FEATURE: TRACKS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: JP Riggall

“The thing about Darlington is it’s a blank canvas, it’s got so much potential.”

You could say that reviving Darlington’s music scene has been a life-long mission of musician and fellow NARC. scribe David Saunders. Born and bred in the town, Saunders has seen it go from blank cultural wasteland to thriving creative hub, particularly over the last couple of years. Thanks to his efforts, alongside some like-minded individuals, it seems that Darlo is set to establish itself as one of the North East’s top attractions, with plenty to offer in the way of arts and entertainment. “It’s a weird place in terms of music. People got out of the culture of watching bands because there wasn’t much on and it wasn’t really their fault.”

The Goy Boy McIlroy and Black Sheep Frederick Dickens frontman has been inspired to make things happen in his hometown since his early gigging days. However, it was a meeting with local MPs that left him particularly horrified at the lack of support for fresh projects in the area. “They were just like ‘will the funding be protected for the operatic society?’ and I sort of thought to myself, ‘this is my town and it’s bloody backwards’. That was when I realised that something needed to be done.”

Saunders now runs various successful local events around Darlington including Soapbox Sessions open mic night for comedy, music and poetry, acoustic/hip-hop/electro open mic night Jukebox, local rock night Bruja and Music Box Festival, all of which have encouraged local artists to get involved and get their music heard.

“The thing about Darlington is it’s a blank canvas, it’s got so much potential.”

Saunders’ latest brainchild might be his most important move yet towards securing Darlington’s bright future. The appropriately named Tracks (a reference to Darlington’s famous railway as well as music), is a collective project supported by Tees Music Alliance and Creative Darlington that combines some of the brightest minds in the business. Sarah Wilson (musician, promoter) and Rob Irish (producer, designer) will collaborate with Saunders to create spaces and support networks for musicians and gig-goers. Tracks will incorporate all of the popular gigs and events that are already run by the three members, with hopes to boost revenue and funding for further developments. “I want bands to flourish. With Tracks we are working with other local businesses like Darlington Music Forum, Rocket Town Brewery, The Hash, Voodoo Café; all businesses that are quite passionate themselves and this is where Tracks is coming in. With Big Little Gigs (live music for under 10s) Sarah is planting the seed and getting the younger ones into music, Rob is a lot more involved than some of the other producers around and provides a veneer that you need in today’s industry.”

Tracks is looking like a firm bet to change the face of Darlo’s music scene forever. To launch their initiative they’ll be hosting a bunch of special events over the festive period. Most of the action will take place in the ornate surroundings of the town’s Spiegeltent located in the historic market square and includes Festive Folktown, a celebration of traditional and contemporary folk music featuring JP Riggall, Dressed Like Wolves, Peg Powler and James Gray Robson & The Lovely Burn on Friday 2nd December and Darlo-Ho-Ho-Ho Electro, a showcase of emerging local electronic artists including Black Sheep Frederick Dickens, Solomon Golomb, There There, DeLorean Is Not Okay and Ronald Raygun on Wednesday 21st December, as well as much, much more.

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