Interview with writer, director, actor, content creator & fave human – Eilish Stout-Cairns, ahead of her theatre directorial debut TONIGHT!

I’ve been looking forward to this interview for AGES as it is with one of my favourite pals in the entire world, but first some context! Today, Monday 25th January, is the premiere of the theatre performance The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust.  This production is free to watch and will premiere tonight at 7pm– streamed live over on Gosforth Civic Theatre Facebook page.

This theatre show tells the remarkable true story of two eccentric, opera loving lasses from Sunderland who achieved truly extraordinary things! The sisters, who lived to travel the world to listen to their favourite opera performers sing, used this passion as a cover, to secretly work to bring Jews out of Nazi Europe. In total, the Sunderland sisters, Ida and Louise, saved the lives of 29 Jews during the Holocaust and this theatre show tells that courageous story. Extraordinary lasses who did extraordinary things!

Graphic advertising The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust

This production is part of Brundibár Arts Festival; the first annual Festival in the UK dedicated to the Music and Arts of the Holocaust. I’ve supported Brundibár Arts Festival for the last few years – it’s a super important and special festival; it seeks to find new ways to positively document the astonishing achievements of artists under adversity, and to keep their stories alive through music and the arts. They will be back (hopefully) with an in-person festival in 2022!

I’m so excited to watch The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust tonight and not just because it is part of Brundibár Arts Festival or because it is amazing two amazing North East women, I’m super excited because it is Culture Vulture pal Eilish Stout-Cairns directorial debut! YAS! Eilish is such a glorious and talented creative chameleon and one to watch with a bright future ahead.

I recently caught up with Eilish for this lush interview – we chatted Cook sisters, mental health, social media, Melva and online trolls….over to you Eilish!

Eilish Stout-Cairns head shot on a beach

Can you introduce yourself for my readers? 

My name is Eilish Stout-Cairns and I’m a 24 year old actor and creative freelancer from the North East.

Well hello Eilish! Can you describe what you do?

Goodness, second question and it’s already a tough one! I act, I work as a content creator for two online companies- with that I also video produce, I work as a facilitator for young people, I just wrote my first show last month and I guess now here I am directing The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust. It’s a big mixed bag!

Picture of Eilish Stout-Cairns performing

Questions like that also send me into an existential crisis! How did you get into creative industries?

As far back as I can remember I wanted to act. I loved being on stage, even if one of my earlier roles in life was ‘Window Number Two’ in a Youth Theatre production of PeterPan- I made that window my own! I jest. But I truly can’t imagine doing anything else.

I left sixth form at 18 and went on to work in makeup, all the while still auditioning- without having a clue what I was doing, then I went on and trained at Project A at the Theatre Royal when I was 20, since then I’ve been in the professional industry.  

Eilish leading a workshop as Feggis in a school

People don’t really understand the fact that us creative freelancers – do A LOT. Multiple projects, jobs, businesses, freelance shenanigans. I think your portfolio of work sums that up……can you briefly describe the melting pot of wonderful things you do? 

Wow, Okay!  Being an actor was always my main job, even if, at the start, that didn’t necessarily make me that much money. So, then I had to put my eggs in other baskets. I trained to become a spray tanner in April 2019, bought the kit and I am now a Silver Level Professional Mobile Spray Tanner! But of course, that was also freelance, I then because a facilitator for theatre, drama and creative learning company Mortal Fools and started working with them on some of their projects for young people such as: Future Ready, a project they do with Collingwood School in Morpeth. I then started to work for them as a youth theatre practitioner and still am to this day.

Back in June last year, I applied to be a content creator for an online company Latest Deals, they hired me and 4 weeks later, so did their sister company- Latest Free Stuff, with them I make short videos, I do Facebook Lives, run competitions etc. It’s a bit like QVC but in a more modern way!

Eilish in character

What is the Brundibár Arts Festival? What’s been your involvement in it?

The Brundibár Arts Festival is the first annual Festival in the UK dedicated to the Music and Arts of the Holocaust. And that topic is something that personally I never learnt much about. I didn’t know about the music associated with the Holocaust and we should, as it’s such an amazing way to keep individuals’ stories alive.

I was part of the Festival last year as an actor in the performance- The Last Cyclist, and this year, myself and Northumberland Theatre Company had an idea- we approached the festival and here I am directing this year’s show!

Brundibár Arts Festival is important because, it shows us some of the great works of art that emerged from such horrific circumstances.  We should be educated on these things; the art we see in the festival is often a lesser known story and we’re truly giving it an important platform and telling human stories of creative courage.

Eilish performing at Gosforth Civic Theatre – The Last Cyclist – Brundibár Arts Festival 2020

Tell me about this year’s production – The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust?

The production is all about The Cook Sisters; two ordinary lasses from Sunderland who achieved extraordinary things. And that’s not me calling them ordinary- they called themselves that. It’s such a gorgeous local story about two young women who saved the lives of 29 Jews, that a lot of people may not know about.

Why is it important to shine a light on lesser-known courageous stories of women like this?

Because often, when you think of wars or fighting or courage, you may think of a male dominated picture. And that’s not the case. For years. We learnt from male dominated history books and it’s time that that was changed.

When I was at school, I can’t remember learning about one woman who wasn’t a wife of a man. Apart from maybe Cleopatra and we glossed over her. – The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust isn’t a story of royalty, it’s about two ORDINARY lasses who were young and passionate, and the things they achieved are worth knowing and celebrating.  These women saved lives.

What do you hope people take away from The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust?

I want people to sit, enjoy it and to allow themselves feel – then to go away and learn more about the sisters.

Why should people tune in later today at 7pm to see the production? 

If you don’t know the real story of Ida and Louise Cook- you need to watch it! You’ll wanna learn. And even if you do know their story, still watch it- feel proud that you know this story and that you’re a part of it. The performance is littered with music, opera and it’s uplifting. There’s something for everyone.

I’m so excited to tune in later to see your directorial debut! Right so tell me about your role at Mortal Fools?

I started working with Mortal Fools back in 2017 with their first production of Melva and then toured a new version in 2019/20. And now it has been made into Melva Mapletree & the Quest for Barnabas Boggle, an interactive, online storytelling game and one-stop resource to support children’s everyday worries and anxiety

Then I started working as a facilitator for them in January 2020 working with various schools, running the younger Youth Theatre sessions and participating in their audio theatre experience When The World Is Loud back in August. They can’t get rid of me!

Team Melva during 2017 show run in Prudhoe

Tell me about Melva and your involvement? And the big Q, who is Feggis?

Melva is a show for children (and their parents/carers) and it’s all about mental health! Worries are “worrits” in the show and Melva is dealing with a lot of them and it is giving her  anxiety. Melva approaches these subjects in a light-hearted, accessible and child friendly way and it invites young people to talk openly about their own worries and thinking about how they might manage them. Melva also shows that grown-ups get these worries too- and that that’s okay!

Feggis! Yes, one of my roles in Melva (There’s 6 in total- 4 in one scene!) is Feggis the talking, fainting goat. Feggis went to goat school and that’s why they can talk but not write. Feggis helps Melva be calm and chill out- showing her how to breathe! Feggis is an audience favourite and pretty adorable.

Eilish as Feggis during a Melva workshop at a North East school

Melva Mapletree & the Quest for Barnabas Boggle, Mortal Fools’ interactive, online storytelling game launches to schools TODAY! What was your involvement in the game?

I’ve played it and it’s fun! It did leave me going- Is that really my voice?! And seeing this character, I’ve worked on for three years in animation is so weird, but in a wonderful way! We had quite heavy involvement in the game development, from the very beginning with some of our initial ideas being brought in to the final project, It was lovely for it to be done this way and was so collaborative! The Melva cast are so rooted in the characters and the story, so having a say in this next chapter felt vital.

Graphic depicting Melva game

And you managed to find time in 2020 to write a Christmas show?  Tell us more!

Eeeek, This was big! I wrote my very first show the back end of last year- The Elf Who Saved Santa. It all stemmed from a casual chat with Northumberland Theatre Company about a silly Christmas idea I had, to which they said- write it! And I did!

The show centres around Bubblegum, a little elf with a big heart who tries really hard but might not actually be great at what she does- apart from music! It tells the story of Santa feeling lonely, jumpy, grumpy and lost because of everything that was happening in the world and COVID-19- so Bubblegum tries to show him that the Christmas spirit still exists. It touches on some mental health topics too and it shows that even the people we least expect can feel sad sometimes.

Eilish as Bubblegum

What was it like being able to bring something magical (and very contemporary) to families at such a challenging time?

We got some brilliant feedback, which was so rewarding with it being my first show! It was filmed and put online; not getting that initial audience reaction like you get in a live show, just left me unknowing and worried that people wouldn’t like it! But it was well received with some people even saying it helped their children understand adults’ emotions better.

I think it gave everyone some much needed relief at this odd time. I think it’s important that there was something out there to help families have conversations about their emotions at the moment. Life is weird and none of us REALLY know what we’re doing- so talking about it can offer a bit of relief. I’m pleased I was able to help some people do that.

Eilish performing Christmas 2020

You’re a gigging actor, theatre practitioner, writer and now Director – what’s the impact been of COVID to you personally? Has it made you “pivot” at all? 

COVID-19 definitely made me re-think some things. I had two tours cancelled and multiple shows- like many others! I was fortunate enough to be working online for the Mortal Fools Youth Theatre when this first started- so that kept me busy. I’m not going to lie to you though, I’m sick of the sight of Zoom! I can’t wait to never use it again!

Because of COVID- I applied for the content creator job- something I probably would never had had time for, as prior to the pandemic I was working at the O2 Academy Newcastle and the Airport. (Both of which I’ve now been made redundant from) So now I spend Monday-Friday (usually) filming, editing, being on social media and it’s taught me so much! I’ve done multiple social media courses, I’ve became a Mental Health First Aider, I even did an Excel course! I guess having all this time made me want to better my skills. I’m now pretty capable in editing and have done a few fellow actors showreels, I’ve learnt how to use greenscreens and done a lot more VoiceOver work. It’s made me adapt and grow the skills that I maybe didn’t use so much.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been given the jobs that I have had during this time. But I’ve also worked my arse off for them and created my own work- I ain’t waiting for anyone else, I’ve gotta make work for me!

Eilish as Feggis performing in Melva with actress Katie Powell (Melva)

What do you think the theatre landscape will look like beyond COVID?

Well, this is a question and a half! I think streamed performances will be common, and to be honest I don’t really know about the wider landscape. I’d like to think there’d be more appreciation for theatre, and for artists. Because people have gone so long without them. Maybe people won’t be on their phone during a performance anymore or look down on our jobs and stop saying “yeah but what’s your real job? or “what else do you do to support that?”.

2020 has oddly been the first year I’ve been able to support myself financially solely by being a creative! From a professional perspective, I think casting directors are being more lenient with self-tapes and imperfect zoom backgrounds. If I was being sickly positive, I’d say this has forced us to use our brains in a different way, a new way of accessing and making theatre- and that’s not a bad thing. That being said, I cannot bloody wait to be sat front row in an auditorium again!

One hope personally in 2021? 

I want to achieve a better work/life balance. 2020 was an odd year and I don’t think I took enough time for me, when realistically that’s all I had to do. I’ve set boundaries and I’m hoping to stick to them, 2020 has taught me that ultimately family and friend comes first. They are the people who matter. There’s no point being consumed in work if you’re not happy with yourself at the end of the day. I want to get that happiness back! I also want to do music more; I play ukulele and guitar and I was gifted a piano early last year- I don’t play or sing half as much as I used to and I miss that.

Eilish playing her Uke

Work life balance….what is that!? You work on social media like me…..social media is a brilliant place but also TOXIC AF. How do you manage trolls? Any advice to aspiring content creators in this area?

Oh my goodness! Learn and accept that people can be stupid and are bored right now so have time to type silly comments! I’ve had hate because I ordered a medium meal at McDonalds instead of a large! Or that I wore the same top 2 days in a row! (Most of the hate came from middle aged white men).

I usually laugh at it, but sometimes- especially if it’s a wide viewed video- the hate can come thick and fast. I did a 60 second video on Doritos once and I never knew people could get so angry about those chilli heatwave triangles of deliciousness!

MY advice is to sit in the sadness for a minute, then try to brush it off- ultimately those people don’t know YOU and you wouldn’t want them too. It’s worth noting that whenever I’ve had those comments- there’s always a stranger or 5 sticking up for me, which is so beautiful.

Wider career advice wise, LEARN EVERYTHING! If you can film, edit, voice record, do admin, graphic design, know the best times to upload on different platforms and understand algorithms- even just basic on all of that- that’s AMAZING! You can never have enough skills; social media is ever-changing and it’s changing fast! The quicker you can adapt and keep up- the better. But also, don’t beat yourself up about it. There’s enough people trying to do that for you! Keep that chin up and be you, unapologetically!

Eilish laughing

Any other new projects/happenings on the horizon for Eilish in 2021?

Aside from Heroines! Melva is coming back! We’re filming the show (oops, am I allowed to say that?!) and I couldn’t be more excited. I also have my first Adult Panto tour booked in for this year March-July (fingers crossed) where I’m playing two characters- I’m starting to see a multi-character theme here. I’m beyond excited for the show and we’re playing in some gorgeous venues like the Darlington Hippodrome! I’m still writing, as and when, and who knows, those thoughts could become another show! There are a few things pending which I know I’m DEFINITELY not allowed to talk about- so, if you’re interested- WATCH THIS SPACE!

Eilish performing in Melva 2019

Ohhh we will Eilish….. we will be watching. (Sounds a little bit creepy…..). Make sure to watch the premiere of The Cook Sisters: Heroines of the Holocaust later today at 7pm.  This production is free to watch and streamed live over on Gosforth Civic Theatre Facebook page and is part of Brundibár Arts Festival.

Graphic promoting The Cook Sisters performance TONIGHT

#AD Observe Experiment Archive – a photography exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Photography exhibitions for many years, were my comfort zone in art gallery spaces. In my late teens and early twenties, I didn’t feel empowered enough in my own creative sense of self to comment on paintings, sculpture, textiles etc. But photography to me always told some kind of a story! The first photographer that I ever became truly aware of as an “artist” was Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, a Finnish photographer that ended up living in Newcastle and has an extensive body of work. I loved her depiction of Byker and the sense of place, people and home – she managed to create.

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Neon at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

I’ve always been a fan of photography as a means to communicate and explore difficult issues – to display various shades of the same thing and of course, to capture a moment. In fact, I’m working up a project funding proposal at the moment with photography at the heart of it. But my love of photography and respect for it as an art form, has grown exponentially as a social media and marketing professional – it’s ALL about the high quality, visually impactful visuals. And that’s why I invest so much money and resource into the photography of events, projects, people, audiences, places, venues and moments. The right image can have far reaching impact and tells a story….

I was recently, invited to view Observe Experiment Archive – a group photography exhibition curated by North East Photography Network at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens – support by Sunderland Culture. For those Culture Vultures unaware, yes Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens does have a beautiful gallery space so add it to your gallery culture crawl list…. It’s where the Da Vinci exhibition was housed AND they are one of three new venues, to have been selected to present work from The Arts Council Collection (first exhibition in February) until 2022!

It’s great to see how many folks have followed my “story” showcasing my exhibition visit and how many of you have followed up my social media posts, championing the exhibition, telling me that you’re going to visit or have visited!

Observe Experiment Archive is available to view until 5 January and presents multidimensional view- points of our ever changing world. It’s for the curious seekers, experimenters, future innovators and creative thinkers – my visit lasted over an hour, I read ever interpretation cover to cover, it got me thinking, reflecting and full of wonder for the natural world and how we have interacted with it in the past, present and the possibilities that lie in the future. The exhibition explores human interventions, innovations and inventions and the global challenges that can no longer be ignored.

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The exhibition showcases the skill and diversity that exists within contemporary photography, reflecting scientific and environmental concerns through both a modern and historical lens. I went in with an open mind – I’d read the blurb before going in, on the website, which in no way captured how truly fantastic this exhibition was. It’s certainly in my top 5 of 2019.

Beautifully curated, inviting and thoroughly interesting. The supporting pamphlet that you can pick up on entry, was the perfect thought fuelling accompaniment to the exhibition as I walked around taking it all in. All 8 photographers featured are very different in style, subject manner and provide a gateway for folks like me, to consider, explore and observe the world in a new way. I learnt a lot, thought about things that I hadn’t really considered in a world that is so busy and it certainly triggered my appetite to learn more.

This exhibition is in no way passive – it invites you to think, reflect, go on google, check out the photographers, participate in their narrative and really demonstrated to me, the unbelievable power of a photo to capture a moment, tell a story, challenge a pre-conception and to trigger thought and potential change. The thing I loved, is that the current state of play around themes like the “environment”, “intrusion of technology”, “human intervention”; the press and on social media present it in an often angry and preachy manner – things MUST change dogma and those who are not participating in the change…. Well, they are unfavourable. What this exhibition manages to do, is explore and present, many of the same elements, impacts and what humans have done, doing and may continue to do but invites you to question and reflect on WHY.

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I’m going to give you a little overview of my thoughts on each photographer’s work in the exhibition – without hopefully spoiling it, as you have until 5th January to visit so go go go! Order presented is based on how I worked my way around the exhibition.

Robert Zhao Renhui’s work is a colourful guide to the flora and fauna of the world – it presents a catalogue of curious creatures and their life forms mixing fact and fiction, whilst demonstrating the present and possible effects of human intervention. His pieces are visually stunning and thoroughly Insta ready and his work explores the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. To accompany the exhibition, there is a wonderful A3 size hand-out which I skimmed over, but properly read when I grabbed a tea at Holmeside Coffee. Very interesting!

Robert’s work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Maria McKinney’s recent projects have examined the relationship between humans and cattle collaborating with cattle breeders and genetic scientists. From this work, there is LOTS of learning, especially for me as someone who doesn’t have much knowledge around how humans influence breeding of animals and their genetics. Contemporary cattle farming is depicted in large scale animal portraits, which really do remind me of large scale cow portraits from 18th & 19th century, that can be seen in the collections of Bowes Museum, Northumberland and Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle.

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Maria’s work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens (Robert’s in back ground)

Mandy Barker’s work, I found I kept on going back to on my visit to view again! Mandy’s work investigates and showcases marine plastic debris by collaborating with scientists. Her main aim is to raise the awareness of plastic pollution and effects of plastic on marine life. Her photographs are visually beautiful – it wasn’t until, I got up close that I realised exactly, what I was looking at. Whilst, we know humankind treats the sea, like our dustbin, seeing this…… well, it really demonstrates that fact and I think Mandy’s naming of this work, as “SOUP” is just perfect. You can see toys and possessions that I imagine at some-point were much loved and now, they end up floating in the sea creating a kind of “plastic soup” – the plastics float forever, attracting marine life to them, which will eventually lead to their death by poisoning or choking.

Mandy’s work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Liza Dracup’s work, embraces an ethos very close to my heart and something, I try to practice as Culture Vulture in my own work; looking at the extraordinary in the ordinary (we are all extraordinary in some way) and the perfection that exists within the imperfect. Her work was full of colour, light and made me smile. This collection of work is inspired by Joseph Swan, inventor of the incandescent electric light bulb – which makes sense as the theme of light and bringing to light nature features in her work. Also loved that she had included the practice of taxidermy, as a means to connect the past and present natural world – I’m fascinated with the practice and it’s having a huge revival!

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Tessa Bunney’s work was super interesting – contemporary farming is not something that I really think about (I probably should – as you know, I rely on it to eat…). In her work, she showcases the faces and new world of farming, a mix of traditional practices, innovation and artisan. A theme that runs through this work concerns, the changing nature of rural life and how humans have really shaped that landscape. I’ve worked on a few “rural” arts projects recently so I’m aware of the disconnect between the rural work that we rely upon and the urban world, that for folks like me, is our work and playground.

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Penelope Umbrico’s work was one of my favourites- especially as I’ve just wrapped a large scale outdoor event that was all about celebrating the moon! Penelope displays screenshots of photographs since 2015 that are tagged “full moon” from Flickr. These screen shots are presented both in print and in digital form. I could have stared at the digital screen for hours – one moon with MANY different representations! Really interesting and beautiful – I liked the element of collecting content from a digital platform, consuming it and then sharing it with a wider audience…… in that way, so many people have contributed to the work and have ownership of it.

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Penelope’s work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Sophie Ingleby’s work ‘Seed’, explores human fertility treatment. Now this is something that I am extremely aware of, with lots of my friends having fertility challenges (1 in 6 couples struggle to become parents). I guess, as a trigger warning, this element of the exhibition might not be right for you, if you’re very close to that journey right now or potentially at the recent closing of that capture – but none the less it’s fascinating, showcases the process, the science, the embryologists leading the way, the people hoping to become parents one day…..

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Sophie’s Work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Last but not least, Helen McGhie’s work explores the nature of darkness and astronomical observation. Again, coming out of wrapping a project all about the moon which also explored space, time, the stars, and moon-landings etc. – this work was just fascinating to me. Helen captures her own personal encounters with the night sky, which are just beautiful to look at and also presents a collection of photographs of objects used as a Northern Astronomer. I spent ages looking at each object capture – really interesting and certainly a bag of tricks.

Helen’s work at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

This exhibition was organised by North East Photography Network (check out their insta!) who were established in 2009 to promote and develop photography in the North East of England and beyond. They work with photographers, artists, curators and a wide range of cultural partners, to create a lively and informed context for photographic activity and to encourage new audiences for photography. NEPN are really going great things – providing commission opportunities, ensuring visibility of photography within the cultural landscape and showcasing what contemporary photography is and could be in the future. Observe Experiment Archive is not only an opportunity to check out an amazing exhibition, but it’s also an opportunity to get a sense of what NEPN is all about. So if you’re an aspiring photographer or photographer in the North East, they are THE organisation to connect with.

Observe Experiment Archive is on to view until 5th January at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, check it out this week or this weekend….you honestly won’t regret it! It has certainly, reignited my interest in photography and given me A LOT to think about.

 

(#AD) An Indian Abroad: An Interview with theatre maker, writer and…professional wrestling manager(!?) – Pariah Khan

My creative journey started when I began writing – that was always my safe space; making up stories in my own head, wild and fantastical and writing them down. I was a big fan of make believe – I could spend an entire day on my own, in my own head having an absolute ball, adventures and I’d write all about it.

When I got older – I really hated being an introvert. Being so much in my own head – sometimes I preferred it there (sometimes I still do)…but I recognised that I needed to engage, to communicate, to socialise, to interact with the world to make sense with it, to experiment and theatre and drama became my safe space to do that. It was always hard, terrifying but I grew to fall in love with the being a part of theatre making and drama.

Now I was never the star of the show…..I was not really a natural performer but I forced myself to do it so I could prove a point and learn how to command a space and an audience. But I loved being part of a production and I still love being a part of the theatre. I work with lots of performers and theatre companies now at The Culture Vulture and it’s an absolute delight. I also attend the theatre as much as I possibly can…..theatre to me, is the same to others as reading a book. It’s not a one off, or a once a year activity….I love going regularly, discovering new writers, new performers and it’s the type of activity that I just really love; it feels good for my soul and it feeds my curiosity. As an introvert, I really love escapism…. And theatre, seeing a show is exactly like that, escaping into someone else’s’ constructed creative reality.

Now very few writers are theatre makers or performers. Very few performers and theatre makers are writers. Totally different skill set – but a gifted few out there are all three. This talented elite are all singing and all dancing and usually make great theatre. But there is an even MORE, crème de la crème within this elite and that’s those who can write, make theatre, perform AND make you laugh…. I’m about to introduce you to one such person and the subject of this blog post – Pariah Khan!

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Pariah Khan is a writer, performer, filmmaker and professional wrestling manager (naturally). He was named one of Bristol’s most influential young people for his work in theatre and comedy. He was selected by BBC Three and The Latimer Group as one of the UK’s top 50 creative young people and he was selected by Channel 4’s Random Acts to write and direct his first short film ‘Slice’.

Basically, he’s super talented and he the man behind An Indian Abroad, coming to Northern Stage on 20th July as part of GemArts Masala Festival. Tickets are from £10.

This wonderful show tells the story of Krishnan, stifled by life in middle-class India and desperate to see more of the world, he visits the exotic island of Great Britain to learn about life and who he is. What does Krishnan’s journey teach him about the world? What might he learn about himself? And what happens when he falls in love with one of the natives?

Reviews:

“A shrewd and bitingly funny send-up of the ‘spiritual journey” ★★★★ Pub Theatres Magazine

“With precision, smart observational writing, and a small selection of props, Khan has created something really wonderful – a warm, funny, and thought-provoking piece of theatre” ★★★★ Stage Talk Magazine

“That Pariah Khan is a smart man. It’s a jaunty hour, full of well-timed gags yet beneath the joviality, there lies an acerbic touch” ★★★★ Bristol Post

“A generous and hilarious writer and performer with a keen eye for detail and impeccable comic timing. Hari has a big future ahead of him” Nikesh Shukla, Editor of The Good Immigrant

Basically, it’s going to be hilarious and it’s a must see as part of GemArts award winning Masala Festival at Northern Stage. And naturally, I was curious about this talented theatre maker and part time wrestling manager……so I embraced my inner Martin Bashir and decided to get in touch, to interview him…..

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Pariah Khan: The Interview

For the record, please tell me who you are?

Pariah Khan, the Prince of Persuasion, the South Asian Sensation, the Bodacious Bro with a Bebop Flow and Writer & Performer of one man show An Indian Abroad. I work in theatre, stand-up, film and I’m a professional wrestling manager.

I love hearing about people’s journey into the creative sector and performance, it’s always so colourful and different…..so, tell me about your journey into writing and performing?

I never grew up around theatre or was that interested in it, apart from studying Blood Brothers at school. I decided to take Theatre Studies at A Level because I thought it would help my performance skills in order to get into wrestling, and just like that I fell in love with theatre and performing.

I carried on through sixth form and university, but when I graduated I wanted to give wrestling a go. Since then, I’ve developed a unique style, performing in front of different audiences; theatre, wrestling and stand-up. This has influenced the show (An Indian Abroad) because my director (Eduardo Gama from Manga Theatre) and I wanted to create a blend of two art forms, combining the subtlety and precision of theatre with the openness and honesty of stand-up comedy. I would say working with Ed has been a vital part of my growth as a performer.

Is this your first show or have you written before?

This is my debut production, and it’s been unbelievably exciting. I’d written smaller scripts beforehand, 10-30 minute pieces showcased at scratch nights, a short film through the Random Acts scheme; but I’d also had experience writing two original full-length musicals during my time at university. All of those experiences were vital for giving me the confidence to pursue a career in the arts.

That’s really interesting – I know so many performers, theatre makers and animators who started their “professional” creative journey through Random Acts! How did go from writing musicals to comedy writing…. Have you always been funny?

There’s an energy and excitement that comedy brings to scriptwriting and live performance and it’s something I’ve always been drawn to. I don’t particularly enjoy writing straight drama or other genres, whereas I absolutely relish comedy, dark comedy and satire. Most of the work I write now has a satirical or subversive nature to it. I’m not sure if I’ve always had a strong sense of humour but I do come from a very funny family, one that celebrates good company and storytelling. I’m not sure if it’s related but I started finding my comedic voice around 13 when my parents separated.

How did you end up being a part of this year’s amazing Gem Arts Masala Festival and part of the programme?

I took part in a Black Box Showcase event at York Theatre Royal where I was invited to perform an extract from the show An Indian Abroad. Vikas saw that I was programmed but wasn’t able to make it, however he approached me to see if I’d be interested in bringing the show to Gem Arts Masala Festival, and here I am!

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Sounds like it was fate….Have you been to “the toon” before? If not, what are you looking forward to most?

I haven’t been there before so I’m quite excited to explore the city. My usual habit is to eat at a local tea room, take a walk through any nice parks and try to catch a show at the venue (or perhaps any of the other wonderful programmes as part of the Festival). However, The Lion King is being released that weekend, so I might try to catch it sometime.

Well as The Culture Vulture, if you need any recommendations for places to see, do, eat…I’m your gal! Right, now onto An Indian Abroad; tell me about the show…

An Indian Abroad is a one man comedy show following Krishnan, a young man from India who decides to take a gap year to Britain to ‘find himself’. It’s an exploration of race, culture and identity in contemporary Britain which is refreshingly honest, heavily autobiographical and entirely false.

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Sounds brilliant and right up my street…but why should people come to see it?

I’m very proud of my show; I feel it intertwines comedy, narrative and more serious elements in a unique and interesting way. If you have an appetite for more diverse stories, are looking for a night full of laughs or are a fan of great theatre, come see An Indian Abroad on July 20th at Northern Stage, as part of GemArts Masala Festival. .

What would you like audiences to take away from seeing the show?

There are several themes and issues explored in the show and from speaking to audience members afterwards, different people strongly resonate with completely different sections. All I can do is present my show, the rest is up to them.

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What was the inspiration behind writing the show….you’ve said it’s autobiographical but also entirely false!?

I moved from India to England, then England to India, then back again. I’ve had the opportunity to see India from a British point-of-view and Britain from an Indian point-of-view. Each has allowed me to truly appreciate and love each culture, but I’m not blind to the negatives in each. So listening to ‘gap yah’ students talk about these transformational experiences they underwent travelling to an ashram in India, really got on my nerves. I felt Karl Pilkington’s bitter, miserable approach to travel was far more authentic, so I decided to flip the gap year concept on its head, in order to expose the ludicrousness of such an exoticized or fetishized narrative.

(For anyone who hasn’t seen the “Gap Yah” sketch… you can watch it here.)

Have you ever had a “gap yah” type of adventure?

No gap years, however I’ve felt like the past 12 months touring this production has ironically been a sort of gap year in terms of learning and growing from it. I moved around a lot when I was younger – born in Libya, moved to India and then to England (and back and forth again) – so the long term travel bug never bit me.

What do you think people think, when they visit/come to live in Great Britain? Is there a particular quirk that you think stands out?

I think my parents’ generation saw Britain as a land of hope and dreams, with the potential for a “better life” and greater opportunity. Years on, I think they found out that wasn’t quite true and life in India would have been fine. But for a more detailed look at what people think when they visit the UK, then they will have to come see An Indian Abroad on 20th of July.

Tell me a bit about being chosen as one of the UK’s top 50 creative young people in the UK?

It was pretty cool, I was chosen as one of 50 people to help BBC Three’s early stages of moving to an online only platform. I learned a lot through that about writing treatments and pitching projects, and the overwhelming likelihood of rejection in the industry.

As an aside; tell me about the professional wrestling management?

I’ve loved wrestling ever since I was young, the battle between good and evil, the ability for characters to change for the better or betray the trust of everyone around them, it harkens back to Greek theatre, or physical theatre. It has been described by WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan as the purest artistic expression of martial arts and combat, which is a fascinating device to frame conflict and resolution.

Back to An Indian Abroad, can you try to sum it up in three words?

Funny, honest, surprising.

What’s next for you?

I’ve really enjoyed touring this show and being invited to different cities to perform. Part of me is ready to start writing the next show; then again, Phoebe Waller-Bridge didn’t stop with a theatrical version.

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And there you have it Culture Vultures – I’m very excited to see An Indian Abroad and escape into Pariah’s world! Expect brilliant writing, lots of laughs, an increased awareness of how ridiculous “gap yahs” are and a brilliant addition to this years’ GemArts Masala Festival. Tickets are flying – so make sure to nab yours which you can do from here!

(Full disclosure – I have received free tickets to see the show at Northern Stage and have an on going short term partnership relationship to champion GemArts Masala Festival 2019)

Events and Happenings to look forward to across the North East for 2019

So I’ve been plotting and planning this blog post for some time – but you know what it’s like over the festive period…..always more cheese to eat, more gin to drink, another cat to stroke…..

Lots of you send me messages via my various social media channels asking for my recommendations of things to do, happenings, events etc – so I thought I’d write a blog on the things that I’m excited and looking forward to in 2019. There are so many amazing events, exhibitions, performances, happenings, things to see, do, visit, coming up, that it’s impossible to include them all but these are the ones that give me excited butterflies……

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New Year New Artists – Thursday 17 January – Sunday 20 January

If like me New Year and January is all about trying and seeking out new things and you’re feeling musically experimental after BBC3 Radios New Music week across the first week of January, then THIS is for you. I get SO stuck in a music rut through-out the year – but I love gigs, discovering new bands, singers and types of music that day to day, I’d probably not be open to.

New Year New Artists at Sage Gateshead, in association with my pals at NARC Magazine, brings together stars of the future; a weekend full of new music, different genres and artists of tomorrow. You can say you saw them here first!

The programme this year is amazing but if I had to pick a Culture Vulture recommendation it would be to go to Saturday 19 January – BBC Introducing in the North East Presents. This evening will be filled with exciting emerging artists, unsigned, undiscovered and under the radar music across the UK. The line-up includes the AMAZING Beth Macari, who if you are a lover of the regional gig and live music scene, you’ll have seen and fallen in love with her, like I have. She is certainly one to watch!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: Various prices per gig/festival pass (and some are free!)

How to Book: Sage Gateshead Website

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Gateshead Silent Film Festival – Friday 25 January, 8pm & 26 Saturday January, 8pm

This is now in its third year at St Mary’s Heritage Centre and is run by the incredibly talented creative Side By Side Arts.  If you haven’t been to St Mary’s Heritage Centre – then please you MUST go and this is your perfect excuse! It’s one of my favourite venues for an event; think converted Church, atmosphere, bit gothic and PERFECT for a silent film fest!

Side By Side Arts present two nights of silent films accompanied by live piano music, taking you back to 1920s where film making was pure gold, without special effects. Night one is ‘Horror night’ with a screening of The Phantom of the Opera, a 1925 silent horror classic, about an enigmatic masked presence. Night two is ‘Comedy night’ with a screening of Girl Shy, a silent comedy classic about ‘Poor Boy’ heading to the city to sell his romantic anthology and stumbles into a romance of his own! Night two is also being brought to life with compare and Rusty’s legend Miss Dixie Swallows bringing some class and sass to the proceedings. New for this year, is the addition of Scream for Pizza serving up their lush pizza and of course, there is a pay bar and each night ends up with dancing (or in my case twirling) to 1920s-40s music.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £10 per night (each booked separately)

How to book: Gateshead Council Box Office Website – Horror Night / Comedy Night

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Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing – Friday 1 February – Monday 6 May

In February 2019, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 144 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection will go on display in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens! Sunderland has got it going on at the moment and we are SO lucky to have this on our door step – it’s a MUST visit!

1st Feb marks the opening weekend of Leonardo da Vinci, A Life in Drawing – and if like me, you’re all about being there first, then it’s all about the opening weekend! The exhibition is your rare opportunity to see the extraordinary drawings of Leonardo da Vinci from the Queen’s Collection. The drawings on selected for display reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests and his innovation – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

Keep an eye on Sunderland Culture social media and website over the coming weeks for a wide ranging programme of supporting events and activities for families and adults through-out the exhibition period.

 

Even though the exhibition doesn’t open until 1st Feb – tickets are on sale now and I do recommend pre-booking yours to avoid disappointment.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £2.50 per person & Under 16s free (but ticket still needed)

How to Book: Visit the Sunderland Culture Leonardo website page.

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Sunderland Comedy Project- Thursday 7 February, 7.30pm

With Jesterval Comedy Festival, South Tyneside Comedy Festival, Arts Centre Washington comedy programme and of course, The Stand Comedy Club, I think we do pretty well for comedy. I love attending comedy shows and seeing touring comedians. However, I’ve just found out about The Sunderland Comedy Project and their monthly shows with regional comedians at the lush Sunderland venue, The Peacock. This is a MUST for this Culture Vulture in 2019….

The Sunderland Comedy Project has just announced their February show and line-up; I’m buzzing that Jesterval fave (and organiser) Dave Haddingham is comparing for the evening. Now, I’ve seen Dave many times before and I’ve go to this, just for him alone – he’s hilarious! Other acts announced so far are Karen Bayley and Vince Atta with more to come. This sounds like a great night to discover some new comedy; I will be cackling in the back!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £10 per-booking or £12.50 on the door.

How to Book: Visit the Jokepit online box office.

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Screenage Kicks: True Romance- Thursday 14 February, 7pm

After a year-long absence, which left a hole in my social life heart, Screenage Kicks is back with a vengeance in 2019! Now, if you haven’t heard of Screenage Kicks – well they are a MUST for you in 2019. Screenage Kicks creates bespoke immersive pop up cinema events celebrating absolute cult cinema classics in truly unique locations. They have to be experienced to be believed – but think live music, character performance, beautifully themed venue decorations and special touches inspired by the films themselves.

So, here they are back for 2019, returning with their first ever (Anti) Valentines special, screening one of their (and mine!) favourite cult classics, Tony Scott’s beloved ‘True Romance’. Presented in full Screenage action packed glory, within the unique and romantic surrounds of a space never yet used by Screenage Kicks; The Assembly Rooms is set to be transformed into The Beverley Ambassador.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £22 or £39.60 for a couples ticket (Please note – this is NOT a couples event – everyone and anyone is welcome!)

How to Book: Visit the Seetickets Screenage box office.

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The Art of Taxidermy: Artist Talk- Saturday 2 March, 11am

With Taxidermy and Entomology having a big revival and growing in popularity – are you feeling a bit curious? Have you thought about having a go but a bit unsure? I certainly have! Moreover, I have so many questions! Moth Studios are the leading Taxidermy and Entomology studio in the region, hosting a wide range of workshops in their own studio and all their items are responsibly and reputably sourced – for one special morning, Moth Studio is hosting a talk at St Mary’s Heritage Centre Gateshead (what a PERFECT venue for it!?).

In this artist talk and demonstration with Moth Studios, they will share their visionary way of re-introducing Taxidermy, Natural History and Entomology into contemporary lifestyle, exploring techniques they use, hints and tips for your own pieces and how you can get involved in the practice.

The talk is such a unique opportunity to find out more and will close with a Q&A so you can truly satisfy your curiosity.

I really love an Artist talk!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £6 per person

How to Book: Visit the Gateshead Council box office

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Where There’s Muck There’s Bras- Wednesday 13 March, 7.45pm

This beautiful show at The Northern Stage celebrates the ‘real’ Northern Powerhouse – the sung and unsung women of the North of England. Its politicians, entertainers, musicians, sportswomen, activists, writers, innovators and mould breakers – women who are often missing in the ‘standard’ Northern Powerhouse who (in my opinion) consist mostly of white men in suits. I mean how tragic was the line-up for the Business Conference during Great Exhibition of the North!?!?! I’ve felt more inspired by a smack in the face….

In this hilarious and thought provoking show, stand up poet and Radio 4 regular Kate Fox and actor Joey Holden champion #lasses such as Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman, the first female speaker of the House of Commons, Betty Boothroyd and music hall star the inimitable Hylda Baker alongside some #lasses you may not have heard of, Liverpool’s Hilda James who introduced the front crawl to the UK, Lilian Bader, one of the first black women in the RAF and “Red Ellen” Wilkinson the MP who led the Jarrow March!

I heard AMAZING things about this show during its mini tour last year so I’m mega excited to see it myself! In addition to Northern Stage – it’s playing all over the North including Darlington, York, Halifax, Middlesbrough and many other venues – visit Kate Fox Facebook for full tour details.

Ticket/Entrance Cost: From £10 per person

How to book: Northern Stage Website – Where There’s Muck There’s Bras

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Curious Arts Fundraiser – Friday 16 March, 8pm

Curious Arts champions and develops LGBTQ arts, artists and audiences across the North East. Their work, events and yearly festival in July celebrates and explores Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Culture through the arts. Every event, I’ve attended has blown my mind – interesting, high energy, such a memorable experience and guaranteed that you leave curious for more. In short, I love everything they do. They haven’t announced their festival programme for July 2019 – but I can promise you, it will be amazing!

However, they have just announced their fundraiser evening at Alphabetti Theatre; this evening directly supports the Curious Festival 2019 programme. Last year was a BLAST, so you can expect a line-up packed full of talented performers, dance and drag artists with the proceedings most likely led by Mutha Tucka. I promise, you will laugh until your sides hurt, see performers from the region doing amazing things showcasing the unreal talent we have in the region and you’ll end the night dancing away in Alphabetti’s theatre bar.

And if like me, you’re curious for more or if you can’t make the fundraiser – they also have Northern  Stage is Curious: 2019 on 1 June, for a preview of what to expect from award-winning Curious Festival 2019;  an evening of comedy, theatre and performance from established and emerging Queer Northern talent.

Ticket/Entrance Cost for Fundraiser: £10

How to book: Via the Curious ticket website.

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The Bon Bons Cabaret: God Save the Queens – Thursday 28 March, 9pm

Bonnie and The Bonnettes and The House of Love are back with another one of their fun, feisty, entertaining and infamous Bon Bons Cabarets; God Save The Queens. Tonight they explore and celebrate what it takes, to be a Queen! Whether it’s Mariah Carey, or Mary Queen of Scots, these Queens have always got the job done. From a culturally shifting Christmas number one to running the entire country of Scotland, they inspire generations, they make their mark, their voices heard; they are true Queens. During the night, Bonnie and The Bonnettes explore what exactly makes a “Queen”? Are you born one? Do you transform into one? Do other people’s love and adoration make you become one?

Get ready for a night like no other at Alphabetti Theatre and remember to wear your crowns and tiaras!

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £7 (£5 concessions)

How to book: Via the Alphabetti Theatre website

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The Guilty Feminist- Saturday 4 May, 6.30pm

The Guilty Feminist podcast has become a comedy phenomenon with over 50 million downloads since it launched in late 2016 – it is pretty much my life Bible and small bit of sanity during periods of absolute insanity. I actually didn’t know this was even coming to Newcastle’s City Hall until I was tagged into a social media post and the lush ladies from Third Space Events sorted me a ticket to join their gang! I am so excited – I will be fangirling and whooping like a cracker!

Lush megababe – Comedian Deborah Frances-White and her guests discuss things which all twenty-first century feminists agree on – while confessing the insecurities, hypocrisies and fears which undermine those noble goals. For this special touring version of the show, Deborah will be joined by some of your favourite comedians, guests and musicians from the podcast for a celebration of how far we’ve come, and a conversation about what remains to be done.

Now in a world where “feminism” has become a bit of a (sadly) negative term…. I promise you this evening will have you giggling, thinking “oh my god – ME TOO” and walking away empowered. #LASSES

Ticket/Entrance Cost: £26.50 – £32

How to Book: Visit the Theatre Royal Website

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Elmer’s Great North Parade – Early August – November 2019

In 2016, did you (like me) fall in love with Snowdogs? I was a one woman advocate and superfan! LOVED IT! So I’m so excited that another mass Art participation event is planned for 2019, an even bigger set of feet will be parading through our region’s streets, parks and coastline – Elmer the Elephant’s ‘Great North Parade’, in support of St Oswald’s Children Hospice, is coming to town!

This beautiful art trail made up of individually designed sculptures based on the much loved Elmer character will stomp its way across the region for 10 weeks from August to October 2019.

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It will be similar to in concept to last time – expect Elmer’s across Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Northumberland & South Tyneside designed by local, regional and International Artists with one or two celebrities thrown in for good measure. You will be able to follow a paper trail map or an app on your phone in order to follow the trail alongside lots Elmer themed events across the whole region.

I am sure Elmer will absolute capture the hearts and minds of the region again – getting you all to be tourists in your own town. I am SO bliddy excited for this and it’s just fantastic that it benefits St Oswald’s Hospice; I was humbled recently, when I was invited for a tour of the hospice and hear about all the great work they do.

Keep an eye on the Facebook page for announcements or sign up to the mailing list.

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World Transplant Games 2019- Saturday 17 – Saturday 24 August 2019

If like me, you get borderline obsessed during the Olympics, then you’ll be super excited about a week long of live sporting events right here to the region. Held over seven days, the Summer World Transplant Games are held every two years in host cities around the world. I’m over the moon NewcastleGateshead have been chosen to host.

Summer 19 will see around 3000 visitors from 70 countries come to NewcastleGateshead to compete; competitors are aged from 4 to over 80 and will all have had lifesaving organ or tissue transplants. There will be events for living donors and donor families, as well as a number of social and cultural events for the public – alongside the obvious opportunity to attend the Games to watch at venues like Gateshead International Stadium. Sports will include archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, cycling, darts, football, golf, volleyball, petanque, squash, swimming, table tennis, ten-pin bowling and tennis.

Details about pricing and how to book are yet to reveal – follow the Facebook event page to keep in the loop!

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Well that was just a flavour of a few of the things I’m excited for across 2019….. quick shout outs also go to:

No28 – their themed quiz nights are amazing – I had a blast at last year’s Peep Show one!

MAPS Festival by Chalk – a creative and immersive weekend of art, music and play aimed at children under 8 and their grown-ups.

Lundgren Tours – they are yet to announce their tours for 2019 – but I’ve heard rumbling of Lake District and as I’m trying to get back to my outdoorsy best, I’m excited!

Tyneside Cinema – I’ve fallen back in love with the cinema again and one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to go to the cinema at least once every two weeks…. Tyneside always feature amazing films and host unique film events.

Low Fell Food Market – Everyone loves a food market and I especially love Spring/Summer ones in Saltwell Park and Gateshead (easier for me to roll home full). They are yet to announce dates – but they are coming!

Great Northumberland – After the MASSIVE success of last year’s Summer event season, it’s no surprise that I’ve heard rumours of this happening again! I really love Northumberland and the programme of events they put on so I’m eagerly awaiting more news and I will update you as I find out!

That’s all for now Culture Vultures!

 

 

Want to find out about the NE music scene? Well you need NE Volume in your life!

So you guys know me as The Culture Vulture – I’m your one stop shop for cultural information, happenings and the queen of championing creative projects and people. However, I’m only as good as my network and the people in it – I’m constantly out there seeking information and keeping my ear to the ground. I started two years ago, just a love of going out and cultural goings on with a passion to champion people, places and projects whilst doing my own stuff.

Now my network and cultural knowledge in the cultural sector is second to none. In fact, if I ever went on mastermind, I’d want it to be my specialist topic. I spend an insane amount of time on social media – it’s my job to know the happenings, to seek out opportunities, create connections and have a good overview of the movers and shakers, emerging and exciting happenings. It means that I discover lots of things and exciting people on social – some of whom are doing thriving and vibing things in the sector but I’ve actually never met. Weird right? Admiring their work from a far whilst their work and content becomes a core part of my knowledge bank. Any type of admiring from a far sounds creepy to me – but I’m the proud queen of creeping.

So as The Culture Vulture – you guys know I’m all about championing and seeking out the gems, the new venues, the gigs which you attend and you know you’ve just seen something magical and of course, local artists! On the flip side, I’m also going to see Taylor Swift in May and I’m literally buzz light years about it. But when I think of the North East and music for recommendations and gig suggestions – I think of NE Volume! It’s a great in print and digital publication, that covers lots of real reviews and editorial about the North-East music scene.

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Their reviews are written by real people, the venues are many familiar favourites and some new gems, the gigs covered make me so proud of our cultural scene and many a time, I’ve taken a chance on an unknown and LOVED IT.

I love Crack Mag but NE Volume are doing something a bit special and have totally cornered a niche. Their passionate ever-growing readership and thriving online community of music lovers is a testament to the fact they are doing something mega special.

So, I digitally caught up with NE Volume founder Lee Allcock (one of my 2018 new years’ resolutions is to meet in person), to find out more about NE Volume and where it all started!

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Lee Allcock

What is NE volume?

NE Volume is a FREE North East music and culture magazine that is stocked in 250+ outlets right across the region (nevolume.co.uk/outlets) and is also available to download at nevolume.co.uk/magazine.

Tell me about you and the beginnings of NE Volume?

I’ve always been passionate about music, especially local bands and artists, and my dream was to become a music journalist. I studied Journalism at Teesside University, volunteered for some other local music magazines while working as a content writer, and I was then given a small grant by Teesside University to start my own business. Of course, I quit my job immediately and the rest is history.

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Quitting your job to pursue your dream is right up my street – so what was your motivation for the business, like me – you’re a bit of an workaholic – you must love what you do!

It hasn’t been easy, and there have been a lot of ups and downs, but I absolutely love what I do and I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I support local bands, cultural events, and North East businesses for a living and that keeps me motivated.

There’s the Crack, Narc and others – I love NE volume but do you want to tell my readers what makes you and the publication different?

We’re actually the ONLY music and culture magazine based in Teesside. And, although Teesside is a pretty large area, I felt that The Crack and NARC weren’t really showcasing this area so I wanted to help.

So tell me what was your highlight of 2017 in terms of NE Volume?

To be honest, the fact that we’re still here and running in an internet-based world has got to be the highlight for me. It’s been a tough road, but with the support of so many bands, independent businesses, music venues, our loyal readers, my designer, and my writers, we’ve been able to continue to support the local music and culture scenes – and that makes it all worthwhile.

Of course, I have to ask this question – what’s been your favourite gig?

Liam Gallagher at Metro Radio Arena. Okay, it’s not a small local gig (which I also absolutely adore) but Liam was in his element from start to finish and he had the crowd in the palm of his hands.

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Liam Gallagher

What’s your ‘one to watch’ for 2018?

Local band, The Pale White. They’re set to play at Riverside in Newcastle this month and it’s already sold out. They’ve also supported the likes of the Libertines and they’re destined for big things this year – I’m sure of it.

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The Pale White

Who is your fave soloist?

Samantha Durnan; her beautiful lyrics and stunning vocals really do pull on the heartstrings.

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Samantha Durnan

You also have a cultural corner within your publication, I’ve written for it before as the Culture Vulture (yey!) – but what are your plans for this?

My plan is to increase the number of cultural articles we cover over the course of 2018. We’ll also be looking to review theatre productions and comedy gigs as well as interview comedians and artists.

OK so say I’m in a band and I want to get an NE volume review – what should I do?

Don’t be afraid to get in touch with me at info@nevolume.co.uk including some background about your band and a link to your material and we’ll do all we can to arrange for your release to be reviewed.

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You recruit lots of new aspiring writers and journalists – what’s your recruitment process?

It’s very simple: just send an email to me at info@nevolume.co.uk including your CV and a paragraph about your favourite aspect of the North East music scene and I will get back to you within 2 days maximum.

 

What are you up to for 2018?

I’m actually going to start my own radio show (fingers crossed) so I’ll be looking for local promoters, bands, soloists, and independent venue owners to join me for a chat. Again, if you’re interested then please email me and I’ll be happy to liaise with you.

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Well that’s lush and Lee has already asked me to be on his radio show (I do love the sound of my own voice so obviously I jumped at it) so something to look forward to! Make sure you check out the current edition of NE Volume – it’s a treat!

Until next time Culture Vultures.

Artist Jim Edwards & Craig David Pub cat…..

Two weeks ago I attended Ouseburn Open Studios and was a true Culture Vulture– I took myself around all the galleries and called in to lots artist pals and of course chatted to lots of new creative folk and other attendees. I had a blissful conversation with an artist about the 90s and owning a type writer when I eventually own my own house (I want everyone to be able to type a message when they enter/visit).

Ouseburn Open Studios is such a fantastic vibed weekend – I also like to make sure I buy lots from artists and creatives whilst grabbing a drink in many of the lush bars and independents along the way. Hence my purchasing gets more and more along the way…….

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And I always finish (it’s traditional for me now!) in Jim Edwards studio on the Sunday afternoon and promise myself that when I’m grown up, I’m going to buy myself a Gateshead themed Jim Edwards painting. I love Jim Edwards work – it’s colourful, enthused talent and I always view it with a huge smile on my face – as every single piece to me, looks and feels like home. He depicts many lush scenes from the North East – some iconic, some comfortingly familiar and some perfectly stylised.

One of my favourite pieces of his – depicts Craig David. I imagine – 50% of you reading this, know exactly what I’m talking about and the others, probably think I’m talking about actual Craig David (even typing that makes me call out “can I get rewindddd!”). Craig David was a lovely pub cat – he was a regular lurker at the Free Trade Bar and his spot was on top of the Jukebox. He’d often swagger in and make himself at home or you’d go in for a bev and he’d be in his spot snoozing or watching the world go by……

(732) The Free Trade

Craig David died this year and of course, there was an outpouring on social media. And when he died, I suddenly thought of Jim’s painting – which depicts a quiet Free Trade afternoon with Craig David absolutely in pride of place checking out the view of the Tyne. He’s forever immortalised in that picture. It reminded me why I love Jim’s work so much – real scenes, with real goings on filled with real detail. I love that painting!

So I thought I’d take Ouseburn Weekender as the perfect opportunity to catch up with Jim Edwards – find out more about him, his work and his style.

Hi Jim – right tell me about your journey into the arts?

I’ve always been interested in creating artwork. As a child, it was always the enjoyment of getting lost in a creative practice, and also for the praise that came from making a strong image, and being regarded as good at art.  I had two older brothers who were also good at art, and so the competitive nature between siblings challenged me to become better.

I concentrated on art throughout school, art foundation and a degree in illustration. After I graduated, I wasn’t sure how to continue a career in the arts.  I attempted illustration for a while, but it wasn’t for me.  Whilst working as a picture framer, I started to sell small paintings and drawings at a market on Armstrong Bridge (Jesmond Dene, Newcastle) on Sundays.  I tried out all sorts of work, abstract, surreal, figurative, but the thing that really took off were paintings of Newcastle.  I gave up becoming a picture framer, to give more time painting cityscapes, and I’m still a professional artist 18 years later.

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Tell me about your practice and your strong recognisable style?

I mostly paint contemporary cityscapes and landscapes, centred on the North East.

The style has slowly evolved over time. When I started, it was quite naïve in style.  I worked a lot with biro, with washes of acrylic paint.  I then used hairspray to bleed the biro colour through the paint.  It was an interesting affect I stumbled across by accident, but I stopped this method because it wasn’t good for my health.

For a while my style even went a little bit abstract, but the cityscapes started to become too unrecognisable; I like to play with colour and over exaggerate the light in my nightscapes, I have to build up several  layers of paint to get the desired tonal effect, making the city glow.  A slow process, but rewarding.

My work is strongly rooted in memory, how we remember a place, rather than a straightforward representation. I like to reimagine the cityscape, even if certain elements are forgotten or altered.

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What’s it like being on the Ouseburn creative scene at the moment? Your studio is beautiful!

I’ve been working in the Ouseburn for most of my career, hopping from one studio to the next. One of the earliest was at the Biscuit factory, followed by the Mushroom Works.  Then after a brief 8 month stint in Northumberland, I came back to 36 Lime Street, before taking on my own place at 59 Lime Street.

I couldn’t imagine having a studio outside of the Ouseburn, it feels like my creative home. It’s quietly paced, and feels like an escape from the city, even though it’s quite industrial.  Renowned as the cultural hub of Newcastle, it’s crucial to be here for the numerous open studios events that take place throughout the year.  This is where all the creative venues join forces and open their studio doors to the public.  Whether it’s the Ouseburn Open Studios or The Late Shows, both are valuable to my work.

It’s quite a lonely profession being an artist, which I don’t mind, because I love my own space. But it is beneficial to mix with other like-minded people, to work together of bounce ideas off each other.  So I’m often over at 36 Lime Street having a cup of tea with friends.

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How did you go about securing that studio space?

I spotted it was coming up for rent, so jumped at the opportunity to get it. It’s a huge jump in rent, to what I was used to at 36 Lime Street.  But the increase in visitors to my studio, with having on street access, has more than made up for it.  It’s a small, intimate space to work in.  And sometimes I don’t know if the space is a studio or a gallery, so sometimes it struggles to function as both; as long as visitors don’t mind the creative clutter when they pop in.

Any new work or projects you’re working on?

I’m currently working on a few paintings, trying to get them finished before Christmas; including a large canvas of the Ouseburn. I have a huge to do list of paintings, mainly because the ideas come far quicker than I can actually paint them.  And so I’m looking forward to making a start on some paintings of Cullercoats and the Lake District in the New Year, before getting round to everything else on the list.

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And what does it feel like – people coming into your studio and looking at your work?

It’s quite a strange one. It’s always amazing selling paintings, really spurs you on to paint more. Especially being able to meet the buyer and talk about your work, which you don’t normally get in a gallery situation.  The rhythm of creating a painting gets thrown, whenever someone comes in.  It’s surprisingly disruptive, and I probably produce a lot less work these days.  But I can’t complain, it’s important for my work, and I want people to pop in.  And if they buy something, even better!

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Next year – it’s the Angel’s 20th Birthday and also Great Exhibition of The North – obviously, your pieces champion the North East and landmarks – do you see an opportunity for yourself next year?

I’ve got an Angel of the North painting on my studio wall, right now. Hopefully the birthday celebration will encourage it to sell.  Who knows what will happen during the Great Exhibition of the North.  I’ll see if I can tie in my paintings somehow.  There may be an Ouseburn Open Studios event during the event.  I look forward to it, and hope it benefits the creative industries in the Ouseburn.

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One of my favourite pieces of yours is The Free Trade depiction with Craig David in it….. as a Free Trade lover and prolific cat cuddler – it always made me smile and I’m super happy his legacy lives on forever in that piece.

I do like The Free Trade painting too, reminds me of the lazy days spent in there, before children, enjoying a pint. And yes, Craig David pubcat lives on in the painting.  I also like the window view, almost giving a painting within a painting.

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You manage to have successfully develop what I’d class as a commercially sustainable practice – do you have any advice for other artists currently trying to?

I think it’s crucial to know how to position yourself, to know if there’s a gap in the market, and can you create something to fill it. When I was a picture framer, I gauged the sort of paintings people were buying, and I thought there was a lack of cityscapes and landscapes in my style of painting.

You’ve also got to be stubbornly determined in your pursuit; have a fire in your belly to see it through, and not be too distracted by what others think or do.

What’s next for Jim in 2018?

Lots more art and getting through that to do list of paintings. Exploring more, and painting places in the North East I haven’t got to yet.  I really want to get round to painting more of Durham and Hadrian’s Wall, when I have a free moment.  Ouseburn Open Studios returns in March, and the Late Shows in May, plus other events through the year.

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Well thank you Jim – lush to catch up with you! Jim’s Studio is located at: 59 Lime Street, Ouseburn, NE1 2PQ and open Tuesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm and Saturday, by appointment – it’s certainly a must see for Culture Vultures and check out his work online too via his website – I just love it so much. And if like me you can’t quite afford a big picture painting – there are lots of prints and greetings cards you will be able to afford!

And of course, big love to Craig David pub cat – the cultural scene misses you!

Till next time Culture Vultures!

Great North Snowdogs…..5 weeks to go!

It’s not long until The Great North Snow Dogs launches across the North East (19th September – so just over a month away!) and lots of Big and Small Snowdogs pop up across the region in cultural venues, landmarks and local hidden gems.

Each Big Snowdog has been design by a professional artist; the North East and of course, Gateshead on the Gateshead Trail are set to come alive with colour from the fantastic designs!

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Last week we caught up with Corinne Lewis-Ward; a brilliant Gateshead based artist and the business brains behind Powder Butterfly.

Corinne has been a long-time champion of Arts in Gateshead (and of course – Arts regionally, Nationally and Internationally). She has also been selected as an artist as part of The Great North Snow Dogs project working on two Big Snow Dogs.

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We wanted to catch up with her and find out more about her work, her practice and of course, more about Snowdogs!

Hi Corinne, can you tell me a bit about your practice?

Just like many creatives, I work in a variety of ways! I have my own creative practice as an artist but I also have my own design company which is called Powder Butterfly.

With my design company I am interested in representing well-loved landmarks from different locations in the UK. I currently have a Newcastle/Gateshead collection, a York collection and a London collection.

One Snow Dog design was inspired by my Newcastle/Gateshead collection. I have lived in the North east for 18 years and all of the landmarks hold a special place in my heart.

How did you hear about The Great North Snowdogs project?

I heard about The Great North Snowdogs at the North Design Centre in Gateshead. It was a really exciting event where we got to meet people from Wild In Art, St Oswalds and some of the sponsors and other creatives. There was a buzz about The Great North Snowdog project and I could tell that it would be wonderful to play a small part in it.

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Why did you decide/want to get involved?

I wanted to get involved because St Oswalds is an amazing organisation that carries out wonderful work throughout the North East, and being part of the raising money and awareness for their cause and activity was something that I really wanted to be part of.

I also love The Snowman and the Snow Dog animation, I enjoyed watching it with my kids and I could see how much fun this project was going to be with The Snowdog as the sculpture.

This project also took me out of my comfort zone to a certain degree as painting is not something that I do every day. Increasingly I work with digital media, but I was really keen to have the chance to use my art school experience to create something completely unique.

What was the process behind submitting your designs for your Dog and getting the green light?

The process was pretty simple really; I had to come up with a design in a two dimensional format and submit it as part of my application. I knew that I wanted to use the basis of my design from my Newcastle/Gateshead collection so I had a fair idea of how the artwork should look.

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I had to wait a few weeks before finding out if I had been successful. I knew that there would be selection process where sponsors would get to see the designs and then choose their favourite.

How did you feel when you found out, you’d been selected not once, but TWICE!?

I was really thrilled to find out that my Newcastle/Gateshead design had been selected from my original application. When I was working on it I was asked to carry out a VIP Snowdog commission which was amazing. Having two Snow Dogs on the sculpture trail is really wonderful and it is such an honour to be selected to carry out a VIP commission.

What were the inspirations behind your Snowdog designs? (only say as much as you can!)

Newcastle/Gateshead landmarks were the inspiration for my first design. All I can say about the VIP commission is that the design is based upon a well-loved British children’s author and illustrator.

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As you can imagine we all want to keep the sculpture trail a surprise for people so I wouldn’t want to reveal any spoilers.

Can you reveal any secrets regarding your Dogs, locations, names, sponsors?

The name of the Newcastle/Gateshead design is Tyne Tail Jack you can follow him on twitter @TyneTailJack . The lovely Sponsors are called The North Group and they have been operating in the North East for 150 years. The location of the dog will be on the Newcastle side of the Quayside.

As far as my VIP commission is concerned I am not able to reveal much at all about this lovely pup. But as soon as I do I will let you know what I can.

How does it feel as a Gateshead based Artist, to be featured within such a high profile North East campaign?

I am so proud to be part of this project. Although I am originally from London, I have lived in the North East for 18 years and I love it up here.

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I am so passionate about Gateshead and the amazing creative community that we have here. To be part of such a high profile campaign is wonderful and I am really excited to see how the local community and visitors to the region respond to the amazing work that artists from the local area and all over the country have created.

Each dog has its own very unique character and there are so many brilliant designs that have also been created by local schools and community groups as well.

Have you seen any other Snowdogs yet?

Yes I have seen some fabulous Snowdogs. I have been working in the studio in Newcastle that is provided for artists to work on the dogs and I am so excited that I have been lucky enough to meet some amazingly talented artists in the process.

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The studio is also the place where all completed dogs come to before the sculpture trail. So all of the school and community art dogs and the sculpture trail dogs end up there, so I am looking forward to seeing many more over the coming weeks.

Why are projects like this so important to the North East cultural agenda?

Events like this raise awareness of what is going on up here creatively and raise awareness of the great work St Oswalds does for people in the region.

It will also bring people from outside of the region to the area which will help introduce new audiences to the North East and help stimulate the local economy. With my design I have tried to help foster links between industry, the corporate world and the arts. I think the project model that Wild In Art have created really demonstrates how seemingly disparate bodies can work together to achieve great things creatively.

Do you intend to complete the wider Great North Snowdogs Public Art Trail and (of course!) the Gateshead Trail?

I can’t wait to attend the sculpture trail with my friends and family. It is going to be amazing to see how many pictures of the Snowdogs we can collect before they go to auction at the end of the year. It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to document the event and see how many we can take pictures of. I am also excited to see where they all end up being located.

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After Gateshead Sculpture 30 Festival, Playground at Baltic and now Snowdogs, there seems to have been a bit of a shift towards more accessible, interactive sculpture and outdoor Art! We really love this as it gets people outdoors, exploring alongside engaging with Art and Sculpture! What do you think about this?

Any kind of project or campaign that makes art more accessible to a wider audience is something that I love to be part of. With my creative practice as an artist, I attempt to bring art and science together which could be seen as two entirely unrelated subjects. But I have found that audiences are really interested and engaged in this sort of work especially if you make the work engaging and accessible.

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The Great North Snow Dogs project is one of those special events that will get people exploring, engaging and sharing their experience through social media. I think I have also heard rumours of an app being created for the event so I am keen to see what that will be like. It’s going to be a wonderful and exciting event and I am so thrilled to be a small part of it.

How brilliant and thank you Corinne! So Culture Vultures – as of the 19th September, you have ten weeks, so find, discover and snap a selfie (or a snowfie, as we are calling them) with the Snowdogs across the region and of course Gateshead.

In the meantime; Tweet a “hello” to Corinne’s Snowdog @TyneTailJack, visit Snowdogs webpage to keep yourself up to date on all things Snowdog related including any app information. You can also catch them on @GreatNorthSnowdogs on Facebook and @great_snowdogs on Twitter.

We can’t waitttttt for Snowdogs!