Hark! The Sound Of Christmas is streaming online on Sunday 20 December, beginning 7pm

HARK! is traditionally a celebration of music inspired by literature – and Tracks think no holiday embodies that concept like Christmas. HARK! The Sound of Christmas is hosted by Fran Harvey, and features beautiful live music performed by a variety of regional and national artists, readings from ​A Christmas Carol ​ and festive poems, and specially commissioned work from regional artists. This programme has been backed by Darlington Borough Council and Creative Darlington.

The streaming event is accompanied by a ‘gig in a box’ featuring a programme with original linocut artwork from Darlington artist The Littlest Falcon and lyrics so audience members can sing along, as well as a mince pie or piece of Christmas cake, and a few other goodies. The Gig in a Box is free to all, subject to availability. Tracks will create and deliver these boxes to audience members, as well as have some stock available for collection from the library. They are also reaching out to organisations such as Food For Thought to distribute some of the boxes to the elderly, socially isolated and people on lower incomes.

Hark! The Sound of Christmas will include performances from…

The Bookshop Band​ is internationally renowned folk duo Ben Please and Beth Porter. Based out of Mr B’s Bookshop in Bath, the Bookshop Band writes and performs enchanting music inspired by books by hundreds of authors from Shakespeare to Philip Pullman. They have released 13 studio albums featuring many of the authors they have worked with, and are usually found performing in bookshops. For HARK! they will be performing a specially selected set of songs based on festive and wintery tales, as well as a couple of Christmas classics.

The Bookshop Band

Benjamin Amos​, of North Eastern super-band Nel Unlit, graces us with tunes from his latest solo album, Christmas folk feast ​Joy. Ben performs three beautifully arranged Christmas songs, filmed in some very special locations.

Songstress ​Oui Bee​ returns exclusively for HARK!. After a hiatus, local singer-songwriter Oui Bee is bringing her hauntingly beautiful vocals back to celebrate Christmas.

The evening also includes specially commissioned work from local writer performance artist Lisette Auton, animation from artist Andrew McAdam, as well as readings of festive poems and ​A Christmas Carol.

Sarah Wilson of Tracks Darlington says: ‘It’s great to have been given this opportunity to create something really magical and original for this special time of year, especially with 2020 having been such a tricky time for people. It’s great to have the opportunity to work with local artists to create something for everyone to enjoy.’

Hark! The Sound of Christmas Gig in a Box

So here’s an invitation to enjoy Hark! The Sound of Christmas beaming directly into your home via the magic of the internet, and hosted from the majestic Crown Street Library.

Tracks advise the event is suitable for ages 13+. The live stream starts at 7pm on Sunday 20 December and is free to view, with a donation link available.


Get creative to help keep the Loco in Darlo and you could win a family pass to The Head of Steam Railway Museum plus a family ticket* to see Cinderella at Darlington Hippodrome in Christmas 2021!

Due to COVID-19 restrictions The Head of Steam Railway Museum has been unable to distribute their Keep The Loco In Darlo posters far and wide for everyone to display in windows across Darlington. So you have an opportunity to get creative and design your own masterpiece to show your support for the campaign with the chance to win some super prizes.

To enter the competition simply download and colour in the template from the Head of Steam website or design your own Keep The Loco In Darlo poster and display it in your front window. Take a photo of your poster on display and post it on your social media profile tagging Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum and using the hashtag #KeepTheLocoInDarlo.

A winner will be picked in early 2021!  To download the colouring page visit www.head-of-steam.co.uk/keep-the-loco-in-darlo/activities-for-children/

To add your support to the campaign visit: www.darlington.gov.uk/keep-the-loco-in-darlo

*Family ticket comprises 4 tickets – Minimum 1 adult and 1 U16. Only available on performances between 10.12.21 – 16.12.21 

‘It’s All Happening Here!’ sharing at Cornerstone Arts CANCELLED

Following the announcement of the second lockdown coming into place on Thursday 5 November 2020 ODDMANOUT theatre company and Creative Darlington have cancelled the sharing of work from the ‘It’s All Happening Here!’ programme and an exhibition of  Darlington Wonders planned inside Cornerstone Arts.  While this decision is sadly unavoidable ODDMANOUT are taking steps to ensure the creative work from ‘It’s All Happening Here!’ will be accessible online, and over 20 Darlington Wonders are currently accessible online.

‘ODDMANOUT are disappointed that due to the new restrictions we have to cancel ‘It’s All Happening Here’ due to take place at Cornerstone Arts, Darlington on the 5th/6th/7th of November. We will be doing our best to move all of the content online to ensure the hard work of all our artistic community is not wasted.’


NARC. TV launch imminent

NARC. TV is launching Thursday 5th November at 7pm, with performances and interviews from Ceiling Demons, Girl From Winter Jargon, bigfatbig, Mt. Misery, Wax Heart Sodality, Shakk & Eyeconic, Marketplace, Plastic Glass, The Dead Seat and Faye Fantarrow’. Creative Darlington was delighted to back some filming of a number of bands and artists at The Forum Music Centre earlier this year.

Music lifts the spirits and can help you feel connected even in troubling times.  Music venues, including The Forum in Darlington, play a massive part in connecting artists with music fans and Creative Darlington was delighted to back the NARC TV programme, which we hope will help keep them in the public eye.  We offer thanks to NARC., Tees Music Alliance, all those who shared their work, the film-makers who captured it and the Northern music venues in which performances and filming took place for safely bringing a fabulous array of today’s music to the screen. 

Here’s to NARC. TV helping music fans stay connected with the output of artists and bands and sharing the ongoing practice of those in the music sector who brighten so many lives.

The Workhouse Sessions – blogs aplenty

Alan Rees from The Workshouse Sessions

The workhouse sessions is a podcast and a DJ service performing at local events, venues and festivals run by DJ Alan Rees, pictured above. It is focused on building a platform to benefit the guest DJ’s that perform on the podcast and at events they perform at, in collaboration with local venues and businesses.

They have produced 117 podcasts over the last 5 years with highlights including interviews with Roger Sanchez, K-Klass, Jeremy Healy, Bez (from the Happy Mondays) and Mark Doyle, associated with the Hed Kandi brand.

The Workhouse Sessions have performed at local festivals including the Remedy House music event in Newton Aycliffe, The Mighty Dub Fest in Alnwick and The Darlington Food and Drink festival. In Darlington they have regularly worked with Darlington Borough Council and the Darlington Markets team to provide live DJ performances at local events.

The Workshouse Sessions recently secured a small arts grant from Darlington for Culture and support from Creative Darlington to produce a series of 5 “pandemic podcasts”. Each podcast featured a guest DJ and focussed on how Covid 19 had affected them personally and from a business point of view. Here is the link to the first of these podcasts , a chance to hear more about what’s working for DJ’s.

Hark! – The Sound of Stories, another fantastic concoction

Creative Darlington was delighted to back the first Hark! The Sound of Stories event on 22 November 2019, which was held in Darlington Library, and presented a scintillating combination of live music and readings. There was a really appreciative audience and brilliant performances from artists, bands and readings from authors, a really special vibe.

Hark! The firs iteration at Darlington Library, 22 November 2020

Hark! was conceived by Tracks and in 2020 and we offered them support to develop the Hark! online programme, parts of which can be viewed here on either Facebook or Youtube. Whilst the first event was less than a year ago, so much has changed since then with the pandemic, but the creativity and can do/want to do/must do (I’m not sure which, you’d have to ask them, but glad they did) spirit of Tracks has ensured the creative wagon rolled on. Faced by the challenges of organizing activity safely this year Tracks embraced technology whilst applying their expected programming pizzazz and working through networks to bring together a brilliant bill for the Hark! The Sound Of Stories (Help The Witch) event, which offered a wonderful platform for regional and art form cross collaboration.

This year’s fantastic Hark! programme

The event was first available on the evening of Sunday 11 October 2020, and followed an online writing workshop that afternoon, which was wonderfully well received by eight participants. Artists performed in the second Hark! remotely from London, Bedford, North Wales, Devon and Darlington.

Audiences and participants were able to engage with an event born in Darlington from far afield and in significant numbers, with 835 video views and lots of positive comments of the film to date.

Thanks to Tracks and all the artists involved, it appears it takes an awful lot to derail their creative spirit. I’m looking forward to the next chapter!

Hot Contents

CCreative Darlington has allocated support to artist Matthew Pickering to progress a proposal which will consider current environmental concerns.

Hot Contents will take place in Darlington, imagining the role of new trades in a not-too-distant future where the over-production of unrecyclable waste materials has dramatically changed our landscape, reimagining Darlington’s history as a hub of crafts and trades built instead on recycled industrial materials.

Through a process of research, production, presentation and critical discussion exploring the life-cycle of the materials of industry, it asks:

  • How can we creatively imagine ways to reduce environmental pollution and learn to live better with the waste we create?
  • How do we re-examine industrial heritage narratives in environmental discussion?
  • In what ways can we feed in a circular economy approach to our lives?
  • What practices do we need to learn, and what do we need to unlearn?

While it touches on the many interconnected issues that are feeding climate change, Hot Contents look at pollution as a wider metaphor for living with the environmental crisis we have created for ourselves.

A trace – physically and emotionally – of what will be left for the future.


Theatre Hullabaloo, the children’s arts charity based in The Hullabaloo on Borough Road, Darlington have created baby play packs for families and babies in Darlington and in other parts of Tees Valley to play together.

The free Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs aimed at babies 12 months and under have been created with support from Darlington Borough Council, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, Middlesbrough Council and Public Health South Tees. Creative Darlington budget will enable many families in Darlington to get a pack in the near future if they haven’t already.

Miranda Thain, CEO at Theatre Hullabaloo says “We have really missed meeting the new babies who would usually be visiting us to play at The Hullabaloo. The COVID-19 restrictions mean that it’s been really challenging for those parents and carers unable to attend baby groups and classes. We hope that these Hullabaloo Baby Play Packs will allow parents and carers of new babies to enjoy some creative play time together at home”

“Play really is the work of babies as they are busy learning about the world, developing new skills every day. We hope these packs will mean that parents and carers will feel more confident about the how and why of play and we look forward to welcoming these lockdown babies to play at The Hullabaloo when it’s safe to do so again”

Packs include a mixture of creative toys and props and a Playbook packed with ideas for how to play creatively with your baby. They are accompanied by a series of short videos filmed by some of the artists who work regularly with Theatre Hullabaloo. Each film gives a short creative idea for how to use the items in the packs at home.

Elizabeth Archer, Service Manager, 0-19 Growing Healthy Service, Darlington says “We are delighted to be working with Theatre Hullabaloo and Creative Darlington to bring this creative offer to families with newborn babies across the borough and we hope that everyone will enjoy the emotional and developmental benefits of playing together.”

Baby Play Packs are being distributed across Darlington by local health visitors and families do not need to order a play pack as these are being distributed automatically by health visitors at pre-arranged appointments.

Listen up for five new Workhouse Sessions beginning 2 October 2020

Creative Darlington and a business have supported Darlington for Culture’s fantastic small arts grants scheme, which offers grants of up to £500 to successful programmes delivered hereabouts. The scheme has supported a broad variety of activity to date and is currently open to new proposals.

Not so long back DJ Alan Rees – The Workhouse Sessions applied to support the costs of creating 5 new podcasts featuring guest DJs. The Workhouse Sessions are a group of local DJ’s who create a podcast to promote local DJ’s and music producers, and also DJ at local events including some of those at Darlington Market, Hash Bar and Walworth Castle.

It’s great to see their ambition shine through at a time which must be particularly challenging for many DJs. I can’t profess any particular expertise in this area (flashback to playing LPs at 78 RPM), but there appears to me to be a lot of art, skill, application, knowledge, experience (and magic) in a DJs practice.

I’m delighted Creative Darlington and Darlington for Culture are backing The Workshouse Sessions in creating 5 new podcasts and understand the DJs lined up are expected to be:

Carl Douthwaite – Mobile DJ, Darlington

Chris Ryan / Paul Stoker – Avalon, Darlington

Mike Stead – DJ / Phase One DJ Store, Darlington

Andy Lee – Remedy Festival DJ / Promoter and Producer, Newton Aycliffe

Smoove – DJ and member of NE band Smoove and Turrell

The podcasts will start on Friday 2nd October and will follow on every 2 weeks. They will be posted on Soundcloud and iTunes podcast, they will also be promoted on The Workhouse Sessions Facebook and Instagram pages.

Darlington Wonders ….

Banner produced during Trace Lines programme led by Adrian Moule

Since starting in the Creative Darlington role on a fairly frequent basis I’ve discovered more about wonderful people who’ve lived here, and been inspired by those who are living or have had some connection with this place today.  I’ve also found out more about how the built and natural environment has or hasn’t changed.

Darlington Library
Photograph of early 20th century watercolor kindly donated to the Borough Art Collection

It’s been great to work with artists, producers, companies and organisations and find out more about the place where I was born and grew up. From campaigning Quaker women, philanthropic publishers, admirable artists, selfless pilots, there are a plethora of positive people and places to laud.

#NowThen Darlo cwork up/down Post House Wynd by Paul Theo Murray

As part of a new programme, Darlington Wonders …. Creative Darlington has recently asked a selection of artists living here to create new work, inspired by things, people or locations in Darlington past or present that they think are wonderful. We’ll be working with Lighting Cameraman, Jason Berge to share their work online in the coming months so watch this space if you’re interested in seeing what they create.

Jason’s lived in Darlington for around a decade having moved from Australia, and has played a part in some fantastic film projects while working with Darlington Media Group, including this poetry patchwork quilt of films incorporating Tell Her Story poetry created by Vane Women.

We’ll also be making a public call out asking you to get involved and share what/who/where you’ve found wondrous/wonder in this place and looking to share what comes back through an exhibition in the coming months or online, wherever works best in the current climate. People who agree to get involved will be entered into a competition (one entry to be drawn from a hat and offered a reward in Darlington).

  • Lisette Auton – Writer, Performer and Creative Practitioner
  • Jason Berge – Lighting Cameraman
  • Syd Collumbine, Musician, who will be working with a Roger Wicks Songwriter (who I understand played in midfield for Darlington Football Club for a time back in the day, so I may have seen him with my dearly departed dad, let’s hope ‘their song for Darlo’ is a winner)
  • Mike Jarvie – Writer, who I understand may be celebrating a particular building
  • Rosi Thorton – textiles artist, who I understand may be celebrating a particular outdoor area in Town

We look forward to seeing their and your Darlington Wonders …. in the near future and hope you’ll answer the call out to ‘celebrate good things (here), come on’.