A spectacular performance in the heart of Durham brought together 29 primary and secondary schools from across the region to celebrate local, everyday heroes.

In a monumental moment at Durham Cathedral, the Footsteps into Paradise performance, organised by one of the region’s largest education trusts, highlighted the power of unity, hope and aspiration following a time of great challenges in education. The schools involved are from across Durham, South Tyneside and Sunderland, with pupils aged between eight and 18.

The performances were part of a long-term curriculum project that unites schools and their 10,000 pupils within Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust along with local communities through highly creative and visual arts. The aim of the Journeys of Hope project is to demonstrate how young people can adapt to any situations they may face and continue to feel inspired and engaged with learning.

Through music, dance and visual arts, Footsteps into Paradise took place on 12 and 13 July and celebrated heroes from across the North East, highlighting the reality of conflict and how it’s changed the world and local communities. Inspired by the story of Jarrow boy, the performances also conveyed the prejudice people suffer and recognised why tolerance, kindness and acceptance is vital in any well-rounded society. The performance also looked at current events, putting a spotlight on the challenges everyone faced during the pandemic and the great issues of loneliness, anxiety and lack of self-confidence being isolated created.

Brendan Tapping, CEO at Bishop Chadwick Catholic Trust, said: “The pandemic showed us all how, more than ever, schools provide a vital link in uniting local communities, especially during difficult times.

“We started the Journeys of Hope project at the very beginning of the pandemic as we wanted pupils to understand how working together and reacting to challenging situations as positively as possible can develop great personal qualities such as resilience, spirit and aspiration.

“The performances were absolutely fantastic and a credit not only to the pupils who represented their school but to the teachers and support staff who have continued to nurture and develop children despite the odds being stacked against them for a long period of time.

“Our Trust is focused on building better schools, better communities and better futures in Christ. The performances truly encapsulated this by inspiring togetherness, hope and learning. This was a huge milestone in the journey we’re all on – thank you to our wonderful pupils, staff and, of course, to Mike, for making it happen.”

Local performer Mike Mcgrother was the Creative Director of Journeys of Hope, he has been involved with schools and young people for many years. Working with teachers in the Trust’s schools, Mike helps to deliver a range of creative and musically inspired projects that are seamlessly included into each school’s wider curriculum plan and writes bespoke songs for the performances.

Poppy, aged 11 from Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Primary School in Peterlee, said: “Our performance is really good, I have never done anything like this before. I love singing so it’s a fantastic opportunity. I don’t think I will get the chance to do anything like this again. Being with the other schools from Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust is great, we get the chance to make friends and find out what we have in common.”