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

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While we are firm in our belief that the region’s music scene is thriving, it’s apparent that some locations do better than others. The so-called ‘cold spots’ may suffer from a lack of infrastructure, resources and facilities for musicians, forcing them to either seek these things in other towns or leave the region entirely.

David Saunders is a proud Darlingtonian. He also happens to be a radio presenter, writer, musician and promoter. He notes that his work with NARC. and on radio show The Grind (on Stockton’s Ignition station) opened his eyes to the wealth of opportunities for musicians in the region, but also highlighted a lack of prospects in his own town. “When you look at towns close by like Stockton and Hartlepool they have a very healthy music scene, supported by passionate organisations and promoters putting on great events like Stockton Calling and We Are Family Festival. Darlington should be doing something similar but first we need to develop an inclusive culture of music of all genres.”

David notes that, while there’s plenty of resources for musicians in the region, particularly from the likes of Tees Music Alliance and Generator, there was no accessible resource in Darlington that could help musicians progress. “We didn’t have any tours or festivals that were attracting people from outside of the town. Darlington was isolated from the region. Under 18s had no place to play due to licensing, so even open mic nights were inaccessible to them. As my open mic night at Hole In The Wall became more popular I discovered that people preferred to perform cover songs as opposed to their own material. They appeared to have little confidence in their writing despite obvious talent. On top of that there are not enough bands from the town gigging outside the region so it has become quite an insular music scene and so isn’t really on anyone’s radar.”

Not one to sit around and wait for the problem to solve itself, David set about creating change, and put his thoughts forwards at a cultural hustings (where political candidates address potential voters). After meeting with local MP Jenny Chapman and finding support from Allison McKay at The Forum Music Centre, the Darlington Music Forum was born.

A hub for musicians and music lovers, of all ages, disciplines and abilities, the Music Forum intends to provide opportunities for musicians to perform, network and learn more about the industry. A series of free events will be held, with the aim of encouraging those who live in the town to foster their own events and initiatives.

Songwriting sessions, open mic and jam nights and industry events are planned every Wednesday at The Forum Music Centre from 2nd March until 27th July, with guest speakers including musicians like The Futureheads’ Barry Hyde and The Chapman Family’s Scott Riby, promoter and musician Henry Carden, BBC Tees presenter Bob Fischer, representatives from music development agencies Tees Music Alliance and Generator plus advice from yours truly on building relationships with local press, and there’s loads more in the pipeline. The admirable initiative and David’s considerable passion for Darlington will no doubt provide the spark to ignite a new generation of informed and motivated people who will help to put Darlington back on the musical map. “There is a great deal of talent in the town and a lot of people passionate about music. Hopefully the DMF will act as a great resource to provide direction and give a solid foundation that exciting things can flourish from.”

For further information on Darlington Music Forum, visit their Facebook page.

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