Postcards and singing to link ‘non digital’ South Tynesiders

TWO innovative new arts projects aim to connect South Tynesiders who don’t have access to the internet.

One of the two commissions from award-winning The Cultural Spring is called Wish You Were Here and will involve residents being sent a blank postcard and instructions. Over a 12-week period, participants will be asked to complete a weekly creative activity with the postcard and then post it on, creating a chain of postcards being sent across South Tyneside.

Artist Beth J. Ross, who is delivering the project, explained: “The instructions sent will be things like ‘write out your favourite recipe’, or ‘describe your favourite childhood memory.’ Participants can draw, paint, write, collage, print, sew or anything they can think of to make their card.

“At the end of the project, people will have 11 postcards created by other people and one of their own, which they can keep and display, or send them to family and friends. Only people’s initials will appear on the cards, so they will be anonymous.”

Each postcard produced will be photographed and possibly used in a printed publication. Materials required to take part will hopefully be items that people already have around the house. However, participants can also request a pack of free materials which will be sent out to people at the start of the Wish You Were Here project.

The second project is being led by singer Austin Gunn and composer Tim Burke, and will combine the work of a singing group and a letter-writing group.

Up to ten participants in the letter-writing group will be asked to write a weekly letter on a given subject over a six-week period. Subjects could be ‘Write about what Home means to you’ or ‘What would you like the place you live to be like in 50 years’ time?’ The letter writers will then be invited to read selected passages from their letters over the phone, which will be recorded.

These letters will then be used by Tim to create songs which will be learnt and performed at six weekly singing workshops led by Austin. These 30-minute sessions will be held as a traditional teleconference, accessible from landlines or mobiles.

Austin explained: “ The workshops will begin with fun warm-ups and vocal exercises pitched at beginner level. Over the six weeks the participants will workshop and learn new musical settings of the texts generated by our letter writers.

“Our singers will be posted some printed materials to act as a visual concentration point while taking part over the phone – no music-reading ability will be necessary. We’ll record the songs they’ve learned over the teleconferencing system in the final session.”

This second project is also open to residents from across South Tyneside.

Cultural Spring Director Emma Horsman said: “While we have been continuing with our range of artistic workshops online, we were very conscious that many people in South Tyneside do not have access to the internet. We didn’t think it was fair that these people were missing out on the opportunity to take part, so we have commissioned local artists, singers and composers to deliver workshops which don’t need an internet connection.

“I’d like to thank The Word in South Tyneside and Arts Council England for funding both projects.”

Tania Robinson, Head of Culture at South Tyneside Council, said: “Obviously, all of activity at The Word at present is online, but it’s important that those who love to engage in activities around the written word don’t miss out because they aren’t able to get online. The beauty of these two great projects is that everyone can take part – they sound really interesting and fun too.”

There is no previous arts experience or level of skill required to join in with either of these opportunities. If you’re interested, please contact Emma on 07469 030 256* or via email at info@theculturalspring.org.uk by Friday 19, February 2021.

*available 10am-5pm Monday – Thursday. If calling outside of these times, please leave a message.

Both projects have been funded by The Word and South Tyneside Council and are open to South Tyneside residents only. The projects are taking into consideration Covid-secure measures.