An award-winning author singing Elvis, bellydancers and a BBC radio presenter belting out Frank Sinatra were all part of a spectacular ending to Mr Drayton’s Human Jukebox, a commission from the Cultural Spring, had its grand finale at a packed Hylton Castle Workingmen’s Club.

The project had been working in Sunderland and South Tyneside for the past six months, capturing people’s most memorable songs – and the stories behind their choices. It was the brainchild of freelance director for the BBC Helen Spencer and her partner BBC Producer Steve Drayton, and more than 300 people were interviewed across the Cultural Spring’s ten wards.

Among those who revealed their choices was Sunderland-born Horrible Histories author Terry Deary, who revealed to the audience his most memorable song was Elvis’s I Can’t Help Falling In Love – and then sang it live. BBC Newcastle’s Alfie Joey chose Frank Sinatra’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin, and then performed the song, complete with backing dancers from the Kathleen Davis Dance School. Bellydancer Kay Taylor also performed her most memorable song, alongside six dancers from her Kay Taylor Farida Dance class.

The grand finale began with host Steve Drayton outlining the project. He then introduced Harry McCall, who along with other members of Hylton Ukes played Donovan’s Catch the Wind. Others revealing their choices included Lauren McLeish, from South Shields, who lost both of her parents when young. Lauren chose The Script’s If You Could See Me Now, and paid tribute to her grandmother, who has raised her. Sharron McQullen chose Hooberstank’s The Reason and told a moving story of how the song hadhelped her overcome personal problems.

Rebecca Ball, Project Director of the Cultural Spring, said: “It was a special night and the perfect way to bring to an end a wonderful project that so many people took part in. The performances on the night were all great – some were very moving and poignant, others really funny.

“Several of our storytellers had never been on stage or spoken in front of an audience before, and they did particularly well.

“The workingmen’s club was packed to the seams and there was a lovely supportive atmosphere.

“I’d like to thank Steve and Helen for all of their hard work on the project, I know it will live long in the memories of those who took part and of those who were there for the grand finale.”

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