Double celebration for red kites at Gateshead this weekend

A celebration of red kites return to the North East will be marked in Gateshead this weekend

The winning image in the Friends of Red Kites photographic competition, by Mick Render

A double anniversary centred on the return of red kites to the skies of the North East will be marked with a major celebratory event this weekend.

On Red Kite Wings will be held in and around Sage Gateshead on Saturday.

It is 10 years since the reintroduction of the birds into the Derwent Valley at Gateshead and the fifth anniversary of the formation of the Friends of Red Kites (FoRK).

The Friends, who have 316 members, are devoted to ensuring the red kites have a successful future.

They joined Newcastle University’s International Centre for Music Studies in a project which saw students invited to compose a piece on the birds.

The competition was directed by Professor Agustín Fernández and on Saturday at Sage, a chamber ensemble from Royal Northern Sinfonia will perform three of the compositions by winner Hugo Bell and finalists Ian Fleming and Hannah Hawley at 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

There will also be a performance of Haydn’s String Quartet The Bird.

On the concourse outside the Sage, there will be a programme of art installations and activities from 11am–6pm.

The day has been part-sponsored by Friends publicity officer June Atkinson as a celebration of the life of her late husband Leonard.

The late Leonard Atkinson
The late Leonard Atkinson

Leonard, who was vice principal of the Ponteland College for Higher Education, was a founder member of the Friends of Red Kites and also a Friend of the Northern Sinfonia since 1986.

“We spent many happy hours during the last 10 years in red kite country, watching these majestic birds flying again in the beautiful Derwent Valley,” said June.

Trai Anfield, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s natural history programme The Living World, and patron of FoRK, will host the event.

Her production company Enlightened Media, in partnership with Northumbrian Water, has also produced a film on red kites to accompany Hugo Bell’s composition.

She said: “These beautiful birds have inspired artists, enriched our children’s education, helped our health and even increased commerce in the Derwent Valley.

“They deserve to be celebrated in style.”

Concert tickets are £8 (concessions £6).

At 1pm there will be a concourse performance by Amble First School Choir from Northumberland, who were one of the schools which took part in a scheme to adopt a red kite.

The choir will sing songs dedicated to the red kite written by director of Gateshead Schools Music Service, John Treherne, and will give a repeat performance at 3pm.

At 2.30pm, folk group the Stocksfield Stompers will present their own red kite tune set.

Exhibitions will include images from a FoRK red kites photographic competition, which was won by Mick Render from Washington.

There will be art installations from Rowlands Gill painter Alan Mould and Winalton Mill glass artist Rena Holford, as well as kite work from children from schools in High Spen, Newburn and Ebchester.

Textile expert Clare Satow has also worked with local FoRK partner school Rowlands Gill to make sets of red kite wings, which will appear to fly from the Sage balconies.

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