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Orchestra performance to be held in Newcastle's historic Victoria tunnel

Newcastle's historic Victoria Tunnel will host orchestra for one-off performance with a difference

A tunnel  which once echoed to horses and coal waggons and later air raid bombings will soon be the source of sweeter sounds.

The Victoria Tunnel, which runs for two and a half miles under Newcastle, is to be the venue for a one-off orchestra performance.

The tunnel, which opened in 1842 and was in use until 1860, was used to transport coal from Spital Tongues colliery to the River Tyne at Ouseburn.

In the Second World War it was converted into an air raid shelter with capacity for 9,000 people.

Ouseburn Trust volunteers now take people on guided tours of part of the tunnel, with 7,000 visitors taking part last year and 50 school groups.

Now the Cobweb Orchestra, a group of mainly retired musicians which meets at Sage Gateshead, plans a concert in the tunnel in October.

Clive Goodwin, tunnel co-ordinator for the trust, said it was expected that the 7ft 9ins high and 6ft 7ins wide tunnel would be able to accommodate an audience of around 60 people, in rows of three.

Composer Michael Betteridge is creating a special work for the event which will reflect the history of the tunnel.

“It is an amazing idea. It is mind boggling,” said Clive. “Orchestra members have carried out tests and they said the acoustics are fantastic.”

Last year the tunnel was the location for an art exhibition.

When the tunnel was earmarked as an air raid shelter, 17 entrances were planned.

But only seven were actually built, with the trust recently unveiling a sign marking one of the entrances near St Thomas’s Church in the Haymarket.

There are plans to identify other entrances at Spital Tongues, Great North Museum, Christ Church in Shieldfield, and Crawhall Road in Byker.

The entrance used to access the tunnel is in Ouse Street, with regular weekly tours being taken along the section to New Bridge Street.

For more information on the tunnel and tours visit https://ouseburntrust.org.uk/victoria-tunnel/

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