Feature: Sarah Wilson (Tracks) – A Look Back At 2019 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Over the past twelve months, our magazine and website have been brimming with super-talented, creative souls. We asked a few of them to tell us about their 2019. Sarah Wilson from Darlington-based music organisation Tracks shares all that was good and bad about the past year.

So, how was your 2019? 
It was pretty good! A year chock full of bringing exciting, unusual music events to Darlington, to try and put our town onto the musical map of the North East.  We were very excited to run our Last Train Home Festival for the second year in a row, this year bringing Tipping Point on board to run a conference for musicians on the day. We programmed some amazing artists for the Festival Of Ingenuity, launched a brand new family festival called “Mish Mash Festival” held in a scorching hot Darlington Market Square in the summer. Co-hosted two stages at the ever popular Music Box Fest. We raised funding to compile and release the first-ever vinyl compilation featuring female artists from the North East “Noisy Daughters” with Butterfly Effect Records and Rianne Thompson, launched with a sell-out gig at Darlington’s Voodoo Cafe.   We also unveiled Hark! The Sound Of Stories, an event that links musicians who have been inspired by literature with authors performing readings, the first event took place just a few weeks ago in our Victorian Library to a capacity crowd. We’ve rounded off the year by bringing 14 different artists to perform live at the Ice Sculpture Trail as part of the Christmas Markets and held a BIG Little Gigs Family Christmas Fest in a big tent, complete with family Ceilidh, Christmas singalong and 80’s band!  

What was your best moment?
I think it would have to be right at the end of the Noisy Daughters record launch event. The night had gone so well, we are all very proud that we managed to pull together the funding to produce the record (big shout to Darlington For Culture and Creative Darlington!) All of the artists featured on it are really exciting and shining the light for artists from the North doing really interesting, inspiring stuff. The gig had sold out and all of the artists were amazing, we had Komparrison, Kay Greyson, Eve Conway and Martha Hill headlining. I remember watching Martha play Blindfold and it was a real goosebumps moment, the whole room was spellbound. When the gig had ended and we were all packed up, we had a celebratory drink and Rob had waited until that moment to announce that we’d had confirmation from Arts Council England that they would fund this year’s Last Train Home Festival! A great end to an exciting night!

And your worst moment?
It’s funny in hindsight but the week running up to Last Train Home got pretty ridiculous. We discovered that one of our venues had double booked us with “Brian’s 70th Birthday Party”; a couple of days later we were told that the company providing us with a pop-up bar at our church stage couldn’t get their license, and three days before the festival, we discovered that the security firm we had booked to cover all of our stages had gone bankrupt! Dealing with those on top of all the rest of the prep meant a pretty stressful week, but I think all the bad luck came before the festival rather than on the day itself which actually, bizarrely ran really smoothly.

Your favourite band/artist of the year?
GGAllan Partridge. They popped onto our horizons at the beginning of the year with their unique, quirky tunes and are just so much fun to watch live. I defy anyone to watch their live set without joy spreading through your soul, with your feet tapping away to their infectious radge pop.

Your favourite song of the year?
“My Blood” by Pom Poko, so full of energy and excitement; caught them at Twisterella and they blew me away.

Favourite TV show of the year?
Russian Doll, the style, the story, the madness and the music all very much up my street

Your favourite film?
The Suzi Quatro documentary ‘Suzi Q’, Darlington Film Club pulled a blinder in actually bringing Suzi to Darlington for a film showing and Q and A. The film is a great insight into her groundbreaking career and I’m always a big sucker for music docs.

Best book you read?
“I am, I am, I am” by Maggie O’ Farrell. Think it came out a couple of years ago, it’s about her 17 near-death experiences and how they’ve shaped her life. Sounds grim but is actually pretty life-affirming.

Favourite venue of the year?
We had our first visit to the Old Cinema Launderette, Belmont, Durham this year; it’s a really quirky little venue that programs some brilliant artists and is actually still a working laundrette.

What was your favourite gig/show of the year?
For Rob, it was the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, with highlights such as Squid, Algiers, Yak, Jungle By Night, and Ata Kak. For me, it was Petrol Girls at The Great Escape Festival – really energetic and exciting to watch.

Any upcoming artists we should keep an eye out for in 2020?
Has to be Eve Conway. She’s been making waves in Darlington for a couple of years now and all of that work is starting to pay off as she’s had an amazing 2019 and achieved so much. She’s destined for bigger and better and we think 2020 is going to see her reaching ever higher. We’re proud to have featured her on our Noisy Daughters vinyl. Polo from Leeds is another we love; really forward-thinking with amazing production and an infectious personality. We’re also really excited for Nel Unlit’s new material, as well as Darlington’s own Legitimate Anarchy as their roster has absolutely loads in store for 2020.

And finally, what has next year got in store for you?
Well, 2020 is going to be a good one for Tracks. We have lots of work to do to get there but we will be bringing back all of our festivals plus hopefully more artist development opportunities, working with new venues and partners and maybe even venturing outside of Darlington to spread the live music love. Hark!, Noisy Daughters and BIG Little Gigs will all be making a comeback too. See you in the New Year!

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