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Bishop Line community comes together to celebrate connection through music and art

Pupils from Byerley Park Primary School viewing their co-created artwork on display at Locomotion Museum.

Over 100 people from the Bishop Line community joined together at an event in Shildon last week to celebrate the importance of connection.

On Wednesday 22 June, participants young and old came together at Locomotion in Shildon to share their experience of participating in the Our Line Connections project. The project involved artists and groups working with people who live along the route of the Bishop Line to co-create a collection of original songs and art.

Over the past four months, visual artist Michelle Tripp, songwriter Em Whitfield Brooks and digital artist Humira Imtiaz have been visiting schools and community groups across Darlington, Newton Aycliffe and Bishop Auckland to explore what connection means to people, and using these insights to develop a collection of art and music that celebrates these shared connections. At the celebration event on the 22nd, the children and community groups performed the songs they had written, and the artwork created throughout the project was displayed around the museum.

Pupils from Victoria Lane Academy, St Andrew’s Primary School and Byerley Park Primary School singing their co-created songs.

Our Line Connections builds on an earlier project called Our Line, an audio play broadcast online during the pandemic in 2020. Set on a train from Darlington to Bishop Auckland, the play has been written to last the same amount of time as the train journey (just over 30 minutes) and features a range of real and imagined stories. The original play, songs and artwork can be accessed here.

The Our Line and Our Line Connections projects were led by arts organisation Luxi in collaboration with the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership (CRP) and Northern, supported by Arts Council England, Cross Country Trains, County Durham Community Foundation, Durham County Council, Greenfield Arts, Locomotion and the National Lottery Jubilee Community Fund.

Caroline Pearce, Creative Director of Luxi, said: “Our Line was borne from a joint fascination about the interplay between theatre and trains, between experiencing something entertaining whilst moving, and how the topic and the experience affect one another. The ‘theatre on train’ we created was a real moment of achievement for us at Luxi and for the team at Bishop Line CRP and Northern. And, it led to profound and beautiful conversations and connections with audience, participants and communities.

“The opportunity to create a project around that experience became really compelling. Working with what is now a large team of specialists, Our Line Connections has become a programme of activity that we hope will just keep getting better and enabling more and more people to understand how to get involved, and the value of doing so.”

Felicity Machnicki, Officer for the Bishop Line CRP, said: “We felt in our bones that this project could help rebuild connections, strengthen people’s confidence in themselves and give people the drive to travel again.

“Having sat in some of the sessions, watching students come together who haven’t mixed with other age groups for months, listening to isolated adults talking in close contact with others while they learn about neurographic art, I see that Our Line Connections is the success we aimed it to be. But, more so, it is the start of even more connections, and that is a success in itself.”  

The project artwork will be on exhibition at Locomotion until 11 July, and you can keep up to date with future projects and events from the Bishop Line CRP here.

The Our Line Connections celebration event team from L-R: Sarah Wilson, Tim Crawshaw, Katy Banner, Helen McBride-Croft, Caroline Pearce, Em Whitfield Brooks, Marie Addison, Felicity Machnicki, Kate Benson, Humira Imtiaz and Michelle Tripp.