charlie Chaplin and the year before we showed Buster Keaton, so for 2019 following on with the theme of showcasing some of the silent film comedy greats, we thought we’d let Harold Lloyd have a turn this year! Every year, I like to show a film which people are a bit less familiar with (everyone knows the scene where Harold Lloyd is hanging from a large clock face) and ‘Girl Shy’ has all the elements to make a great comedy film from a love story, through to hilarious slap stick and even a comedy chase!

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St Mary’s is just such a perfect venue for this type of event and as always, can’t wait to see it for horror night– from your perspective why did you pick this as your Silent Film Festival home?

St Mary’s is a fantastic venue and is so versatile in its uses. Who could imagine that such a place could host a wedding one week, a conference or a workshop the next and then even a silent film festival?!?! The gothic setting of a church is amazing to show horror films while speakeasies appeared in the most unlikely of places during the 1920’s prohibition, so where more unlikely to have one than in an old church?

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I’ve heard lots of people talking about this year’s festival – like they’ve just discovered it, which is always a great sign! But this is actually its THIRD year – how did it all start?

It all started with me going to the Heaton Park Silent Film Night which used to be held in the Summer time. From here I discovered silent films and in particular Buster Keaton. This inspired me to write my final dissertation on the evolution of silent film music and from there my love for the silent film era grew! I was really sad when the Heaton Park Festival ended because of the loss of funding and really wanted to bring silent films back to the North East!

You introduced me properly to silent films and since the first festival, I’ve been keening watching them and I’ve discovered that watching silent films was (and still is) actually anything but silent! People watching giggled, socialised, drank and of course, lots of live musical accompaniment. You’ll be doing live piano along to the films to bring them to life – are you doing a special score?

Every performance that I give is a soundtrack that I have compiled especially for the showing using a massive array of music, a lot of the music you will hear is taken from original music that would have been used to accompany films.

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Why do you love Silent Films? Why is it important for people to fall in love with the genre today?

I love silent films because they don’t have any of the mod cons that you would expect to see in modern cinema. All of the actors do their own stunts, there was no CGI and most importantly the main way that they could tell a story effectively was by using music to match with what you see on the screen.

It’s really interesting that the whole perception of what you watch and experience can be altered by what you hear! That’s why the musician’s job in the silent film era was almost as important as the actors who were on screen. It also led to so much more including folly artistry to provide sound effects which ultimately developed into what we recognise now as a modern day film score.

What I find interesting is that nowadays audiences are looking for that fully immersive experience while watching a movie; from attending showings with live orchestras playing the movie’s scores through to audience participation and live actors interpreting what is shown on screen simultaneously, so of course, what better way to enjoy a film than going back to where it all began?

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For people who haven’t seen any Silent Film before but just fancy a lush different night out to get them through January (it’s a long bliddy month), what can they expect if they get a ticket? Why should they get a ticket?

For people who haven’t watched a silent film I need to ask where have you been for the past two years!?!?!?! Coming to an event like this means that you are able to appreciate a film which is very cleverly made. While you’re watching you will get so engrossed in that you almost forget about everything around you because it is so visual! You can expect to have a unique experience with what you hear as the soundtrack is compiled especially for the event and not forgetting the amazing Miss Dixie on the Saturday night adding that extra bit of comedy!

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What’s next after the Silent Film Festival – what do you have planned for 2019?

2019 looks to be a busy year so far! I have a great project coming up with Imagine Gateshead where I will be working with a group of children to write a song about what they think Gateshead will be like in 100 years’ time! The Low Fell Community Choir are working on lots of great new music and getting ready to perform it over the coming months and I will also be growing the music studio. But most excitingly, I have a couple of new tutors who will be joining me over the coming weeks to take Side by Side Arts to the next level – so singing lessons, dance etc will be added to our growing offer!

You teach the piano and run lessons for adults and children – you’ve promised to give me a lesson or too (I’m not very musical), I need to know what you are going to teach me on the piano? My musical profile consists of Little Donkey on the recorder, The Rugrats theme tune on the glockenspiel so I’m eagerly awaiting another string to this bow…

I really don’t think that it is true that people aren’t musical….. you just have never had the right teacher! I firmly do believe that if you have the willing to learn something like piano and are happy to take 10 minutes a day to do a little bit of practice that you can learn to play in no time at all! (rant over!) So having said that my aim for you is to teach you a Britney Spears song as I know how much you love her!

Proud Britney Spears super fan right here…..right now I’m excited for my lesson. You also head up Low Fell Community choir and keep trying to get me join…… right this is your chance, 30 second pitch. I can’t sing, but love to sing as it makes me feel a bit lush inside….why should I join? If I join, can we do some Tina Turner or Britney? (non-negotiables)

The Low Fell Community Choir is a really friendly and welcoming choir, just like I say anyone can be musical, we really do believe that anyone can sing! We meet every Sunday at 5:30 at the Nest in Low Fell, there is no audition to join, you just have to turn up and sing! I teach everything by singing it to you and then you have a go at singing it back!

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Last year we did some amazing music from an Abba medley through to Adel’s Make You Feel My Love and big classics like Don’t Stop Believing! This year we are working on more epic tunes from Queen’s Somebody To Love, through to songs from Greatest Showman, a few modern day hits and yes! There is even a Tina Turner song to be learnt, but I’m not going to tell you which one – you’re going to have to come along to find out!!!

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I can feel my little feet stomping a la Proud Mary, in excitement already. So Culture Vultures, 25th & 26th January is this year’s Gateshead Silent Film Festival. Tickets are flying and it’s going to be a great weekend of silent film. I will be there lurking in the shadows on horror night, hanging out with minis (more on my level) for Funny Bones hour and cackling away at the back for comedy night.

If you see me – say hiyer and use the hashtag #GatesheadSilentFilm19 on social so I can track your silent film festival shenanigans!

That’s all for now.

The Late Shows 2018 : The Culture Vulture essentials!

After recovering from the excitement of Eurovision, I’m now thinking about this coming weekend and The Late Shows. It’s another mega favourite weekend of mine and one of the ultimate culture vulturing weekends across Newcastle and Gateshead on 18th May 7pm-11pm and 19th May 6pm – 11pm.

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It’s a free late-night culture crawl taking over this weekend – an array of museums, galleries, studio collectives and landmark historical buildings open their doors to offer visitors one-off events, parties, sneaky peaks at new exhibitions or work, demonstrations, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, performances and lots of lush artists and creatives to speak to.

There is something totally lush about being about to visit venues and spaces in the night time – whilst they treat you to a unique after dark experience. Every year, I get really excited and what’s not to love about a city wide creative and cultural celebration. Each year – people and venues do different things, so whilst you may go every year – you’ll have a brand new experience.

So I’m not one for telling you guys, my fellow Culture Vultures, where you should go to – as the venues and spaces involved this year are all equally as brilliant and part of what I love about Late Shows, is that YOU plan your own cultural adventure or as I often do, simply go with the flow on the night and just enjoy it!

I thought instead, I’d feature this blog post on the unmissable reasons why you MUST not miss Late Shows 2018…..

  1. There are several FIRST TIME venues taking part or venues in their brand new digs opening their doors and I’m all about being one of the first to see and do something– so for you it’s an opportunity to check out somewhere you haven’t been before and their spaces whilst experiencing something lush and creative. So who are the first time Late Shows 2018 venues:
  • The Nest – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A lush family venues full of fun times and good food – you can print the Angel of the North and also eat the Angel.
  • The Kiln – Low Fell, Gateshead (Sat Only) – A vibrant and interactive paint your own pottery studio – you can paint your own Angel mug.
  • The Newbridge Project: Gateshead (Sat Only) – Visual arts studios and gallery in it’s first year; Explore the Deep Adaptation exhibition and leave your own responses to questions, take part in kimchi making and take home your own starter seed capsule.
  • Alphabetti Theatre – Newcastle (Sat Only) – A performing arts venue open since Sept 17; venture from room to room as you stumble across a variety of bands, poetry and pop-up theatre.
  • Star and Shadow Cinema – Newcastle (Fri Only) – An alternative social, cultural, arts and community hub run by a collective of volunteers open again in its new space – drop in to celebrate their re-opening.

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The Nest by Pop Up Studio Low Fell – Print the Angel. #Angel20

  1. There is a really special one off from Curious Arts on Baltic Square, Gateshead on Saturday on – the launch of Curious Arts’ 36point7 – a HIV/AIDs light art awareness project. 36point7 aims to support the visibility of this global issue and the legacy of those lost and silenced during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, Curious Arts is working with light artist Stuart Langley to reimagine the World AIDS day ribbon.

You will be able to chat to Curious Arts about the project and take in this lush large light installation which will be positioned inside Gateshead Millennium Bridge box.

In addition – Curious are offering free creative workshops so you have the opportunity to create your very own light art.

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Sneaky peeky of 36point7 from Curious Arts.

  1. Late Shows embodies a lot of what The Culture Vulture is all about…. It’s an opportunity to support, champion and visit Independent venues! I’m ALL about the independents and many of them across the weekend are hosting amazing events and parties – so get in the Late Shows vibe and enjoy! My top independent picks:
  • The Tyne Bar – Newcastle (Fri & Sat) – one of my favourite boozers anyway – but for the Late Shows they have a collaborative 90s throwback exhibition featuring work by second year Newcastle Fine Art students Charli Payne, Roberto de Abreu Preciosa, and Wesley Bray. I’m OBSESSED with the 90s – so I will be there on Friday for good time and 90s vibes.
  • Cobalt Studios – Newcastle (Fri) – A creative studio space and venue; I love what Kathryn and her team put on there and I’m itching to do a Culture Vulture event in the space. They got a mega Silent Disco party for you – three very diverse DJ’s & three parties in one with visual projections. My dancing shoes and twirling is at the ready.
  • The Staiths Café – Gateshead (Sat) – A lush independent café space… drop in for some communal singing with Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choirs who will later perform at the end of the workshop. Expect lush vibes.
  • Kommunity – Newcastle (Sat) – A bar/participatory social space that hosts dance, art house film screenings and much more…it’s run some of my favourite people in the world and it’s just a lush venue. And what a night they have planned for you from 9pm-middnight! Think STUDIO 54 and the last days of disco! The global growth of disco music and nightclub culture is going to be celebrated by your DJ for the evening Absolutely Fabulous Lady Annabella Marczewska! Dress to impress, exude energy and most importantly glamour!

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  1. Lots of Gateshead venues are celebrating The Angel of the North 20th Birthday this year within their Shows events! #Angel20
  • First up is the Nest in Low Fell Gateshead on Saturday – it’s a must for all you mini culture vultures (and grown-ups!). This year, they’ve brilliantly partnered up with another megababe local business – Pop Up Studio Low Fell. With Laura from pop up, you can bring an Angel of the North design on to fabric – make it as loud and proud as you want. She has also said for the grown-ups, you can totally go rogue and print whatever you want – including glittery swear words! With Lee and the Nest team, you’ll be able to make #Angel20 biscuits and literally eat the Angel. Mint!
  • Then there is the wonderful hidden gem on Low fell high street – The Kiln! On Saturday, you’ll have the opportunity to get proper creative and have a go at painting an Angel mug….they will provide expert guidance, lots of materials and of course, chat all about their wider offer!
  • Bensham Grove on Saturday in yep… Bensham Gateshead; is also doing lots of #Angel20 creative and crafty activities. You can create your very own Angel of the North sculpture for their garden and make your own angel in their make and take glass, pottery and textile workshops all whilst listening to live music.
  • The Shipley Art Gallery – On Saturday they are celebrating the Angel of the North’s 20th birthday and you’re invited! Join them to make your own Angel themed crafts, and get in the party spirit with live music, dance performances and a bar from Arch Sixteen’s Pam.

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The Kiln – Low Fell

  1. Be the first to see some of the AMAZING summer happenings and exhibitions – Late Shows 2018 acts as a bit of an exclusive preview – so enjoy!
  • The BALTIC (Sat) – This is a rare late-night opening view of their spring exhibitions. Visit Idea of North, a group show part of the city-wide Great Exhibition of the North. This exhibition celebrates northern imagination and identity through architecture, photography, music and design. It’s an exploration of northern imagination, unpicking and revealing different voices within the idea of a ‘northern’ identity.

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  • The Shipley Art Gallery (Sat) – Whilst they are hosting a fantastic #Angel20 party – Late Shows 2018 on Saturday also provides an opportunity to see the new Grayson Perry exhibition.

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Grayson Perry

  1. It’s not just about the venues and spaces – it’s about showcasing lots of amazing artists across the weekend; so if art is your bag – here are my recommendations!
  • The Biscuit Factory (Fri) – This is certainly my first stop on Friday and I can’t wait! They are launching the Open Contemporary Young Artist Award 2018; a mixed media exhibition featuring new artwork from over 20 emerging young artists. You will be the first to view the shortlist and cast your vote for our People’s Choice winner. Alongside the exhibition award-winning Streetwise Opera are performing live in the gallery AND you can enjoy The Factory Kitchen’s new urban roof top terrace with Ouseburn views, a pop-up bar and Mexican street food! (It looks amazing!).

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The Factory Kitchen rooftop garden

  • 36 Lime Street (Fri) – A top favourite artist space of mine! So many of my favourite people in there. Artists and makers from 36 Lime Street Studios open their doors after dark to give a glimpse of their working life and to have a natter. In the gallery Bethan Maddocks and Maria Sears present Paper Jungle, a growing, glowing paper-cut jungle that visitors can add to throughout Friday. Big fan of megababe Bethan – so excited to see what this looks like!
  • Jim Edwards (Fri) – Well he’s in my top 5 favourite artists of all time – and of course, I will do my usual trip to his studio and pay homage to Craig David Pub Cat. However, for Late Shows, I’ve heard he’s going to be working on and exhibiting some brand new pieces – I’ve already seen the Hadrian’s Wall one on social – so can’t wait to see it in person. But whispers tell me, there might be a Heaton focused one – and as Heaton is my second home, I’m excited!

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Jim Edwards

  • Commercial Union House (Sat) is just full of galleries, artist spaces, parties and workshops include Vane, B&D Studios, Breeze Creatives and others – so take your time and enjoy! But my recommendation for extra attention goes to of course, Ampersand Inventions! I love Ampersand and if I wasn’t working the full Gateshead Late Shows evening on Saturday – I’d be ALL over this…. They are presenting a ‘Homage to The Handyside Arcade: The New Breed’ – (Another great theme Jonpaul!) The Edwardian-built arcade on the city’s Percy Street was a spectacular glass-roofed construction housing a range of popular quirky shops and outlets, ‘Tyneside’s answer to Carnaby Street’. From the dust of legends, Ampersand Inventions are opening their front doors to showcase their amazing boutiques, shops and not forgetting their weird and wonky artists! Mixing heritage, culture, lifelong learning, innovation and enterprise! You have some Culture Vulture faves in there including Trendlistr, Melanie Kyles, Roberta Louise Green and others.

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Ampersand Inventions

Bliddy heck…what a Late Shows 2018 weekend! I’m excited to get Culture Vulturing and of course, if you see me – say hiyer! I will be live social media-ing, drinking gin (not when working obvs) and having a fantastic lush time.

 

 

GemArts Masala Festival 2017; a South Asian cultural infusion of a festival……

Working in Culture within the North East is possibly the best sector in the entire world to work in; it’s just mint! The ideas, the events, the projects, the people and beyond. As a none people loving people person, I really finding my little space in the world, with such brilliant people.

The Cultural sector in our region is just so diverse – I’ve never experienced anything like it. The cross fertilisation of ideas, partnerships and collaborations and the ever emerging willingness to work together culminates to ensure an exciting bubbling richness of lush things and people.

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GemArts and Sunderland Stages present Gods & Mortals at Sunderland Minster

The sector is also very close knit – you can attend any event really and see a smattering of friendly creative faces smiling, championing you and your projects and attending the things you do. It’s a like a secret club of lushness…… the people you work alongside or attend their things and champion, very easily move from project partner or such and such from that organisation….and become friends. Real friends and people who you celebrate every cultural moment with.

Sinead from Gem Arts is one of those people (and in fact really the whole Gem Arts team….but Sinead really likes cats and is quite ridiculous like me, so she’s my favourite). I’ve known of Gem Arts for some time and championed them for as long as I have worked in the cultural sector….. their Mini Mela was my induction into working with a large scale cultural children’s event.

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GemArts is a dynamic arts development organisation presenting South Asian arts. They produce and programme new and exciting culturally diverse arts, by creating and developing high quality concerts, events, festivals, workshops and commissions with regional, national and international artists. Every event I’ve attended has been a cultural hot pot and celebration of South Asian diversity and learning about respective cultures.

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Last year they launched Masala Festival and I had the pleasure of championing it as part of Gateshead Arts Team and of course, as Sinead’s mate Horts. So as we are literally about to jump into the second Malasa Festival (deep breaths Sinead and team – it’s going to be mint!), I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch up with her and find out what this year has in store for the region alongside digitally championing to my fellow Culture Vultures what a cracking week this is going to be…..

Well hello Sinead, so first up; what is Masala Festival?

Masala Festival is the North East’s very own, award winning, South Asian Arts Festival, bringing a mix and blend of the finest art and artists to the region for 7 days in July starting on 17th July.

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How many years has it been running and what kicked it all off?

GemArts launched Masala Festival in July 2016, offering a truly eclectic programme, spanning traditional and contemporary arts. After 16+ years presenting diverse arts in the North East, we decided it was time to put our expertise to good use, and create a brand new Summer Festival, showcasing artists from the UK, South Asia and beyond.

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This year the Masala Festival programme explores partition, migration, globalisation, identity, heritage, tradition and modernity, and marks the 70th anniversary of Independence for both India and Pakistan, something we were already starting to think about in 2016.

You won a Culture award for last year- tell me what that was like?

Recognition is the icing on the cake, alongside the incredible support we continue to receive from participants, audiences, trustees, volunteers, sponsors, partners and local communities, to whom we are hugely grateful and celebrates the creative talents of artists from the region, across the UK, South Asia and beyond.

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It was a joy to collaborate, connect and celebrate with thousands of people from across the region at our first Masala Festival, and we can’t wait to do it all again.

Receiving an award for something your team is truly passionate about is a dream come true, and has given everyone an even stronger drive to continue championing creativity and diversity at every level, supporting young and emerging artists, and offering people from all backgrounds and ages, community groups and schools, engaging opportunities to take part in our culturally rich and diverse arts offer.

So… now 2017; what’s coming up for Masala?

This year’s Festival (17th-23rd July) will ramp things up, building on our award success we’ve been even more ambitious, and added exciting collaborations and takeovers to last years list.

GemArts has commissioned work from celebrated companies and artists  and the programme is packed; award winning poetry readings (Daljit Nagra: Heritage and Identity), specially curated short film programmes (Changes), celebrations of Sikh soldier’s music tradition and contributions to the First World War (Sacred Sounds), leading choirs from India (Gandharva Choir), two nights of powerful theatre (No Dogs, No Indians), Masala Festival takeovers and collaborations (Q Festival, Trinity Square and Dabbawal), Mini Mela family fun days, Indian storytelling shows (Henna),  talented musicians fusing jazz, electronic and Indian classical music (Sarathy Korwar), folk music and dance (Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band),  film screenings (The Jungle Book, Ghandi), exhibitions (AURORA by Jayamini de Silva), food events (Biryani Club), fantastic workshops (Bollywood dance, Meditation and Yoga), talks and demos (including GBBO contestant Chetna Makan) and lots more……

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What should I not miss out on?

We think you should attend everything, but there probably aren’t enough hours in one person’s day. Three events we know the Culture Vulture will really enjoy would be;

SACRED SOUNDS – A national project called Sacred Sounds, which tells some of the largely forgotten stories of British India’s role in the First World War. Using archive footage, letters, photos, music and poetry, SACRED SOUNDS is a multi-art form performance which explores Sikh musical heritage and traditions, which soldiers took with them to the battlefield.

HENNA INDIAN STORYTELLING SHOW – As part of our Q Festival takeover we’ve invited international storytellers Peter and Gorg Chand to tell a very special story. On the eve of a wedding a young bride-to-be is having henna applied to her hands. As the patterns emerge, the stories begin to unfold… love, loss, betrayal and Bollywood! Plus GemArts Henna artists will be on hand to create beautiful designs for any of our audience who want them.

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NO DOGS NO INDIANS – A powerful new play from Siddhartha Bose. Three intertwining stories, spanning decades, explore the effects and legacy of the British in India in a powerful new play to mark the 70th anniversary of independence.

I’m always up for trying something new and out my comfort zone- do you have any recommendations?

CHANGES: stories on the edge will certainly make audiences ask some serious questions, and think long and hard about the world they live in and the resilience of people. Following last year’s successful ALIVE film programme, we’ve teamed up with creative producer Bobby Tiwana again, who has curated a stunning line up of short films for CHANGES; a programme of lives on the edge – personal and political conflicts test human resolve.

My little mini Culture Vulture Beck (one of my best pals little boys) – he’s really into trains, stamping his feet, stairs and exploring- anything for him and his lush fam?

There is plenty for mini Culture Vultures and their adults to get involved in during Masala Festival. We’re starting our Q Festival takeover with Bollywood dance classes for ages 2+ from 9am, and then from 11am we’ve Stories from the Punjab and Beyond for ages 5+ , a fun, interactive, and lively session of Indian tales.

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Part of our Movies at Masala programme with the Jam Jar Cinema, shows The Jungle Book at 11am on Saturday morning.

Sunday sees the return of our popular Masala Festival Mini Mela, which last year welcomed more than 500 people throughout the day. Like all GemArts Mini Melas the day includes a range of drop in arts workshops, from Rangoli, Kite making and Silk painting to Bollywood Dance and Dhol drumming, plus we’ve invited an amazing group of musicians to really bring the space to life, as the Rajasthan Heritage Brass Band will perform throughout the day.

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Heard about the curry night at Arch 16 which obvs I’m all over that…..I like my curry to be an experience…..

BIRIYANI CLUB AT ARCH 16 – We love working with our friends and neighbours, and when we read about Arch 16’s curry clubs with Ashiyana Café we knew we had to chat Masala Festival with them. A tasty curry for less than £10, and GemArts DJs spinning the best bhangra hits, what’s not to like?!

CHETNA MAKAN CHAI, CHAAT AND CHUTNEY – As big fans of food shows, food cooking and food in general, we were over the moon when former Great British Bake Off contestant Chetna Makan was available to deliver a cooking demonstration during Masala Festival. Chetna will share stories from her travels around India for new cookbook, Chai Chaat and Chutney, and attendees will get to taste a selection of delicious street food recipes created before their very eyes!

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Well that’s all a little bit amazing isn’t it – so make sure you check out GemArts Masala Festival next week…..you’ll see instantly why  it won a Culture Award and how fantastic it is – every night a brand new experience of diverse lushness – so much to see, do and of course Culture Vultures, EAT!

So bye for now Culture Vultures and Sinead, well I’ll see you on the other side of Masala Festival…..

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The Culture Vulture xx