FEATURE: Reasons To Be Cheerful #2 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Eliot Smith Dance

In the second of our serialised editions of Reasons to be Cheerful, we’re focusing on where you can stream excellent content, engage in virtual viewing and take part yourself…

If you’d like to tell our readers your news, please get in touch: [email protected].

As things seem to be changing on a daily basis at the moment, we apologise for any errors or changes to what’s listed here.

Teaming up with Pedestal VR, Tyne & Wear Museum and Archives are offering virtual tours of Great North Museum: Hancock, giving you access to their biology and ethnographic stores as well as their Ice Age to Iron Age gallery.

You can still visit Newcastle’s Discovery Museum in virtual form, as a variety of their exhibits and rooms are available to look around for free via Google Arts & Culture.

If you need an artistic fix, go for a jaunt around the Laing Art Gallery‘s extensive collection on Google Arts & Culture.

Get your heavy metal fix thanks to six-part audio documentary Heavier! Faster! Louder!, which delves into Tyneside’s heavy metal scene, available to stream via the usual outlets.

Artworks at Middlesbrough’s Platform A Gallery are available to view online. Its diverse range of exhibitions, including current works by Leslaw Tetla, can be enjoyed in glorious 3D via the Artland website.

Newcastle’s Side Gallery are asking for suggestions on how digital content can be produced for their audience. Not only that, but hundreds of their exhibitions are available to view for free on their website.

A digital visit to BALTIC is now possible, with all their current exhibitions including Judy Chicago and Animalesque, plus related video tours by BALTIC Crew and other filmed events available to view. Plus there’s a digital version of the recently opened Abel Rodriguez exhibition containing extensive install photography, plus the full 16 minute film Abel. They’ve also recently uploaded the first of their Meet & Make Online videos, featuring artist Mat Fleming. Follow and use #balticconnect to stay plugged in to their activities.

Independent Teesside arts organisation Dovetail Joints have launched a virtual gallery and interactive exhibition space for artists to exhibit their work. Submissions and collaborations are welcomed.

Slated to take place from Friday 1st-Sunday 3rd May, GIFT (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre) is still going ahead, albeit in digital format. Organisers have been working hard to ensure collaboration and interactivity remain key to the GIFT experience, with a host of talented artists and practitioners providing a vibrant bite-sized programme exploring connection, international identity, sustainability in art and climate emergency solutions. We’ll bring you much more info in our May issue.

Theatre company Open Clasp have made their production Key Change available to watch for free on their website. Devised alongside women in HMP Low Newton to tour to male prisons, the critically-acclaimed work presents an illuminating portrait of women in prison.

Northern Stage are making sure you can still get your fix of theatrical news and opinions thanks to their podcast which will offer interviews, stories and theatre-related chat. Currently online is a conversation between theatre company Curious Monkey’s director Amy Golding, Northern Stage’s associate director Mark Calvert and Young Company associate director Louie Ingham. Listen to the podcast here.

From Wednesday 1st April, Eliot Smith Dance Company dancers will be delivering free dance classes, from contemporary to hip-hop and ballet to yoga, tailored for young people, dance professionals and the elderly every Monday, Wednesday and Friday via their social media channels. You can also watch performances from ESD’s vast repertoire via their website, and company dancers will be hosting free Q&As.

If anyone understands the importance of laughter right now, it’s The Stand Comedy Club. With three branches (Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow) and a wealth of excellent contacts in the industry, they’re well placed to bring some of the hottest comedians directly to your screens. Saturday Night Live at The Stand will stream live every Saturday via YouTube, with more info announced as it happens via their website.

Writer CJ Cooke has mobilised a swathe of superb writers for the very first Stay At Home literary festival, taking place via their website until Saturday 11th April. Workshops, readings, panels and Q&A sessions will take place, with events of particular note including our region’s own Claire Malcolm, chief executive of New Writing North, who’s in conversation with Maggie O’Farrell, and North East poetry magazine Butcher’s Dog’s editor Jo Clement who chairs a poetry showcase. With 7-8 events per day, and everything free of charge, it’ll be an informative and enjoyable way to spend your time.

NARC. scribe Catharina Joubert has kicked off her new podcast series Regeneration Studio with some excellent content exploring how the independent creative sector can weather the Covid19 storm. Future podcasts will explore inspirational stories of business creatives and the positive impact their work has on their communities, with arts and culture at the forefront of her explorations.

The Star & Shadow Cinema is a much-loved staple of the region’s music, film and artistic scenes. While they’re regrouping and their volunteers are helping out in the community, they’ll also be broadcasting a radio show and invite listeners to get involved with tracks, recorded messages, idents, reportage, mixes and audio treats. Listen via Mixlr here.

South Shields actor and pub manager Stephen Sullivan has turned his hand to storytelling on his increasingly popular Facebook page. Storytime With Stevey offers live storytelling with tales for kids and adults, often complete with costumes and unusual props.

Running out of educational diversions for the kids? Newcastle-based singing teacher Kate Covell-Bullock is hosting online singing lessons every Monday at 10am for children stuck at home via her Facebook page.

Aside from this fair magazine, of course, there’s nowhere better to get your local music fix than our region’s BBC Introducing programmes. Broadcast on BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Tees on Saturday nights from 8pm, the lovely Nick Roberts (Newcastle) and Rianne Thompson (Tees) will keep you entertained and informed.

Electronic musicians Tunnel Club are focusing their attentions on giving a helping hand to recently relocated music venue Little Buildings, with an album of previously unreleased material available to buy via Bandcamp. All proceeds from the ‘pay as you feel’ release will go to Little Buildings to help them get back on their feet after the crisis has passed.

The ever-creative minds of Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington (Hen Ogledd) are currently dealing with lockdown by creating typically beguiling music under the guise of Bulbils. They’re aiming to share something new most days and promise it’ll be ‘simple, small and peaceful’; a perfect tonic in troubled times.

Middlesbrough musician Joe Ramsey will be playing tribute to the sadly cancelled Stockton Calling festival on Saturday 11th April via his Instagram stories from 7pm, where he’ll play some of his own indie tracks as well as some covers by bands meant to be performing at the festival including Jodie Nicholson, Tom Joshua, Llovers and Plastic Glass.

When you’re as plugged in to the local scene as Stockton’s Georgian Theatre, it can be incredibly hard to go dark. The venerable venue and their hard-working team are determined not to let music lovers fall by the wayside, every Saturday they’ll be streaming live sets via Facebook from 7.30pm. Artists you can expect to hear from include Kaitlyn Kempen from Komparrison (11th April) and Joe Ramsey (18th April). Keep an eye on their socials for more info as it happens.

We Shall Overcome kicked off in 2015 in response to the government’s austerity cuts, and have been using performance and musical events to raise money for a variety of food banks, outreach organisations and crisis centres. In continuing their good work, they’ll be hosting WSO Isolation Festival, an all-day virtual gig on Facebook on Saturday 11th April. Musicians and poets will perform in their own homes, beaming their performances straight to interested viewers, from midday to midnight. Performers include Grace Petrie, Phil Odgers, Attila The Stockbroker, The Wakes and many more. Voluntary donations are requested at the group’s GoFundMe page www.gofundme.com/f/we-shall-overcome-2020.

All systems are go for Lindisfarne Festival, which takes place from 3rd-6th September at Beal Farm in Northumberland. To keep prospective festival goers entertained they present the Lindisfarne Lockdown, a series of livestreamed performances from some of the artists taking part in the festival. So far there’s been yoga classes and live music, with poetry, comedy and much more on the way a couple of times a week, all streamed via their Facebook page.

Spearheaded by acoustic vocalist Gareth Beddard, a group of North East musicians have banded together to provide entertainment via Facebook page Live Jam @ Lockdown. Their aim is to bring performances from across the UK, festival-style, with a pre-booked roster of performances. Artists are able to add a digital ‘tip hat’ but the main aim is to share and enjoy live music. They’re hoping to run the project every weekend across the lockdown period.

Local vloggers NAMI Up North are hosting live takeovers on their Facebook and Instagram pages from North East artists, taking place every evening at 8pm until 20th April. Expect everything from live music to stand-up comedy and spoken word performance.

Award-winning composer and regular performer of lunchtime piano recitals back when we were all allowed outside, Steve Luck‘s talents are still available to those in isolation thanks to his livestreamed recitals, which take place at 1pm every day via Facebook Live. See the link on his page to buy him a coffee in return.

Durham-based record label Nice Mind Records are working on a new podcast to add to their series, planning to premiere on Easter Sunday the new show will have a theme of Spring and rebirth. It’s also a great place to stop off for info on what their artists are up to.

Joining the bedroom acoustic gigs and housebound techno DJs in what is now being called #coronacore (© Ben Myers), ‘Stagger’ Lee Fisher is going to be replacing his cancelled DJ gigs with some live streaming. Thursday 9th April was supposed to be his Riddim! reggae night at Ernest but you can catch him online from 9pm. Likewise, his Easter Sunday soul session will be online (with guests!) from 8pm.

Online weekly songwriting sessions are taking place of We Make Culture’s Young Musicians Project meetings, usually held at Pop Recs in Sunderland. Musicians aged 14-19 can can check in for a Zoom session every Saturday from 11am, and sign up for one-to-one songwriting sessions with Marty Longstaff, Natasha Haws and Beccy Young. Email [email protected] to book a session and check out their Facebook page for more info.

Also masterminded by We Make Culture, and hosted by Cornshed Sisters’ Jennie and Liz, the Pop Choir Project is going digital. They encourage anyone with an interest in singing to join their fun and relaxed sessions titled Pop Choir Project Lockdown, with the admirable catchphrase of ‘when the world goes weird, we will keep singing’. They’ll regularly post videos of songs to practice and the choir will ‘meet’ regularly via Zoom. See their Facebook group for more info.

Singer-songwriter Beccy Owen, whose debut album with The Refuge came out last year, is hosting Couch Choir, an inclusive, pay-as-you-feel pop-up choir taking place every Sunday morning via Zoom, giving the chance to (literally) harmonise with others even as social distancing sets in. Sign up by emailing [email protected]

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