FEATURE: Georgian Theatre 25th Anniversary | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: B>E>A>K performing at Georgian Theatre by The Village Photographer

You’d never guess that one of the region’s most loved venues was once a pensioners’ café and held meetings for the local lace guild, but Stockton’s beloved Georgian Theatre has been a home for some pretty unusual exploits since it ceased being an actual theatre in the 19th Century. The historic building – which was built in 1766 and is the oldest surviving theatre of its kind in the world – once housed the Salvation Army and a sweet factory during its lifetime. Having fallen into disrepair during the 70s, it remaining largely unused until what was then the Stockton Music and Arts Collective (now Tees Music Alliance) revived its fortunes by turning it into a music venue in 1994.

The venue has been instrumental in making Stockton’s music scene the thriving place it is today, with artists like Arctic Monkeys, The Charlatans and James Blunt performing in recent years. Having undergone a £1.4m refurbishment in 2017, which saw the space given a modern edge with a new bar and facilities, it’s continued to be a real hub of activity. Plans are afoot to mark TMA’s milestone with exciting events for old and new punters alike, as TMA’s head Paul Burns explains. “We thought that our 25 year deserved marking – not just in terms of what we’re doing now, but also using the year to look back, have a bit of a reminisce and bring back some old favourites. We’ve got a range of one-off shows planned, with some familiar names involved.  We’re bringing back our fondly remembered events and activities including Loosely Acoustic, our music industry project From Teesside with Love, plus our legendary rock club, Twisted, and a few others along the way. And don’t be surprised to see Stockton Riverside Fringe Festival coming out of retirement and returning to its Georgian Theatre roots for this year only.”

TMA are keen to ensure that the voices of our independent music scene are heard loud and clear

The venue is only half the story though; TMA’s ongoing dedication to the region’s music scene has seen them spearhead initiatives to provide help and support for artists of all stripes. Paul explains: “We’re bringing FTwL back as part of our music development offer to artists and promoters. Part of that will see us producing a music conference and showcase early in 2020.”

The music charity are already working with local artists including Komparrison, Shakk, The Lulas, Salsola and many others, offering advice, making links and engaging deeper with the music industry. “We don’t think music development is a one size fits all situation,” says Paul, “so we’ll be working more closely with a smaller group of artists and promoters – asking them what kind of support they think they need. We’ve got some great local promoters including The Kids Are Solid Gold, Ku Events, Fast Forward, Rock Garden Promotions, Famous Last Words and Cosmos to name but a few.  Successful promoters can help to develop successful artists; and both are crucial to developing happy, loyal audiences. We’ll be looking to make a difference in a three pronged campaign – listening to artists, promoters and audiences.” TMA currently hold drop in sessions every Tuesday, when anyone writing or performing original music or promoting original artists can get advice and increase their knowledge.

With a Tees-wide City of Culture BID also in the pipeline, TMA are keen to ensure that the voices of our independent music scene are heard loud and clear.

Keep an eye on their website for future info on events and initiatives.

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