On Sunday a live broadcast of Billy Elliot the Musical will be beamed from London’s West End to cinemas across this country and worldwide – and also to one very special community centre in the North East.
This is the Easington Social Centre in County Durham, formerly the Easington Colliery Miners’ Institute.
The historic venue was a key location during the miners’ strike of 1984-5 which provides the backdrop to Lee Hall’s famous story.
That story began as a film and is now a hugely successful live stage musical with music by Elton John.
This weekend’s screening is a case of the story coming full circle – of the show inspired by the film coming back to the place which provided the inspiration for the film and where it was shot.
The stage show has been seen by nearly 10 million people around the world but it has been rooted in London’s West End since it first opened, with satellite productions playing across America and in other countries.
With no word of a professional UK tour, the live screening of Sunday’s performance is a chance for people in the North East to share in some of the excitement enjoyed by audiences at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the start of the national miners’ strike. Sunday’s screenings in Easington will mark the launch of the first festival of East Durham Creates, an Arts Council-funded initiative aimed at giving people who don’t get involved in the arts on a regular basis the chance to do so.
East Durham Creates plans to stage two festivals a year of high quality arts projects and events. They will be staged in the East Durham area from this autumn until the summer of 2016.
Nikki Locke, programme director for East Durham Creates, said: “We are delighted to be welcoming Billy Elliot the Musical Live to Easington to celebrate the launch of our very first festival.
“What makes these screenings so special is that we’re the only place in the country offering the chance to see the musical outside a theatre or cinema and, of course, it’s where this inspiring story is set.
“We’re very proud to be bringing this to East Durham for local residents to enjoy.”
There will be two screenings of the show at Easington Social Welfare Centre, Seaside Lane, on Sunday, at 4.30pm and 8.30pm, and they are exclusively for East Durham residents who will be charged a bargain £1 per ticket.
They are available from the Centre or on 0191 5270635. The show, which does contain some strong language, is not recommended for children under 12 and children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
The nationwide screenings, presented in association with Universal Pictures, will give some idea to those who can’t get to London of why the stage show has won more than 80 theatre awards, including 10 Tony Awards (in America) and five Olivier Awards (UK).
It was with the help of Forma Arts, a creative production company formerly based in Newcastle and now in London, that East Durham Creates was able to secure its coup – two non-cinema screenings with tickets for a quid.
David Metcalfe, artistic director of Forma Arts, which was established in 2002, is originally from Easington and is blessed with a weighty and influential contacts book.
Sunday’s screenings are just the start for the people of East Durham.
At the end of October East Durham Creates, which is managed by Forma Arts, Beamish Museum and the East Durham Trust, will present a series of performances, exhibitions, workshops and events which have been developed with local residents as well as audiences across the region and beyond.
The inaugural festival will run from October 29 until November 15. Others will follow during the spring and autumn until the autumn of 2016.
Joan Cramp, of East Durham Creates, said the idea was to find out from local people what sort of exhibitions and events excited them and then to bring in some of the country’s best creative professionals to help them make them happen.
She said the idea was to leave a legacy so arts activities would continue in East Durham beyond the life of the project.