Unsung Heroes: a celebration of local people who have made a difference in their communities

In 2020, Queen’s Hall Arts commissioned international multimedia artists Davy & Kristin McGuire and North East musician Bridie Jackson to create Unsung Heroes – a celebration of people who have made a difference, co-created with the local community.

Bridie Jackson worked with local communities to collect stories about the everyday people who had inspired them and made a difference, and wrote songs celebrating the nominated heroes. A line-up of local musicians then recorded their own bespoke arrangement of each song, including Kate Gessey, Carol and Gary Bowden, Aukestra with Lesley Roley, Leon Fussell and Ian Brown. 

Now, a special event on Thursday 21 July with live performances of the songs will launch the Unsung Heroes augmented reality artwork created by artists Kristin and Davy McGuire. Tickets are Pay What You Decide – audiences can book a free ticket in advance and then choose how much to pay on the night after seeing the show.

Bridie Jackson is a musician based in North East England, well known in the region and beyond for her work as a songwriter and performer. As a songwriter, Bridie’s expertise is in socially engaged projects, and she enjoys working collaboratively on community focused projects, having written for a range of organisations including Streetwise Opera, Curious Monkey Theatre Company, Sage Gateshead and Summer Streets Festival. 

Bridie said, “Unsung Heroes honours those who perhaps have not always had the recognition they deserve in our society. Folk songs have always been a fantastic medium for revealing untold stories and sharing different lived experiences in a way that’s relatable. I feel very honoured to have been trusted with this project, telling other people’s stories through songs, and I can’t wait to share them with a live audience at the Queen’s Hall.” 

The songs celebrate a range of people including Northumberland musician Kathryn Davidson, who was nominated by members of Tynedale Community Choir. Local volunteers and community workers including Russ Greig, Joyce Watts, Stephen Hope, Rosie Robson, Rosie Gilchrist, Jean Day and Nancy Potts. The shop workers of Stocksfield, who were nominated by many residents of the village. LGBT+ activist and author Casper Baldwin, who was nominated for this project by Darren Irvine-Duffy, the chair of Northumberland Pride. And Vita Collins, coordinator of the Cumbrian branch of the crafting charity, LINUS. Vita was nominated by LINUS volunteer, Jenny Terrey. 

Davy & Kristin McGuire’s work combines mesmerising theatricality with technical wizardry and exquisite craftsmanship.  Renowned for their digital projection and storytelling, combining physical installations and virtual experiences, they have been commissioned by organisations such as The Royal Shakespeare Company, Hull UK City of Culture and Museums at Night. The couple’s work includes the world‘s first projection mapped pop-up book The Icebook, and their critically acclaimed theatrical projects have been invited to tour to more than 60 different countries. For Unsung Heroes, the McGuires have combined augmented reality technology with original music composition to create interactive artwork which will be available to collect as postcards at the event.

Unsung Heroes is part of Here and Now, a national and local celebration of culture within communities. 40 projects in and around 40 arts centres across the country, led by artists and co-created with local people. The project is supported by Arts Council England and Future Arts Centres, marking The National Lottery’s 25th birthday.

Tickets for the launch event on 21 July are Pay What You Decide – book a free ticket in advance at www.queenshall.co.uk/events/unsung-heroes-0 and then choose how much you want to pay after  seeing the show.

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