Taking the show on the road

With the theatre closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Northern Stage decided to take the show on the road over the summer with a pop up music programme for residents on the Byker estate in Newcastle.

Made possible by funding from Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness and Well Newcastle Gateshead, Doorstep Music saw a group of musicians play live music around the estate every Friday afternoon. with residents encouraged to come out onto their doorsteps to listen and sing along, in line with social distancing rules.

Inspired by the footage of Italian singers and musicians playing for their community during lockdown, the Northern Stage team wanted to continue bringing live experiences to engage with the community and bring people together even though we have to remain two metres apart. Doorstep Music was a way of connecting people through excellent live music and art, to entertain and bring a bit of joy to the neighbourhood while making sure the musicians, our staff and residents stay safe.

Watch: Find out more about the Doorstep Music Experience

Our partnership with Byker 

Northern Stage has a long term commitment to working in Byker, one of the most disadvantaged wards in the UK. The company’s main rehearsal space is next to Byker Primary School and Northern Stage plays a lead role in the Byker Children and Young People’s Partnership (BCYPP), a pioneering initiative comprised of almost 50 organisations working together to raise aspirations, enrich lives and achieve social change.

During lockdown, the team quickly adapted to meet the changing needs of residents - delivering food parcels and activity packs, and regularly speaking to isolated members of the local community.

Northern Stage Associate Director Louie Ingham explains, “We’ve been working in Byker for two and a half years now, making great creative things happen with our community.

"Lockdown has given us an opportunity to get to know even more local residents in new ways, and we have continued to find out what people need and how they’re feeling, so it’s been really exciting to co-create Doorstep Music together.

"A lot of the people we’ve chatted to don’t have access to digital content - they don’t have data on their phone or wifi at home - so it was important to do something live. We’ve also talked to residents and the Byker Community Trust about how we can make the show accessible, where to set up in different locations around the Estate to make sure everyone can see and hear from their own homes."

You can find out more about the Byker Children and Young People's Partnership here.

Watch: Interview with the Doorstep Music Team

The People's Playlist

Louie and the team took song requests on their delivery rounds to compile a ‘people’s playlist’ so residents could enjoy some of their favourite tunes from their gardens, doorsteps and balconies. Songs were played live by musicians Hannabiell Sanders, Jeremy Bradfield and Lindsay Hannon.

A real hit 

The project was a huge success, bringing live music to hundreds of residents throughout July and August 2020.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, who part-funded the programme, said: “As soon as I heard about this idea it excited me. It’s a really open, accessible project designed for the good of the community, bringing everyone together. It‘s about building a sense of pride for local people within their neighbourhood, helping everyone feel safer.

“It’s a real stand out project for me, with really fantastic performances designed to inspire, and it fits in perfectly with my plans around improving lives and preventing crime. I’m confident it’s going to be a real hit with the people of Byker.”

Well Newcastle Gateshead Programme Director, Mark Mulqueen said, “The people of Byker have a strong cultural identity and with our support we want to encourage creativity community connections especially following the coronavirus lockdown. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a number of changes to our daily lives, not least to how people and communities stay connected.

"We are using the Well Newcastle Gateshead Arts Fund to support community focussed projects that celebrate their place and their culture, with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of our communities. The Doorstep Music project is just one of them!”

Reunion Tour

After the success of the tour over the summer, the Doorstep Music gang will be getting the band back together for some more gigs in Byker and beyond later in 2020. 

You can find out more about upcoming performances and gigs by joining the Doorstep Music Facebook group.

Doorstep Music

Photo credit: North News

Doorstep Music is supported by