Dundee could follow up V&A with new concert hall

Dundee could follow up V&A with new concert hall

Plans follow successful launch of new museum

ACE appoints South West chair

ACE appoints South West chair

Helen Birchenough has been appointed as chair of Arts Council England for the South West.

Hull wins National Lottery award

Hull wins National Lottery award

City of Culture voted best arts project

Welsh arts ‘invisible’ overseas

Welsh arts ‘invisible’ overseas

Welsh cultural talent is hiding its light from the rest of the world, according to a report for the British Council.

ACE/HLF firm up museums support

ACE/HLF firm up museums support

Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery have signed a new, reinforced memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve support for museums in England.

Lifting off after novichok

Lifting off after novichok

AI PROFILE    Gareth Machin, artistic director, Wiltshire Creative

Digbeth - 'artistic powerhouse'

Digbeth - 'artistic powerhouse'

Digbeth, Birmingham’s creative quarter, “all the potential to be the UK’s top creative hub”.

 O’Riordan to take over at Lyric Hammersmith

O’Riordan to take over at Lyric Hammersmith

Rachel O’Riordan, artistic director of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, since 2014, is to be the new chief of the Lyric Hammersmith.

TAITMAIL   Salisbury’s art of recovery

TAITMAIL Salisbury’s art of recovery

Salisbury’s Novichok horror might, perversely, have been a mixed blessing for the city – and for the Arts Council. 

BAC grand hall reopens after fire devastation

BAC grand hall reopens after fire devastation

Battersea Arts Centre today reopens its grand hall following the 2015 fire that all but destroyed it, and also reveals the results of a 12 year development programme for the centre.

Freeman to join Royal Exchange

Freeman to join Royal Exchange

Stephen Freeman is to leave his job as CEO of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, to  be executive director of the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Labour pledge on creativity in schools

Labour pledge on creativity in schools

Labour is committed to putting creativity back onto the school curriculum, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said today.

Bush’s Younis takes over at Southbank

Bush’s Younis takes over at Southbank

Madfani Younis has been appointed to the new role of creative director at the Southbank Centre.

McBean and the RSC’s’ golden age

McBean and the RSC’s’ golden age

The photographer Angus McBean, best known now for his portraits of the Beatles, Audrey Hepburn and Vivien Leigh, took some of his finest pictures for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Meet the first ever Pet Poet Laureate

Meet the first ever Pet Poet Laureate

Blue Cross, the pet charity, has appointed Russell Jones as the first ever Pet Poet Laureate.

MY STORY		Trusted with Shakespeare

MY STORY Trusted with Shakespeare

Louisa Davies has been appointed to the new post of head of creative programme for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Stenning leaves Bristol Old Vic

Emma Stenning is stepping down as chief executive of the Bristol Old Vic after nine years at the theatre.

Rescue plan for Farfield Mill

Artists have agreed a rescue plan to save Farfield Mill at Sedbergh in Cumbria.

FESTIVALS King of the Tyne

A unique festival connects the River Tyne to the legacy of civil rights activist Dr Martin Luther King. Patrick Kelly reports

The Tyne Bridge will stand in for another iconic bridge as part of a spectacular perfomance celebrating the courage and sacrifice of civil rights campaigner Dr Martin Luther King.

On Sunday October 29, the bridge will become the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama, scene of one of the most famous moments in the civil rights movement as King and his sup- porters were attacked by police while peacefully marching across.

Freedom on the Tyne will bring together international artists, performers and community groups from across NewcastleGateshead in a unique afternoon of theatre, music, dance and art. Starting from various locations across the city, four stories of the global struggle for civil rights will be told in a unique performance, building through- out the day before coming to a climax on the Tyne Bridge. Hundreds of local actors, dancers, singers, musicians and performers will be recruited from communities from across Newcastle and Gateshead to work alongside professional artists to bring Freedom on the Tyne to life.

Behind this extraordinary event is the little-known fact that Martin Luther King visited the city to accept an honorary degree from the University of Newcastle, the only such honour accorded him by a UK institution in his lifetime. The university has been celebrating this event in a quiet way for many years, but on the 50th anniversary, it was keen to make a bigger splash. It got together with production company Northern Roots and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, and made a bid for support from ACE’s Ambition for Excellence funding strand. ACE bosses believe that a major event like this is a way of using art to create a step change in diversity within Newcastle’s cultural offer.

The performance is part of Freedom City, a year-long, city-wide programme looking at the three themes - war, poverty and racism - of King’s acceptance speech back in 1967. For example, Newcastle’s regular Juice Music festival is taking over the Hancock museum with a celebration of the positive social changes which have taken place over the last 50 years. The Hancock is also devoting an exhibition to the story of Dr King’s visit. Other events include exhibitions at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, a painting by artist Frank Briffa at Gosforth Civic Theatre and a new installation created by a team of young writers from Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books.

“The people of NewcastleGateshead will be the stars of the performance,” says Tim Supple, who will direct from a script by BAFTA-award winning playwright Roy Williams. “But even people coming to watch will be involved in a moving, inspiring and memorable afternoon. Standing together on the Tyne Bridge in a moment of reflection and solidarity for civil rights will be a powerful and striking image to send the world.”

Supple, a former artistic director of the Young Vic Theatre, has several large scale international productions on his CV, including an Indian version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Dash Arts and the epic Arabic story, One Thousand and One Nights, at Edinburgh International Festival, but he has been struck by the extraordinary level of co-operation in the city, from the local councils to local community organisations and commercial businesses.

“There’s no perfect rulebook for organising this sort of event, but there are two really important factors – the way that the creation of something pulls people together and the legacy created in getting the involvement of people not usually engaged in the arts,” he says. “It’s best to describe it as a people’s passion play. It’s not a spectacle, it’s an unforgettable experience, not just for those who take part but for everyone who sees it.”

The arena for the event is not just the bridge, “one of the best performance venues I have ever seen” says Supple, it is the city itself. Four events at four locations will look at the massacres in Amritsar, Sharpeville, Peterloo and of course, the incident at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge. From there, four processions, plus a group commemorating the Jarrow march, will converge on the bridge, which bears a striking resemblance to its counterpart in Alabama.

“Despite all those tragedies,” points out Supple, “this is a story of triumph as the spirit behind these protests finally won through in terms of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.”

Vikki Leaney, senior festival and events manager at NewcastleGates- head Initiative, said organising the event on October 29 will be a major operation, even for a city well used to holding major events. “In some ways it will also be a step change for Newcastle and Gateshead too. We are used to getting organisations to co-operate here but this is like holding the Great North Run, New Year’s Eve parade and a host of political demos all at once.”

The NGI is also pleased that although the programme was kick-started by that Arts Council grant of £595,000, they estimate that they have garnered more than £1m in match funding from a variety of sources in the cities of Newcastle and Gateshead. In some ways, the event can almost be seen as a trial run for the Great Exhibition of the North, the George Osborne-inspired event designed to provide a cultural impetus to the Northern Powerhouse.

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