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Songs, poems and films kick off countdown to railway bicentenary

New songs, poems, and films by artists from the North East have been launched to mark the two-year countdown to the bicentenary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The performance, titled ‘Storylines Live’, took place on Wednesday 27 September at The Forum Music Centre in Darlington, featuring brand new material from Storylines, an artist-in-residence programme on board Northern train services between Bishop Auckland and Saltburn, along parts of the original Stockton and Darlington Railway.

The creative pieces celebrate stories of passenger travel, featuring new songs by singer-songwriter Sam Slatcher and poems written and performed by Harry Gallagher, Rowan McCabe, and Tees Women Poets Lizzie Lovejoy and Carmen Marcus.

Some of the stories gathered were also turned into short films, produced by Lonely Tower Film and Media. The films feature stories of regular passengers, as well as the famous Rhyming Conductor, and local human rights campaigner Shams Abdou Moussa, a refugee from Niger. Watch the short films here.

Photo credit: Dave Charnley and Rob Irish.

Storylines was commissioned by North East social enterprise Citizen Songwriters in partnership with the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership (CRP), supported with funding from Northern and Community Rail Network. The live performance event was hosted by not-for-profit music development organisation Tracks.

Sam Slatcher, singer-songwriter and Storylines curator, said: “What’s unique about the Stockton and Darlington Railway is it began a revolution of passenger travel – from timetables to tickets, to moving people and ideas around, to literally changing the way the world runs. It’s incredible to think that the whole concept of being a ‘rail passenger’ was first imagined here in the North East.

“These new pieces of work help people celebrate what it means to be a passenger and how our lives are changed by it.”

Caroline Pearce, Chair of Bishop Line CRP, said: “We’re so pleased to be working with all the creative partners on the Storylines project to help bring the 2025 celebration to the forefront of people’s minds and involve local people in preparing for this momentous celebration.”

Wednesday 27 September also saw the first look at the 2025 bicentenary festival named S&DR200, a nine-month festival that will include rail journeys, exhibitions, and art projects. Storylines artists will also be performing their new work across the North East over the next few years in the build up to the bicentenary.

Keep up to date with future news, projects, and events from Bishop Line CRP via their website.

Photo credit: Dave Charnley and Rob Irish.