A curated selection of FREE cultural & community activities / tasks for you to do whilst Alphabetti is closed, that we have enjoyed.
Click on the titles to be taken to where we discovered them.
WEEK 21: 14.10.2020
Nick Loaring takes us through the creation of some of his printing work on the theme of light at the Lumen workshop. We loved seeing the physical process of creating these prints, and all the different elements and different skills required for it to all come together. If you’re a fan of typesetting, you’ll also enjoy this!
Produced for Durham Book Festival, this podcast series from New Writing North explores the work created for New Narratives for the North East, speaking to the writers about their inspiration and regional identity. Each of the four episodes features extracts from the work along with interviews and sounds of the North East, to discuss what makes this part of the country unique, and how it might look in the future. Listen to 4 artists’ explorations of edges, centres, pasts and futures, all creating rich pictures of a life in the North East.
Running time: Approx. 30 mins
Multiverse Lab, from Unfolding Theatre, is designed to get residents of the North East directly involved in shaping the future of local health research. An online, interactive experience, the first thing I noticed was that you can choose your own guide through the process depending on your preference or accessibility needs. You are then encouraged to record (or type) a message onto the platform to contribute your voice to a local collection that will be shared with researchers and decision-makers. It’s fun, easy to use, and allows you to have your voice heard, which we love.
History Isn’t Woke, It’s the Best Defence We Have Against Tyranny and Hate - Hardeep Matharu
After the release of Sam Mendes’ hit World War One film 1917, actor Laurence Fox criticised the director for the inclusion of a Sikh soldier. He described the inclusion as ‘incongruous with the story’ and that there was ‘something institutionally racist about forcing diversity on people in that way.’ As well as being very offensive in his comments, he also demonstrates an ignorance that Hardeep Matharu highlights is present in our country’s school curriculum and consciousness. Her account of Indian service in both world wars, India’s treatment by Britain as part of the Empire, and a lack of education surrounding all of this contributing to the myth of ‘greatness’ surrounding Brexit Britain is a powerful and important read.
Next Wednesday, producer Tobi Kyeremateng and her guests will engage in a free-to-access panel event for Black History Month, discussing their favourite pieces of art, activism and culture that pioneered our world today. Tobi will be joined by Jess Brough – writer, psycholinguistics PhD student, and founder of Fringe of Colour; Jason Selina Thompson – artist and writer whose work is of international acclaim; and Jason Okundaye – journalist and writer for The Guardian, Vice, Dazed and many more. We can’t wait to tune in for this panel!
When: 21st October 6-8pm
@tobikyere @Jessica_Brough @jasebyjason
Like so much of what we know and love this year, Berwick Literary Festival 2020 has taken up residence online. While you can’t wander round the lovely streets on the coast, you will be able to curl up with a cuppa and access loads of free events! There’ll be writing workshops, poetry, book launches, talks and loads more to tickle your fancy, so go and scout out the brilliant programme and book yourself in.
When: 15th-18th October
WEEK 20: 07.10.2020
‘25% of people in the North East are disabled, why do we not take up that cultural space’? From award-winning disabled activist, writer, and performer Lisette Auton comes a new film commissioned for Durham Book Festival, showing the power and beauty of disability arts. BSL interpreted, captioned, audio described, and with new commissions from artists Bex Bowsher, Sarah Crutwell and Vici Wreford-Sinnott, Lisette invites us all to experience the wonder and freedom that access provides.
When: Saturday 10th Oct @ 5pm
Running time: 45 mins
@durhambookfest @lisette_auton @Bexyna @viciws
This audio drama from Oliver Emanuel sees a writer walk into a shop on an ordinary day and see his mother. All pretty standard, right? Except for the fact that his mother’s been dead for 15 years. This surreal story catches you off guard when you don’t expect it, at turns moving and playful; grab a cuppa, curl up on the sofa and take 45 minutes to explore the bond between mother and son. We love this as an audio drama because it compels your imagination to add to the surreal nature of the story, and think about our own family relationships.
Running time: 45 mins
Alphabetti associate artist and pal Katy Weir is running two free and fabulous workshops over the next week, one for creative writing (led by ODDMANOUT’s Scott Young) and one for stop motion! If you’re on the hunt for a new hobby or want to keep up a current one, register with this lovely bunch for online creation.
This week’s article from Lyn Gardner gets right to the heart of how a lot of us who work in/value community theatres have been feeling. Here at Alphabetti we’re very proud of the work we produce, but we’re equally committed to our work and position within the community we serve, and we know countless people who’d say the same. Our theatres and our communities need each other, beyond what’s happening on the stage. Thanks to Lyn for a rallying cry for our sector.
Brummana High School sits in the hills above Beirut in Lebanon, has about 1,250 local students and is considered one of the best schools in the Middle East. Following the port explosion in Beirut on August 4th, Lebanon is in crisis with hundreds of thousands of people having lost their homes, income and savings. With little state education provision in Lebanon, 50% of BHS students now need financial help to stay at school. The fundraiser Sarah Barrett is cycling 500 miles to raise £500 for the school, and any donation you’re able to make will make a difference.
In celebration of Black History Month, Stellar Quines Theatre Company have open submissions for their current ‘Letters To…’ project, and are inviting ‘people who identify as Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, People of Colour, biracial, have mixed heritage’ to write these letters. Write a letter between 1 and 500 words to a woman who inspires you, past or present, and the chosen letter will be read aloud and filmed by a professional actor and shared online. It can be a rant, a love letter, poetic or something more simple, whatever you like.
Deadline: Monday 12th October @ 12pm
WEEK 19: 30.09.2020
We’re big fans of our pal Lauren Pattison at Alphabetti, and we know loads of you are too, so we were super excited to hear that she was part of the BBC Stand Up for Live Comedy! If you want to find her set easily, it starts about 13:30, and not only is she fab, she’s defending Geordie honour – congrats Lauren!
We’ve been feeling the loss of the arts industry this year, and sometimes we need reminding what we’re part of. This time last year, The Observer interviewed six Artistic Directors of UK theatres, and they’ve caught up with them again to get their perspective of the last 12 months. Yes, it’s a struggle, but they also remind us of the light through the shadow, and share the art that’s been keeping them positive through Covid-19. You might find something new to enjoy!
TUSK Virtual, the free online version of TUSK Festival, is running until October 11th with some amazing artists to catch on their live stream. Tonight’s line-up includes music from Mexico, Newcastle and Chicago, films from Ireland, talks and much more. There’s even a chat stream you can join if you play nice. Have a look at the online programme and enjoy!
Apples and Snakes have been running their brilliant @ Home series since April, hour-long feasts of spoken word poetry and conversation featuring different artists every episode. Bringing together leading spoken word poets from across the UK, this episode features Dylan Thomas prize-winner Kayo Chingonyi, Forward Prize shortlisted poet Rachel Long, poet, rapper and theatre maker SAF-S2E, and is hosted and co-curated by Bristol City poet Vanessa Kisuule. These episodes are a great way to experience spoken word poetry from home and digitally connect with each other.
Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, has long been a wonderful family and exhibition space in Newcastle. They are starting to reopen to the public now, but to make their work more accessible, they’ve digitised some of their exhibitions so that you can access them from home! Their wonderful Angelina Ballerina, Judith Kerr and Enid Blyton exhibitions are available to enjoy and explore with your family.
Alongside the physical struggles of Covid-19, many of us are undoubtedly going through mental health struggles. We hope you’re finding ways to cope, and let us offer you a lovely one: Opera Helps. Whatever your struggle is; relationship, work, family, the future, you can apply to receive an Opera Helps session for yourself or someone else. One of their singers will video chat with you to listen to your problem, and choose an aria to sing to you that they think will help, as well as offer you a collection of other pieces to listen to in your own time. It’s an opportunity to let yourself be soothed with music and compassion, we hope it helps.
WEEK 18: 23.09.2020
Curated and hosted by Paula Varjack, this series of conversations beginning today and running until December invites practitioners who push for social change through their practices and make things happen for themselves to share advice, experience and ideas. The series features Conrad Murray, Travis Alabanza, Pauline Mayers, Demi Nandhra, Liv Wynter, and Debris Stevenson, and asks how those who face marginalisation for their race, class, gender, sexuality, age, disability or an intersection of these can “use our experiences to empower the next generation of agitators”. We’re always excited to see what Paula’s working on, and we can’t wait to catch these conversations.
Co-created by Northern Stage Young Company’s ‘The Team’, the words in these eight short audio experiences were inspired by or spoken by the people of the Byker Wall estate. The company collaborated with Byker communities to reflect the words they spoke, and to create fictions based on fact. The result is these eight pieces, all very different, backed with delicate and immersive soundscapes, which encourage you to sit and to listen.
Running time: 5-8 mins each episode
As we inch into Autumn, many of us think about ways to keep things bright as the weather changes. And if you don’t have a big garden space but still want to help wildlife, or are just looking for some weekend activities, why not make a container garden? This guide shows you how to turn old welly boots, watering cans or teapots into meadow pots and hanging baskets, or old sinks and buckets into ponds-in-a-pot. There are a bunch of different guides on the Wildlife Trust website, from building hedgehog homes and bird boxes to becoming an eco-friendly gardener, so browse around for the right guides to suit your space!
Happy Bi Visibility Day 2020! This year, Vaneet Mehta started the hashtag #BisexualMenExist which trended worldwide, both helping countless people feel connected and reflected in society, and reminding us that bisexual visibility still has far to go. Just in my own social circle there have been countless accounts of the “you’re just attention-seeking”, “you’re greedy” and “which will you choose, though” refrains thrown to bisexual friends by family, friends and strangers alike. As well as experiencing homophobia, bisexual people often experience biphobia within their own LGBTQ+ community, which likely contributes to the fact that Stonewall’s statistics reflect that 50% of bi men and 43% of bi women in Britain never attend LGBTQ+ specific venues and events. In this article Vaneet discusses the importance of bi visibility both inside and outside the LGBTQ+ community.
Martha Hill, long-time Alphabetti pal and all round good egg, has just released her new single Landslide, and BOY do we like it! There’s something new to discover with each play, vocal and instrumental lines that complement each other deliciously and a beat to catch your feet. If you want to learn more about the track, Martha has done an interview over at NARC where she talks more about the lyrics and inspiration behind the single – go forth and enjoy.
It’s time for another submission opportunity! Salt Publishing are open for submissions during the month of November for previously unpublished manuscripts of poetry, fiction (both novels and short stories) and narrative non-fiction. Their submission information states they particularly welcome submissions from women, BAME, disabled, working class and LGBTQ+ writers, and they also provide links to further resources if you are looking for editorial advice or to develop your writing further. Good luck!
Submissions Window: 1st – 30th November 2020
WEEK 17: 16.09.2020
Our lovely pals over at Cap-a-Pie are hosting a rehearsed reading and Q&A of their new play Credit, written by Laura Lindow, TONIGHT! We were looking forward to this show being performed at Alphabetti earlier this year, a plan which went awry due to the pandemic, so this is a great chance to catch a preview along with discussions with members of the team and local professionals. Credit is based on the stories and experiences of people living on Universal Credit, which in the current climate may hit closer to home than ever before, and encourage us all to think about what the welfare state should look like in our communities.
Running time: Youtube livestream beginning 7pm
The Young Musicians Project is a free weekly group for 12-21 year olds in Sunderland, where participants can play music and get song writing support with like-minded people. Over the summer, some of their members went into the Field Music studio to record music they’d worked on during the lockdown, and they’ve produced some wonderful stuff. I recommend listening to every one of them, but today we’re featuring Lottie Willis’s tune which she worked on with This Little Bird and Dave from Field Music and which has a chorus I couldn’t shake out of my head. Well done to all members of the Young Musicians Project!
@we_make_culture @lottiewillisxo @_thislittlebird @fieldmusicmusic
Until 19th September, six robots will be drawing faces of the public onto the empty stage at Northern Stage to make a mural. You can have the robots draw your picture for free, and you might end up as part of the mural! I gave this a go myself and it’s very easy to use – definitely follow the tips about lighting, and my personal tip is to put your laptop/phone down while you do this rather than holding it, or you may wobble so much that the robot thinks you have a lot of eyes. It’s a really interesting way to collate our theatre-loving community, so have a play with it and see how you go!
Theatre and work with people with learning disabilities and autism; they run four different weekly groups dedicated to theatre, dance, and health and wellbeing for 50 adults and another 60 through outreach programmes. In March, due to the pandemic, they stopped running their groups for the first time in 17 years, but it didn’t stop them connecting and engaging with their members. In this article they talk about how they adapted to working remotely over the last 6 months, and the challenges and rewards of maintaining their community online – they’re a wonderful bunch.
Running time: 7 mins/dependent on your reading speed
The Black Artists Grant is £2,000 given out monthly to Black artists in the UK, with each selected artist receiving £500. Established by Creative Debuts, the BAG provides no-strings-attached support, whether you want to put it towards making new work, buying equipment, travel, research, or even some life expenses. The grant was set up to help enable participants to ‘continue their artistic practice when the odds are so stacked against them’, with Black artists under-supported in the creative industries. The selector changes every few months and currently it is Halcyon – they will do their own research to find artists but you can also flag your own work to put yourself forward for the grant (all info on the website). Good luck!
TWAM have lots of albums of photos over on their Flickr account, from ship building to snowy winters to historic ballrooms, all of which give you a fascinating snapshot into history and of our region. The one I’ve picked out is photos of Newcastle in the 1800’s, showing what different areas of the city looked like 200 years ago – have a scroll through the albums and see what you can find.
Zsa Zsa, Raquelle, Blanche, and Cuba are in quarantine – four disabled women locked down, locked in, shut up and shouted down. Little Cog presents their latest lockdown production to be launched on 24th September, and invite you to join them in their fully accessible celebration of disabled women. The performance will consist of 4 original monologues broadcast from the performers’ homes during quarantine, preceded by an introduction and followed by a Q&A. The launch party will be BSL interpreted, captioned, audio described and relaxed, all to provide an accessible evening of exciting new writing.
When: 7:30pm 24 September, booking opens 1 September with limited availability
Age recommendation: 18+ (strong language, sexual references, disability discrimination, eating disorder, isolation)
If you’re anything like me and you love a good mystery or puzzle, you’ll be just as excited as I am to get your teeth into The Golden House. A secretive clean-tech company has spent 11 years working away from the outside world, and finally they’d like to share their work with you, but, all may not be as it seems…An interactive podcast drama written and produced by Ross Sutherland, episodes are released weekly and each contain a hidden puzzle; solving the puzzle will lead you to discover additional material elsewhere on the internet. If you listen closely enough, maybe you can solve the mystery of what lies within the Golden House.
Running time: Episodes approx. 20 mins
Ever fancied learning Hebrew, Old French, Old Norse or Aramaic? Maybe you want to understand ancient languages better or maybe you really have a passion for Sanskrit – Lexicity provides a wealth of online resources for a variety of ancient languages, so you can learn a new skill and connect a little more with the history of the world.
WEEK 16: 09.09.2020
This poem from Danez Smith was written in 2014, but sadly never loses its contemporary relevance. It applies to each tragic loss of Black life, each new wave of mourning.
‘once, a white girl/was kidnapped & that’s the Trojan war…are we not worthy/of a city of ash?’
The Mslexia Poetry Competition is back and it’s open to women of any nationality from any country, with poetry on any subject, in any style, of any length. You can submit up to 3 poems per entry, and with all winners and runners-up being published in the March 2021 issue along with various prizes, it’s time to dust off your notebook and get writing! Mslexia are also running competitions for other writing styles/formats, so do have a look at their other opportunities too.
Deadline: 7 December 2020
The Lawnmowers, if you’re unfamiliar, are a fantastic company run by and for people with learning difficulties. Their Connect LD+ festival has, like so many others, been an online one this year, and was a day full of workshops, music and videos that celebrated the artistry and resilience of the LD+ community (artists with learning difficulties and their wider community). They’ve been gems and left all the content up on their website, separated into tents so you can still join in the fun and the artistry – whether you fancy watching some of their classic clips, live stuff, fresh stuff, or lockdown-related content, the Lawnmowers are here to unite and excite!
WEEK 15: 02.09.2020
Sarah Kay is one of my favourite spoken word poets. You may have seen her previous TED Talk ‘If I Should Have a Daughter’, and this talk combined with poetry is just as lovely. It reminds us how small we are but how we can see that as wonderful and not frightening, and that ‘the world has already written the poem you were planning on writing’ – sometimes nature gets there first, and all there is to do is enjoy.
Running time: 5 mins
Toni Morrison’s novel Sula was integral to the formation of Black feminist literary criticism, and Jamila Woods’ new track of the same name takes inspiration from the novel to create a beautiful, ethereal piece of music. This one made me stop and really listen, and I hope you enjoy.
Running time: 4 mins
The Newcastle Mutual Aid group is for residents of the city who want to volunteer to help those in need, or need to receive help due to the impact of Covid-19. You can find your local group and get in touch with other volunteers, and help people access food, complete errands etc. by donating your time, money or food as best suits you. This continues to be a difficult time for everyone, and in coming together as a community we can help each other keep spirits up and worries down.
As the news of another male comedian’s sexual assault allegations was revealed today, I experienced the now familiar cocktail of reactions: anger, pain and compassion for the women involved, exhaustion, and frustration. From many conversations I’ve had with male friends over the years, there can often be a concern or confusion over what to do, how to react, how to evaluate their colleagues and friends but also themselves. But if we ever hope for these events to become less familiar, these evaluations need to be made, and this article from comedian John Robins is a frank and interesting start.
CW: mentions of rape and sexual assault
Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre have opened their annual script submissions window for new writing, and they’re looking for bold and exciting voices to work with. Don’t worry if you have something that isn’t polished, because they’re looking to collaborate and provide bespoke dramaturgical support to some of the plays they receive. They’re particularly encouraging submissions from underrepresented voices, and welcome both emerging and established writers. Good luck!
Submission deadline: 31 October 2020
We had the pleasure of working with Little Inventors during our production of Rocket Girl in February, so we were super excited to see this new project! They asked 1000 children in the North East to imagine and draw inventions to save, make or use energy better than we do now. Artists, makers and animators from the region then brought 15 of these inventions to life for a Pioneers Exhibition, and they’re all fantastic. You can see the original drawings and the exhibited item, and get the inventors’ and makers’ stories behind their creations – we love them all, but I think Lainey’s robot fish, the Sea Sweeper 1000, might be my favourite.
Directed by Jonzi D and choreographed and performed by Axelle ‘Ebony’ Munezero, Bolegue Manuela, and Nafisah Baba, Our Bodies Back is a powerful dance film staging the poetic work of jessica Care moore. An ode to Black womanhood, it is both a demand for equality and justice and an affirmation of stories of pain, trauma pride, and beauty, while honouring the lives that have been lost. We love this piece for the collaboration of dance, spoken word, and soundscape, with a voice that never loses its power.
Running time: 5 mins
I’ve chosen another BBC Radio series for this week, because it’s one I found surprisingly lovely and interesting. Composer and performer Soumik Datta speaks to instrumentalists and singers around the UK about the musical experiences of their lockdowns – the sounds of their silence. With less ability to play and perform and mix loudly, how does that change the way that we hear other music? The complexity of birdsong and the oppressive volume of a washing machine? What changes colour, and what grows in volume without our permission? In the first episode Soumik speaks to an Irish pianist locked down in Dublin, and I recommend it as an exercise in tuning into your surroundings.
Running time: Approx. 20 mins per episode
Arbeia in South Shields is engaging families with weekly activities around their Roman collections. Each week focusses on a different kind of item, and you’ll then be led through a series of activities and be asked to try and recreate the item from objects in your own home. It helps you get creative with household objects and learn about the Romans while you do it – a great way to while away the afternoon! We love activities that make us feel engaged with history and our surroundings, so we’re off to make some Roman bracelets.
WEEK 14: 26.08.2020
We are all starkly aware by now of the impact of Covid-19 on the arts industry, and on its artists. Jennifer Fitzgerald is a poet, and a teacher of poetry and writing to prisoners in some of New York City’s jails – without her work, she quickly found herself homeless early into lockdown. This small collection of her poetry along with photographs focusses on the nature of ‘home’ and its loss, and the eeriness of being displaced.
@lithub @BestFitzgerald @lisquart
This Friday, from 1:30pm-2:30pm, the People’s History Museum are running a free virtual tour through their galleries and collections. Led by Prossy Kakooza and Jenny White, it’ll explore how migration has influenced LGBTQ+ history and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The tour will include experience of Black gender variant Victorians in Britain, British colonialism’s exporting homophobia, individuals seeking sanctuary in Britain due to their sexuality and challenging racism in the gay scene. If you’re interested in history that you probably didn’t learn in school and the history of the LGBTQ+ community in Britain, this is an hour you won’t want to miss.
Age recommendation: 11+
Here’s one for parents who are trying to help kids with their mental health during this time. This programme is NHS backed and teaches preventative habits to support positive mental health, resilience and self-esteem. It’s free to access and creates fun, positive interactions between parents and children. Our routines are different, day to day life is different, and kids and adults alike are having to adjust to unfamiliar challenges, so resources tailored to help with that are welcome!
WEEK 13: 19.08.2020
We love having Mr Shindig’s Comedy nights at Alphabetti, and tonight they’re bringing together some class acts for an online gig. Hosted by the brilliant Joby Mageean and Hal Branson, and featuring Geneva Rust-Orta, Estelle Anderson, and Josh Royale among other special guests, if you’ve been missing live comedy then be sure not to miss this!
I completely ate up The Ratline, one of BBC Radio 4’s previous Intrigue series, so I couldn’t wait to listen to Tunnel 29. In this podcast, Helen Merriman tells the amazing true story of a man who tunnelled under the Berlin Wall to help family, friends, and strangers alike escape. As well as the podcast episodes, there are further free resources: Helen Merriman takes you through the true story in photographs, and you can read about other amazing tunnel escapes through history. If you like true stories of ingenuity and endurance, we think you’ll love this.
Running Time: As long as you decide
This piece from Newcastle stand-up poet Scott Tyrrell, published during lockdown, was like a warm blanket and a cup of tea. Among anthems of perseverance and frustration, this nod to the quiet struggle struck a chord with us. We hope you find it helpful too.
Sunday 23rd August is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, and Shakespeare’s Globe is hosting a panel discussion focussing on how we talk about history in Britain; our colonial past, racial identity, and how to tell our collective stories. Chaired by Professor Farah Karim-Cooper, the panel includes novelist and academic Preti Taneja, historian Margot Finn, and actor & director Elliot Barnes-Worrell. With voices from these different arts and culture sectors, we think this will be a fascinating and important discussion at this moment in time.
When: 23rd August, 7pm
Running Time: Approx. 1 hour
@The_Globe @PretiTaneja @RoyalHistSoc @ElliotBWords @ProfFarahKC
If you’re looking for creative activities to do with your kids over the summer, the National Literary Trust has various poetry exercises for them to sink their teeth into. Laura Mucha will take you through some of her approaches to writing short poems, and provide you tasks and worksheets to help you create your own – you can also download a free audiobook of her poetry collection, Fairy Tales for Ugly Sisters. We love this resource because it allows kids to keep up their creativity at home in a fun and easy to digest way, and to create poetry from the things around them.
The Middlesbrough campus of the Northern School of Art has put this year’s summer show online, so you can look at their students’ projects across a range of disciplines. Since we can’t get to art galleries right now, we enjoyed scrolling through all these pieces (and unsurprisingly had a soft spot for Hope Wray’s photograph of a Staffy…we’re biased) and congratulate all the students on their contributions. Whether you’re into photography, textiles, fine art or fashion, we hope you find some work that makes you stop for a moment.
WEEK 12: 12.08.2020
Africa Avant-Garde is a series that showcases innovators and creators from art, design, music, film, and fashion. I recommend the whole series, but the one I’ve chosen this week is Writers in Residence – a special episode filmed while many of the artists were in lockdown, in which some of Africa’s most celebrated writers invite us into their creative spaces to share their process, their influences and inspirations, and the power of the written and spoken word. Featuring Ben Okri, José Eduardo Agualasa, Zukisa Wanner, Chigozie Obiama, Delali Avemega, Lebohang Masango, Inua Ellams and George the Poet, this is a video packed with talent and insight, and one we don’t think you should miss.
Running Time: 23 mins