Tracks and Networks

I was very honoured for Tracks to have been selected to attend Brighton’s The Great Escape Festival as a participant of their brand new TGE Elevate scheme, an Arts Council funded project to help the music leaders of the future access the conference and festival.    Without the support of Creative Darlington, even with the free delegates pass, I would not have been able to attend due to cost of travel and accommodation.

The Great Escape Festival is classed as ‘the’ music industries festival. It showcases hundreds of upcoming bands and artists who are seen as the innovative stars of the future live music scene. During the day conferences, Q and A’s and networking on a wide variety of topics take place across Brighton.

It was great to be part of the Elevate scheme as it put me together with promoters, musicians and venues from across the UK who are all facing the similar barriers that Tracks do. We shared a lot of common ground and it was reassuring to feel that we’re all in the same boat and get tips from each other.  Our mentors from The Great Escape made us very welcome with an opening night dinner and launch party on the (slightly chilly) beach, plus we had daily debriefs with Q and A’s with invited speakers exclusively for us. 

I found it refreshing and exciting to meet more women working in grassroots music, here in the North East, we are a bit of a rare occurrence. I attended the Association of Independent Music’s Women In Music Breakfast, a presentation on PRS’s scheme “Keychange” that support’s female musicians and went to a panel discussion called “DIY Women In Music” featuring speakers from She Said So, PRS, Red Bull’s Normal Not Novelty and Women In Live Music organisations.  

I attended an excellent presentation by “Attitude Is Everything’ called “Breaking Into Normal Land” who Tracks spoke to last year ahead of Last Train Home Festival to see how we could make our festival more inclusive. They had a panel of disabled musicians talking about their experiences and how promoters and venues can help to make their experience more positive for the performers and for any audience members with disabilities. 

The BBC Introducing presentation was really positive, we have worked with BBC Introducing at BBC Tees for a while now, but it was great to have an opportunity to speak to Radio 1’s Huw Stephens about the North East music scene and to give him a copy of our Noisy Daughters album which features female artists from Darlington and the surrounding area.

After the conferences were finished for the day and we had attended our Elevate debrief, it was time to go and experience some excellent live music. The venues varied massively in size and style from little back rooms of pubs, to underground caverns and even a tent on the beach.

Band hi-lights for me were  South London alt-punks “Shame”, the poptastic “Self Esteem” and Austria/Bristol’s feminist punks “Petrol Girls”. 

I hadn’t realised how few bands I would get to see due to the majority of my days being spent in conference. However I made great new connections, discovered a whole host of organisations I wasn’t aware of, expanded my knowledge of the independent music scene and various funding pots and spread the word of music from the North East.     At times I felt a bit like an alien, 80% of people I spoke to had never heard of Darlington and several people remarked that they “loved my accent”. I definitely felt an affinity with any fellow northerners I came across.    It is my hope to bring to Darlington some of the musicians I met at The Great Escape to perform at our Last Train Home Festival on Saturday 7th September and to use my new found knowledge and connections to further develop the work that Tracks does in Darlington.

Creative Darlington was delighted to support Tracks engagement with The Great Escape Elevate scheme in May 2019.  Sarah Wilson from Tracks attended The Great Escape Festival For New Music in Brighton, her thoughts above. We’re looking forward to future fantastic Tracks activity particularly the Last Train Home music and comedy festival on Saturday 7 September 2019.

Artist-in-residence opportunity with Creative Darlington in collaboration with the Middlesbrough Art Weekender.

Proposals are now being sought for an artist-in-residence opportunity at Darlington library and archives. This residency will be a satellite project of the Middlesbrough Art Weekender, generously supported by Creative Darlington and located at the Darlington Library and Crown Street Gallery. Artists applying should be from or based in the North East.

Artists wishing to apply for this residency opportunity are encouraged to consider the history of public space / libraries, their users and how publics engage with these spaces and what futures these interactions may have.

It is envisaged that the artist will work in Darlington Library for 3 days per week over a period of four weeks. This may include engaging with the library institution, with the archive collections, affiliated groups or general library users. The proposed projects should have some form of public facing process that makes use of the Crown Gallery space within the library during the residency, as well as culminating in a performance/exhibition/project occurring at Crown Street Gallery, Darlington which is located inside the library.

There is an artist fee of 2.5K plus a project budget inclusive of travel up to 2.5K attached to this project. Additional tech support can be supplied by the The Middlesbrough Art Weekender.

Dates: 12th August to 12th September


The Library:

Darlington Borough Council has been promoting a conversation and seeking public views on how the library service at Crown Street could look in the future. Crown Street Library itself plays host to a number of regular well attended groups including a Knitting Circle, local history events and book festivals and readings.

Gallery / Activity Space:

There is a gallery called the Crown Street Gallery situated within the library – a large single room space that would benefit as a site of the artist’s ongoing activities with (or accessible by) the public whilst in residence and as a final exhibiting / performance / installation space. A flexible approach will be needed in working around other events taking place at times during the residency period.


The archive is a wondrous labyrinth of donated works from various eras. The archive can act as an inspiration and resource for the residency and/or as possible material to be used and even exhibited in some manner.

There is a local studies collection of over 40,000 images of local people and places, some of these are oil paintings and watercolours. There is also a historic and contemporary poster collection.

Note: there is currently an embargo on filming or photography in the spaces within the subterranean archive spaces and other non-public areas of Darlington Library.

Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2019:

This year, the Middlesbrough Art Weekender 2019 looks at autonomy as the overarching theme of the festival programme. An opportunity to engage with the festival through an artist talk also forms part of this call.


Please submit all information in a single Pdf

Email Applications to

● Approx 500 words detailing an approach to the residency

● Availability schedule / project timeline

● Outcomes – proposals need to include details of potential  outcome at Crown Street Gallery.

● Indicative budget

● 3 x links to relevant previous work

Submission deadline: Monday 15th July 5.00pm

Useful links:

Creative Darlington

Middlesbrough art weekender 2018

Library website

Images of Crown Street Gallery

Tuesday 23 July – Free reading fast approaching by poets at Darlington Library

Unseen Beautiful clearly appealed

Image credit Joanne Coates

April 2019 saw Creative Darlington collaborating with Lens Think to bring a second call out for 2019. The call out invited people to submit images through Instagram of the ‘Unseen Beautiful’ in and around Darlington. 

Photo credit: Joanne Coates

We were particularly interested in our beautiful surroundings and everyday things that you think showcase our town through a different perspective.

Photo credit: Joanne Coates

We received an amazing response to the call out with around 700 images submitted by end of April 2019. Selected submissions were showcased through an exhibition at Crown Street Gallery, which opened on Saturday 18 May 2019 and closed on Wednesday 29 May 2019. The exhibition also included images commissioned from Joanne Coates of Darlington Library, Darlington Town Centre and other aspects of Darlington community. 

Photo credit: Joanne Coates

During the exhibition visitors to the gallery could enjoy over 700 images permenantly on display, a rolling projection of images from the call out and take time to explore Unseen Beautiful Darlington through three drop in creative sessions.  People were encouraged to vote for their favourite image in the exhibtion with the winning image announced at the end of the exhibition.

Photo credit: Luke Piper

Congratulations to Luke Piper for winning the public vote for the Unseen Beautiful Call Out. Luke will have a workshop with Joanne Coates of Lens Think informing a  solo exhibition at Darlington Town Hall in spring 2020. We had an amazing response to both the call out and the voting. With such an incredible response, we decided that three runners up will also take part in the photography workshop.

The programme was very popular. Darlington Borough Council measured 1,576 visits to The Unseen Beautiful exhibition in the gallery at Darlington Library in May 2019. The exhibition ran Saturday 18 May 2019 – Wednesday 29 May 2019.   Over 350 votes were cast and it was encouraging in my view to see that 159 images were at least one person’s favourite.

Photo credit: Joanne Coates

A variety or organisations and enterprises made the Unseen Beautiful an intriguing and popular exhibition. Darlington based Trendsetters went above and beyond to support the production of the exhibition, Tees Valley Arts supported promotion and offered technical support and both they and North East Contemporary Visual Arts Network offered us the opportunity to do a social media takeover, spreading the word about the exhibition to new audiences.   Thanks to everyone who got involved and came to see the exhibition. We’re planning future Call Outs, keep your eyes peeled!

Bulldog clip sales rocketed in Darlington during exhibition

The Unseen Beautiful, Closing Event

Join Lens Think and Creative Darlington this evening from 5.30pm at Crown Street Gallery for food, drink and to find out the winner of The Unseen Beautiful Call Out.

Visitors to the exhibition have cast their votes for their favourite photograph and we will reveal the who will be in receipt of a one day photography workshop with Joanne Coates (photographer and founder of Lens Think) and a solo exhibition in 2020.

See you this evening!

The Unseen Beautiful

In April 2019 photographer Joanne Coates (Lens Think), graphic designer Nicola Golightly, artist Gemma Tierney and Creative Darlington collaborated to offer a Call Out for photographic works celebrating ‘The Unseen Beautiful’ in Darlington. Over 650 photographs were submitted through Instagram by a diverse range of photographers – beginners to professionals.

All of those who submitted works are in with the chance to win a one day photography workshop with Lens Think founder and professional photographer Joanne Coates. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to vote for their favourite photograph, by posting their vote into the voting box. The favourite photograph voted for by visitors will be announced at a closing event for this exhibition which will run from 5.00pm – 6.30pm on Wednesday 29 May 2019.

In addition to the project call out, Joanne Coates was commissioned to take photographs in and around Darlington, which are also presented within the exhibition. Joanne is a working class documentary storyteller who uses the medium of photography. Based in the North of England. She is interested in working life and class inequality. 

Exhibition Dates

Sat 18th May until Wed 29th May

Crown Street Gallery, Darlington


Crown Street Gallery will also play host to three collaborative image making workshops in May. Work alongside artist and graphic designer Nicola Golightly and Photographer Joanne Coates to explore storytelling using images and words. The chance to create your own story about Darlington! The resulting artwork will grow throughout the lifespan of the exhibition. Workshops will be taking place on the following dates

Wed 22nd May 11am – 2pm

Tue 28th May 11am – 2pm

Wed 29th May 11am – 3pm

Workshops are free to attend, materials will be provided. All children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Closing Event

Audiences will have the opportunity to vote in the gallery for their favourite photograph. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 29th May as part of the Celebration and Closing Event. The winner will receive a day long photography workshop, led by professional photographer and Lens Think founder, Joanne Coates.

Closing Event 5.00pm – 6.30pm Wed 29th May.

This call out is supported by Creative Darlington, in collaboration with Lens Think, Joanne Coates and Nicola Golightly. This project also forms part of the Darlington Arts Festival 2019.

Thanks to Tees Valley Arts and Trendsetters for their valuable support.

Heritage on Track History Walk fast approaching

On Tuesday 21 May 2019 there’s a Heritage on Track History Walk, exploring our rail heritage, starting at 1pm at the Head of Steam railway museum, booking details as per poster and free places going fast, so please get in touch with Helen Towes at Groundwork quickly if you want to get involved.

I was lucky enough to join a similar event led by Niall at the outset of Heritage on Track, which also started at the Head of Steam railway museum, with a train ride to Dinsdale Station, followed by a walk back to Darlington.  I found it illuminating and enjoyed hearing more about our rail heritage whilst walking in great company.

Noisy Daughters Vinyl – North East’s first vinyl compilation featuring all female artists

Darlington music collective Tracks have joined forces with North East record label Butterfly Effect and Rianne Thompson (BBC Introducing/Amazing Radio) to curate the North East’s first ever compilation album featuring all female artists.

Cut on 12″ vinyl, the album is a continuation of Tracks’ Noisy Daughters project that aims to inspire females in the music industry by highlighting women doing amazing things, and offering credible opportunities for participation and growth.

From 2012-2017, a review of the 600 most popular songs showed that only 22% of them were performed by women, and a furthermore shocking statistic revealed that only 12% were written by women.

“Sadly there are still many issues around achieving equality in music, as a female musician and promoter I see this all the time. Through Noisy Daughters we hope to contribute to the change in our musical landscape and hopefully highlight and support female artists where we can” –

Sarah Wilson, of Tracks

All money raised from the sale of the Noisy Daughters Compilation LP will be used to support future female-focused events and workshops in the area.

“It was important to Tracks and Butterfly Effect that we selected artists who showcased the incredible diversity of female artists in the North East. It would have been all too easy to feature a host of acoustic female vocalists playing songs about love, but it was important to us to provide a platform for the cutting edge genre pushers out there whose voice is perhaps not heard as loudly as more mainstream musicians” explains Stephen Gill of Butterfly Effect.

The vinyl features a varied range of artists, from noise punks Blóm and radge popsters GGAllan Partridge, to experimental electronic producer Jennifer Walton. Redcar’s own acoustic duo Komparrison and Newcastle hip-hop artist Kay Greyson also grace the tracklist alongside Darlington’s urban pop queen Eve Conway and singer songwriter Zararuth, plus Martha Hill brings her brand of hard hitting alt-pop into the mix, topped off with jagged soundscapes from guitar virtuoso Girl From Winter Jargon.

Rachel Gatiss (Girl From Winter Jargon) commented:
“I was over the moon to be asked to contribute to the project; the Noisy Daughters initiative is so important because there’s never been a vinyl release quite like this one!”

Sarah from Tracks “We were thrilled with the commitment from local organisations to support Noisy Daughters and make this release possible. Darlington For Culture have provided a grant contributing to the costs of the release along with Butterfly Effect record label, who are always hugely supportive of the North East music scene. There are signs that the industry and people’s attitudes are starting to slowly change towards women in music and hopefully our release can add to that narrative”

Noisy Daughters Artists

To celebrate the launch of the vinyl there will be a gig at Darlington’s Voodoo Cafe on Friday 17th May featuring Martha Hill, Komparrison, Kay Greyson and Eve Conway with BBC Introducing’s Rianne Thompson hosting the event. Doors will open at 7.30pm and the first 50 attendees will receive an exclusive bottle of Noisy Daughters beer courtesy of local brewers Saints Row Brewing Co.  Creative Darlington is supporting the live music programme at this event.

Tickets are available now from priced at £5 each, or £15 to include a copy of the vinyl which they can pick up at the gig.

The vinyl is available to pre-order from

Darlington Mind Art and Creative Crafts Exhibition

Darlington Mind Art and Creative Crafts Group in collaboration with Creative Darlington is hosting an art exhibition at Darlington Town Hall from the 29th April to 14th June 2019.

Darlington Mind Creative Crafts Group is a safe and supportive environment where people with mental health issues can go to rediscover old talents and learn, develop and explore new skills and to express themselves creatively.

It is also a place to go, to make friends and escape the loneliness and isolation that can be experienced. It is a place to have a laugh, a chat and find a voice in. This helps its members to cope with life’s everyday stresses and strains.

Gary Emerson, CEO of Darlington Mind said

“This is a great opportunity for our service users to display some of their exceptional and unique artwork to members of the general public. We would like to thanks Creative Darlington and their team for allowing us to make this art exhibition a reality.”

Some work in the exhibition will be for sale.

For further information contact Darlington Mind Ltd, St Hildas House, 11 Borough Road, Darlington, DL1 1SQ or telephone 01325 283169.

Darlington Mind is the area’s largest voluntary sector mental health agency and provides services from bases in Darlington, Northallerton, Bedale, Richmond, Colburn, Stokesley, Catterick and Bainbridge. With a team of 38 staff and 50 volunteers, the charity provides a range of services for people with mental health problems.

Here Comes the Summer – Take Yourself to the Bridge Centre for Visual Arts

The Vintage Summer Fair on Saturday 13 July sounds like a great reason to visit .  I’ve  been to a few Bridge Centre for Visual Arts summer events over the years. In my experience they provide a nice chance to relax, explore stalls of local arts and crafts, meet creative people, enjoy live music and tasty cake and/or biscuits alongside a nice cup of tea if that’s your fancy (I foresee a long beach walk to try and offset my intake of refreshments on Sunday 14 July 2019).  I hope some of the images below I took at one of The Bridge Centre for Visual Arts previous summer events give a flavour of what may be in store.