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Sunderland Arts project aims to be an instrument of change

Putting the Band Back Together encourages people to start playing their old musical instruments again

Putting the band back together Annie Rigby (left) and Rebecca Ball
Putting the band back together Annie Rigby (left) and Rebecca Ball

Is your old guitar gathering dust at the back of a cupboard? Has your violin not been out of its case for years? Is your unused drum kit taking up space in the garage?

If the answer is yes, then a new arts initiative could be just the prompt you need to get back to making music.

Dubbed the Putting the Band Back Together project, people are being encouraged to re-take up the instrument they haven’t touched for years... and prepare to play in public for a large-scale music event.

The project is being run by Annie Rigby, artistic director of Unfolding Theatre, on behalf of The Cultural Spring.

“We’ll start by talking to people and trying to understand why they gave up playing musical instruments all those years ago. They might have given up years ago, or abandoned their instrument relatively recently,” explained Annie.

“There’ll be a variety of reasons and I’ve already talked to a lot of people about why they stopped playing. One was a former violin player who became so frustrated at not being able to play as he wanted that he gave up all together – and he played in an orchestra.

“I used to play the accordion but gave up when playing became a chore and not a joy, so I suppose I’m on the same journey as many others,” she added.

Annie is organising Putting the Band Back Together sessions across Sunderland and South Tyneside between November 11 and 17, and ex-players are being invited to dust off their instruments and play.

“We’re collecting ideas about stories and music. We’ll then spend some time exploring ways of how we could structure the stories and express the music in a show – and hopefully people from the sessions would want to perform,” said Annie.

“The show would enable people to reclaim the simple joy in playing an instrument and hopefully could lead on to them taking up an instrument again.”

To find out more about the sessions, call 0191 427 3748 or visit www.theculturalspring.org.uk

The Cultural Spring is one of 18 Creative People and Places projects, funded by the Arts Council and aimed at getting more people in Sunderland and South Tyneside to experience and be inspired by the arts.The project aims to find out what people across the 10 wards it serves want to do and then provide events, activities and workshops to satisfy them.

Local, regional and national artists have been and are being recruited in the hope of ensuring the programme engages, enthuses, entertains and educates the 100,000 people living in Castletown, Red House, Southwick, Fulwell and Roker/St Peter’s wards in Sunderland, and Biddick Hall and All Saints, Boldon Colliery, Cleadon and East Boldon, Whitburn and Marsden and Whiteleas in South Shields.

Although funded for three years, it is hoped the project will leave a lasting legacy of communities with a genuine and abiding interest in the artsThe project is driven by three partners – the University of Sunderland, the Customs House and the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust – all of whom are passionate about igniting a Cultural Spring in our wards.

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