NEWS: The Gaol Ballads @ Hexham Old Gaol | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Artist Matt Stokes has teamed up with everyone’s favourite avant-folk songwriter Richard Dawson to present an intriguing new installation centred around Hexham’s Old Gaol, the oldest purpose-built prison in England.

The project is right up Dawson’s alley, providing the unique artist an opportunity to delve into the history of Hexham Gaol and expound upon some of its unforgettable characters in a series of five songs set against a backdrop of traditional border ballads. The project is dragged into the 21st Century by Stokes’ cinematic film and audio installation, which depicts the music being performed in modern settings, and will be presented at the 687 year old building from Monday 22nd August until Tuesday 31st October.

Stokes’ painstaking research into the characters that make up the history of the gaol provided the inspiration for Dawson’s lyrics; individuals like John de Cawood, the first gaoler who took up his post in 1332; prisoners both wealthy and poverty-stricken; a local citizen who gave money or food to poor inmates; a priest who offered spiritual sustenance. The songs are sung by their contemporary equivalent – Hexham’s first gaoler was a barber by profession, so his song is sung by someone embodying a present-day barber, providing an interesting juxtaposition of the past and present.

The Gaol Ballads is at Hexham Old Gaol, Hexham from Monday 22nd August until Tuesday 31st October.

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