INTERVIEW: Summer Streets Online 2020 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Patrick Ziza

Having played in Sunderland favourites The Futureheads and Frankie & The Heartstrings among other well-respected bands, Ross Millard has always sought to enrich the region’s music scene. He was previously part of the organisational team at the sorely missed Split Festival, and since 2017 has taken on the role of festival director of Summer Streets (run in partnership with Sunderland MAC Trust and Sunderland Culture). Ross expands: “Starting life as a music and community festival, Summer Streets has developed over the years into a cross-genre, multi-discipline arts festival, featuring music, theatre, outdoor arts and dance. It is Sunderland’s only free entry culture festival, and usually attracts a live audience of 4,000 plus.”

This year, with their usual site of Cliffe Park in Roker out of the question, it was imperative to Ross and his team that the appreciated event still happened in some form this year, but they knew they would have to think of alternative ways. “This version for 2020 is an experiment to see what taking some of the activities onto an online space looks like while outdoor events are still unable to take place due to the Coronavirus crisis.” Having received emergency funding from Arts Council England to trial this approach, the result is a mini-programme of eclectic events which will run online from Wednesday 15th-Friday 24th July.

This version for 2020 is an experiment to see what taking some of the activities onto an online space looks like while outdoor events are still unable to take place

In keeping with the festival’s ethos of highlighting the talents of diverse, multi-discipline arts, they commissioned artists to perform or run a project, resulting in a varied and fresh programme full of artistic integrity. Included in the programme will be world-renowned London-based Gandini Juggling, who will be performing an exclusive lockdown version of A Garden of New Geometries, a series of innovative short films documenting their juggling patterns that will challenge the senses. Sticking with the circus theme, world-class performer Nikki Rummer will showcase a new solo performance film featuring circus, acrobatics, dance and text from atop her narrowboat in Wenlock Basin, London. The piece involves the use of the UK’s historic industrial waterways, to which Sunderland has played a pivotal role in its shipbuilding and water-faring past.
Closer to home, known for their Mixtape shows that have taken place to great acclaim across the region, theatre company The Six Twenty will be premiering I Made You A Mixtape, which will turn song dedications made by the festival audience into a 40-minute performance piece. There’s more music from Newcastle songwriter Bridie Jackson, who will collaborate with members of the Sunderland community to produce a new original song. North East-based artist Patrick Ziza will perform a special version of Dandyism, a multi-disciplined performance piece inspired by the gentlemen of the Congo; whilst Japanese artist Natsumi Jones will be delivering a Kirigami workshop. Finally, taking place throughout the festival, poet Kirsten Luckins will be running Your Summer Streets, a fanzine and postal art project in which she’ll collaborate with the audience to produce bespoke ‘zines based around lockdown walks, local neighbourhoods and landmarks.

As if that wasn’t enough, there will be specific activities and workshops for children and young people, and two evenings of live music featuring regional, national and international artists. One of which, taking place on Saturday 18th July, features live performance from the likes of Martha, Cattle & Cane, Kema Kay, Martha Hill, Georgia May, Reali-T, Rob Heron & The Tea Pad Orchestra, James Leonard Hewitson, Jodie Nicholson, Squarms, Lottie Willis, The Railway Club, Eve Cole, Ami McGuinness, Isabel Hudson, John Kelly and Julia O’Neill.

It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication to Sunderland’s artistic scene that Ross and his team have been able to put together such an enticing line-up, with so much more to come; all that’s left is for you to get stuck in!

Summer Streets Online 2020 takes place from Wednesday 15th-Friday 24th July, see their website for more information on performances and workshops

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