Feature: David Saunders – NARC Online Highlights 2019 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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I took over the role of NARC online editor in early April so I’ll start things off by saying that this isn’t a full year’s review. However, since taking over the role I have been overwhelmed (in a good way) by how much amazing stuff goes on in the region week in, week out. We have some talented, passionate and incredibly interesting creatives and creativity enablers in the North-East. It’s been an absolute honour writing about some of the excellent things that have been going on and to finish off the year I have decided to do a little round-up of some of the standout features and articles that I have been a part of. 

Interview – Karen Ruffles (Tales in Sombre Tones): You had me at ‘gothic’ and ‘supernatural’. I’m a massive fan of all that’s dark and otherworldly and as soon as this e-mail rocked up in our inbox, my interest was piqued. I interviewed artist Karen Ruffles, who had illustrated Sean Walter’s gothic horror novel, Tales In Sombre Tones and was so intrigued that I attended the Vane Gallery exhibition on Friday 10th May, as part of their immersive touring show that celebrated the publication of the book. There I got to see  Karen’s artwork, listen to live readings from Sean and talk to the pair some more about their work and what influenced it. I also part bought a copy of the book, which reminds me, I still owe Karen a fiver.

Interview – Bobby Benjamin (Pineapple Black): Bobby Benjamin is the man the Teesside arts scene needs. He is full of passion, integrity and ideas. His exhibitions and events often mix artistic disciplines and takes the art to the people of Middlesbrough as opposed to waiting for art to come to them. I always enjoy reading and finding out more about him and what he is up to at his exciting, contemporary arts space, Pineapple Black. In this instance we had a quick chat with him to find out more about Training Montage, an exhibition from May-June that that made collage great again, and lead to me finding out more about the Teesside arts scene and his other projects. From my perspective this interview contains one of my greatest questions, ‘In the digital age, how important is the collage?’ I can see that gracing the t-shirts and coffee mugs in the future.

Interview – Jessica Owens (Changing Relations): Changing Relations is an arts-based education and training company that challenges thinking around gender norms, gender equality and healthy relationships. From May- June at Locomotion in Shildon and Killhope Lead Mining Museum (27th May – 13th June) their exhibition Men’s Voices explored traditional masculinity, mental health in men and class. As a working-class male who has previously suffered from mental health issues, this really touched me. It’s a great example of how art can be used to discuss and address the issues in society that people find it hard to talk about and I think it is important that at NARC we continue to highlight these kinds of events.

Interview – Dr Gail-Nina Anderson (Midsummer Phantoms) & Robert Lloyd Parry (Beasts and Superbeasts): As mentioned previously, I am a sucker for ghost stuff and got really excited to see that the Lit & Phil, Newcastle were hosting the Festival of Summer Hauntings on 21 June – 5 July. Getting to pick the brains of cultural Historian Dr Gail-Nina Anderson and performance storyteller Robert Lloyd Parry, who were both part of the festival, was an absolute treat and produced a couple of bloodcurdlingly good interviews about ghosts and ghost stories. Woooooooooooo…

Six Of The Best – Hannah Thompson (Circ Motif): Hannah Thompson is founder and director of Circ Motif, a contemporary circus theatre company, and the passion she has for her art is inspiring. She loves what she does, wants to challenge preconceived ideas of what it means to be a circus performer and produces high-quality, accessible shows to draw attention to life’s big issues. I, like many others, am intrigued by what it is that inspires inspirational cultural figures and I found this six of the best that she did in September to promote her show, The Art of Cuddling & Other Things, quite fascinating.

My Inspiration – Claire Baker: As well as ghosts, the other thing I like is when people just jack in their everyday lives to go on and do something extraordinary. When I first read about Claire Baker in the press release for her exhibitions at Hartlepool Art Gallery and Bowes Museum throughout autumn/winter. The Stockton born, Northern School of Art Textiles lecturer left a successful career managing a snooker club and a nightclub, to follow her passion for embroidery and textiles and ended up working with the Babushkas of Chernobyl for her solo show, Place, Home, Loss and Legacy. If you are looking for motivation for your 2020 self-improvement strategies, then read this first. 

Bunch Of Fives – Fever Days (Cereal): We asked Newcastle’s indie-rockers Fever days to give us a top-five on any subject they wish ahead of their performance at Twisterella and they came back with this entertaining list of their fave cereals. A fantastic read that probably raised a smile to commuters everywhere.

Interview – Dave Randall, Will Kaufman & Garth Cartwright (Durham Bookfest) – You can always tell when someone is passionate and knowledgeable about a subject by the quantity and quality of their answers. These three interviews I did for Down By The Rivers events at Durham Bookfest about politics and music (DR), Woody Guthrie (WK) and record shops (GC) were brimming with enthusiasm and as a result, left me wanting to find out more about things I would never have even thought to find out more about (if that makes sense). When publishing these features I always hope that our readers feel the same way. 

News – Alleviation A Day Of Healing (12th Oct & 21st Dec): One of the pleasures I get from being NARC’s online editor is shining the spotlight on creative events that try and make the world a better place. Nothing demonstrates this better than the two Alleviation events in Richmond put on by Ceiling Demon’s very own Psy and Dan Harrison, which use creativity as a way of offering support for those struggling with their mental health. Not all heroes wear capes but in this instance, they did wear masks.

Interview – Sarah Bebe Holmes: Egg, which took place at Newcastle’s Circus Central on Tuesday 15th and Wednesday 16th October, was an aerial theatre production from that explored the issues of female fertility, sexuality and choice. This interview with the shows creator, Sarah Bebe Holmes, was thought-provoking and incredibly relevant. 

My Inspiration – Jonathan Marshall: When I first saw the press shots of Jonathan’s work for his exhibition at Newcastle Arts Centre throughout August-September, I was blown away (have a look at them in the article). Then after reading the press release, I was amazed to find out he was based in my hometown of Darlington and so asked him to do a ‘my inspiration’ piece to find out more. NARC is great for finding out about the great art that is going on in your area or hometown. Which, for those with high levels of FOMO, like me, is comforting to know.

Bunch Of Fives – Eve Conway (Train Journeys): I know Eve personally and she is a musician with a big personality. This is demonstrated in this bunch of fives article she did ahead of her Soapbox Sessions takeover in December, where she managed to list five train journeys, soundtrack them and make it an entertaining read. She should work for the marketing department of Northern Rail.

Although not a website feature I thought I’d finish by recapping on our Tues-DIY music masterclass events that took place in association with the Tees Music Alliance at The Georgian Theatre, throughout October. For those not in the know, they were informal roundtable discussions for independent musicians, that offered them an opportunity to learn new skills and get advice from experts in the music industry. As someone who has participated and worked in the music scene for nearly two decades(!), I could easily say that these were some of the best and most rewarding events that I have been a part of. It was great to see so many eager creatives making the effort to come down and add to the communal feel of these fun and informative evenings. My heart truly melted.

Before I go I’d just like to thank everyone who has featured on, contributed to or enjoyed reading the website. We have some great ideas for new content and look forward to another culture-rich 2020. Until then, have a great Christmas and New Year, stay safe and look out for one another.

David x

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