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Culture Awards Best Event Durham finalists: Ed Carter's False Lights Seaham, Mallard 75 and Steamsong

A grand art installation, a cracking farewell to a cherished locomotive and a multimedia opera all thrilled audiences in Durham in 2014

Ed Carter’s Fl10s: False Lights Seaham

Taking its name from the way in which Seaham Lighthouse is described in Admiralty’s worldwide light and fog signal information list, False Lights Seaham is steeped in the maritime history of East Durham, with specific focus on the George Elmy lifeboat disaster in 1962.

Ed Carter: Fl10s: False Lights Seaham (2014) from Forma Arts on Vimeo.

Mixing a grand art installation with musical compositions and live performance, the piece used a light display to represent various lighthouses across County Durham’s coast and built atmosphere through a choir that also represented the local fishing communities’ response to accusations of luring in vessels in order to steal cargo.

The structure incorporated 10 large-scale tuned steel plates, controlled by electromagnets which cause the plates to vibrate at their resonant frequencies.

The piece was composed, recorded and produced by Ed Carter and commissioned by East Durham Creates.

An expanded version for live performance was premiered alongside members of Durham Miners’ Association Brass Band at an outdoor performance in Seaham Marina, marking the anniversary of the George Elmy disaster.

Website: edcarter.net/home/fl10s/

Twitter: @edcarter__

Mallard 75 - The Great Goodbye

Mallard 75 – The Great Goodbye at Locomotion, the National Railway Museum at Shildon, County Durham, was the finale to a series of UK events as part of the NRM’s Mallard 75 project. The event - held from February 15-23, 2014 - marked three quarters of a century since the iconic locomotive Mallard broke the steam speed record on July 3, 1938.

The Great Goodbye saw the Class A4 4468 reunited with her five surviving sister locomotives, brought to Railway Museum from around the world.

The nine-day event, which attracted almost 120,000 to the museum, also featured curator talks, cab access, steam rides an art exhibition by local artist John Wigston and another major reunion as 30 former rail drivers and firemen - aged from 60s to 80s - travelled from all over the country to enjoy the event.

Mallard 75, The Great Goodbye

It would be the last time these six machines were together, and as such, photo opportunities for the general public as well as early morning and late night ticketed sessions for dedicated rail fans were made available.

Website: www.nrm.org.uk/mallard

Twitter: @nrmshildon


Another event commissioned to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Mallard breaking the steam speed record, this multimedia opera, commissioned by Durham County Council and Locomotion was performed at the Gala Theatre as part of the BRASS festival programme.

John Kefala-Kerr wrote and composed the score for an ambitious performance which featured projected video, digital sound and an ensemble of singers and instrumentalists, including vocals from the Voices of Hope and narration from actress Zoe Lambert.


The piece took the form of a series of vignettes focusing on the events of the day that used motifs to draw parallels between the breaking of the World Speed Record, and seemingly unrelated worldly locations and events.

John Kefala-Kerr says: “Associations are made between a piping hot cup of station tea and the morning mist of the Yorkshire dales, between the compressed fist of vapour driving the steam locomotive, Mallard, to glory and those vulnerable wisps of ‘fearful breath’ that, four months later, escaped the mouths of German Jews persecuted during the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938 and the children being evacuated from Nazi Germany by train during the so-called Kindertransport.”

There is currently an interactive version of the piece on display in the National Railway Museum and clips from the orchestra can be viewed on the website at



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