MY YEAR: Star & Shadow Cinema | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Star & Shadow Micro Projects – Rachel Bollen, Swimming painting

We decided pretty quickly to start broadcasting. Radio was easier than moving to film streaming – which we have got up and running now too. It was also really important to keep people together when the first lockdown happened – that was the motivation.

Like most things at Star & Shadow, programming is completely open. If you’re a volunteer with us (and we have nearly 800 active volunteers) and you have an idea, you can make it happen. People will help you. There is a huge amount of generosity. No other venue, cinema, music or arts space in the country works in this way. The programme came about by a number of volunteers pushing and advocating the idea across the volunteer collectives. All the shows after that just came. Many volunteers had never made anything for radio before and now they are seasoned professionals at it and can pass the skills on.

The diversity of what is being programmed is a highlight. In an unexpected way it has brought volunteers together that would not have usually worked together when we were open publicly. For many volunteers making shows it’s the first time they’ve programmed something for the venue. The summer solstice live 12 hour continuous broadcast was a highlight though, this involved a big team of people who had never worked together before – it was a showcase for what we can achieve. People think being underground/experimental means it has to be weird in some way. We aren’t that weird, we just provide an opportunity to people who would not get a chance anywhere else. We broadcast things that are very accessible. We just take chances and risks more than other places and can work very quickly. We also promote things in a different way, maybe not so corporate or branded – which is because we have open programming and don’t operate under a strict managerial hierarchy.

Unlike other venues there isn’t any pressure to attract 1000s of listeners. We don’t look at competition either, it’s all relative. The important thing is volunteers making the show and providing a creative outlet for people. At this point nearly 400 new and original shows have been made by over 40 different volunteers and we’ve attracted over 30,000 listeners.

It’s just about taking each day as it comes now. The radio continues, the film streaming is up and running and we’re supporting volunteers. We were successful in applying for an Arts Council grant to fund volunteers to make new things. We called this Micro Projects and nearly 40 volunteers have made online films, radio and in person things like prints, artworks, zines and gardening projects.

Like everyone, we hope to be open in the new year and we have been using this time to continue the build in the venue. We’re completing the build of a dark room and printing facility. When the day finally comes when we can have a party, it’s gonna be a hell of a blow out.

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