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Music at the heart of Teesdale

Apr 27, 2016

Project: Music at the Heart of Teesdale (M@HoT)   Company: Blaize Community Arts


Stemming from a long-term interest in folk music, song and dance, research uncovered a body of material in my local area. At the same time a funding opportunity arose for projects exploring the cultural landscape of the locality. We saw on opportunity to create a youth folk ensemble, which became Cream Tees. Mike Bettison, the artistic director of Blaize, would lead on the research, Rosie Cross on the administration and Neil Diment as the project co-ordinator.

With Blaize leading on the project, the infrastructure was in place to receive the funding.


The environment was paramount. We had been told that there was very little local folk culture. There were a number of stunning moments during the research. Finding the recordings in the Library of Congress, the connection with Theatre Workshop, Joan Littlewood and Ewan MacColl, and the moment when Floyd Anderson told me that ‘my grandfather Mark Anderson sang the original Scarborough Fair.’

For the group, the premiere performance of ‘Rooted’ was remarkable with an underbill of folk performers young and old, including Martin Carthy singing Scarborough Fair.


The initial starting point was the realisation of the existence of a local folk culture, the funding opportunity and I should also add the support of Teesdale School (the local secondary school) head of music. We then wanted a young (well, younger than us ) tutor who the students would relate to. So we contacted Folkworks, the folk music development agency based at the Sage in Gateshead, who suggested tutors.  This in turn led to a relationship with the Newcastle University Folk & traditional music department who support two final year undergraduates each year to work with the group.


The initial funding was for three years commencing March 2012 from the Heart of Teesdale Landscape Partnership, in turn funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was always the intention to continue the project beyond March 2015. A funding strategy is now in place and we hope that the project will continue into the future. We have not set an end date.


The initial group were all from Teesdale school, but this has now expanded to include a few primary school students and some from other schools or home-taught students. Our policy has been that any young person ( and we have no strict definition for that) who wants to be involved, can be involved, regardless of their musical proficiency.


The leading art form is music – acoustic and mainly learned and played by ear. Song has been introduced in the last year. Longsword dancing began towards the end of the first year after research found that it had been extant in the mid nineteenth century.


Some students have gone on to attend summer schools and are now playing at an advanced level. We have included concert and festival visits. This year Cream Tees have been invited to play at Sidmouth Festival in August.


The initial funding was £25,000 for three years. An extension grant of £12,000 was awarded for a further 15 months to March 2016. A project award of £6720 takes us through to September 2016. A partnership with Jack Drum Arts who are delivering a Youth Music Action project in County Durham, is paying for some tutor time. The core team remains the same. The project does rely on a large amount of volunteer time.




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