• Tue. May 21st, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

aaSC Crocodile team1TOP TEAM … (left to right) Tommy Anderson from Baseline Shift, Dr Jude Murphy, Laura Brewis from We Make Culture, Dr Caroline Mitchell, Professor of Radio and Participation at University of Sunderland and Matt Blyth from Arts Centre Washington.

STORIES of concrete crocodiles and underpasses will help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Washington becoming a new town.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded Sunderland Culture £72,600 for Washington Heritage Partnership’s project The Ballad of the Crocodile and the Underpass to celebrate six decades since Washington’s foundation as a new town.

Washington Heritage Partnership brings together nine partners to champion heritage and culture in Washington. Partners include Sunderland Culture, Sunderland City Council, Community Opportunities, NE-BIC, National Trust Washington Old Hall, NE Land Sea and Air Museums, Bowes Railway, Heritage Sunderland Partnership, and Social Enterprise Acumen. Funding for the partnership comes from Sunderland City Council via Washington Area Committee.

Dr Jude Murphy, the partnership co-ordinator, said: “The project will empower local people to share, record, archive and celebrate a time of pivotal change in their communities. We will record people’s collective experiences of life in Washington New Town via oral histories, music and visuals.

“We will recruit volunteers and participants via six story sharing roadshows in community settings such as clubs, pubs, community centres, schools and shopping centres. Roadshows will be facilitated by partners and creative strand leads with presentations by local historians. Participants will be invited to share and discuss stories, photographs, documents and artefacts. Dates for the story sharing roadshows have been confirmed as: April 10 (10am – noon) at Arts Centre Washington and 2pm-4pm at The Galleries Shopping Centre, central area; May 21 (10am – 12noon; 2pm-4pm) at North Biddick Social Club; May 22 (10am – 12noon) at Washington MIND. Further dates and venues will be confirmed on Washington Heritage Partnership’s Facebook page.

The Ballad of the Crocodile and the Underpass will incorporate three projects:

  • Podcasting – Starting in April, a fortnightly community podcasting group will make the oral histories accessible. Facilitated by the podcasting lead, University of Sunderland, the group will co-create ten 15-minute podcasts, telling stories where people hear their voices reflected back. These shorter podcasts will be edited into two omnibus “radio ballads” – one showcased at the Washington 60 celebration in July, and a second released at the end of the project.
  • Songwriting – Each podcast will incorporate sounds and songs responding to the collected oral histories, co-ordinated by We Make Culture CIC. Some of the songs will be written by professional songwriters, and others developed through community sessions with an existing young people’s group at Arts Centre Washington.
  • Photomontage – Graphic design company Baseline Shift will facilitate storytelling photomontage workshops between April and June, when participants will be encouraged to bring in photographs. These photos will be supplemented by existing collections in libraries and history groups. “Photo-walks” and location shots will document the present-day local area. The workshops will lead to a large-scale banner unveiled at the official Washington 60 celebrations over the weekend of July 20/21 and a touring exhibition of local venues.

Helen Featherstone, Director, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We are delighted to award this grant to Sunderland Culture for an exciting project that will celebrate Washington’s rich heritage.

“Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this work will strengthen the community by helping local people to explore and better understand their history, while helping others to discover their own. The north is home to fascinating heritage, and we know it is a great way of bringing people together and furthering a sense of pride of place.”

The crocodiles in the project refer to the sculptures which were dotted around the new town including in Fatfield, Barmston and the pond in Princess Anne, and the ‘underpass’ to the many subways created when Washington’s road network was built.

Jude said: “I’m so excited to be working on this project which will record people’s collective experiences of Washington New Town. We’ll be working closely with the partnership and delivery partners such as Baseline Shift, University of Sunderland and We Make Culture CIC.

“Our aim with the podcast’s two radio ballads is to echo the original BBC Radio Ballads which were groundbreaking documentaries produced by Charles Parker and featuring Ewan MacColl in the Peggy Seeger on the BBC Home Service from 1958-64. The ballads wove the voices of rarely-heard communities with songs written about the recorded experiences of the interviewees.

“One of the ballads, The Big Hewer, about coalmining communities, featured Harraton pitman Jack Elliott.

“There will be a lot going on in the months ahead and we’ll be releasing the dates and community venues for the events once we’ve confirmed them. We’ll also be working toward a publication about the project which will feature stories and photographs collected, and will hopefully be out in December. We’re grateful to National Lottery players who have made this great project possible.”

Washington was created a New Town on July 24, 1964, one of several developments planned with visions of replacing smaller settlements built around older housing and industries with a new urban identity, homes, jobs, and community cohesion. The area, which was formerly part of County Durham, had a population of about 20,000 when the new town was formed and was previously dominated by coal mining, chemicals and iron goods manufacturing. Sunderland City Council is leading celebrations of the town’s 60th anniversary, which have included a design competition with TV architect, Washington-born George Clarke.

For more on Washington Heritage Partnership, go to https://www.facebook.com/washingtonheritagepartnership/