Thursday, 15 October 2015

Preview: Manifesto for a New City at Newcastle Northern Stage

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Manifesto for a New City
Newcastle Northern Stage
Thursday 15th – Saturday 17th October 2015

Commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of award-winning writer Julia Darling, Northern Stage is producing a revival of her witty and uplifting musical play, Manifesto for a New City (15-17 October).

Inspired by the city she loved and the events surrounding her, Julia worked with Jim Kitson to set her series of poems to music, creating what was to be both her first ever musical and her final work. First performed ten years ago in 2005 and intended as a reflective look at the city of Newcastle going through a major phase of development and change, Manifesto is arguably just as relevant in 2015. In an interview with Tamzin Lewis for Culture magazine in February 2005 shortly before her death, Julia said, “I think people are becoming more politicised and I am hoping A Manifesto for a New City will be timely. I want it to be a bit of a stirrer. I want people to feel fired up.

“Is Manifesto based on a utopian idea? It started off as a utopia but like a lot of utopias became a dystopia – a nightmare. It was completely unsustainable. In my manifesto I removed all middle management so there is nobody in suits. All the luxury flats have been given to artists. The artists are in control but they can’t organise anything. There are no cars so it would be a Luddite world. The more I thought about the repercussions, the more I thought it was totally impractical. My manifesto could never work! In a way A Manifesto for a New City is just a discussion.”

Northern Stage’s Director of Participation and Producer of the show Kylie Lloyd explains why Northern Stage is bringing Manifesto back and opening up that discussion again, “I saw it ten years ago and was captivated by the songs and the description of this place I call home. It was a memorable moment and I’ve always wanted to bring it back to Newcastle [Northern Stage was closed for refurbishment at the time, so it toured in the region but didn’t play at Northern Stage]. The time felt right in 2015, and I’m really delighted that through an open call we have attracted a diverse cast of community performers, singers and professionals to perform the show.”

Julia said, “Even though the manifesto doesn’t work there were glimpses of things which were really good. There have been moments in political history when someone has done something really audacious and memorable, and it has changed in a way how people feel about things. That is what I wanted the manifesto to really be about, glimpses of the possibility of change.”

Director Emma Roxburgh: “It’s about opening conversations and reminding people that everyone has a voice. I love Julia’s humour, and her view of the world. She really understood people; her plays make ‘normality’ interesting. I’m really excited to be working with Steve Morton too (currently on tour with Martha and the Vandellas) - there’s a lot of a cappella singing in the play and, as a member of his choir, I know he’s brilliant at bringing people together.”

Gateshead-based singer Kerry Green plays the Nurse. She recently appeared in Godspell at the Sunderland Empire and as a vocalist she’s involved projects ranging from an original 8 piece funk band to playing at the Manchester Jazz Festival recently. She says, “I’m excited to be involved in this production as I think both the plays' satirical message and human behaviour traits remains current; at times many of us can relate to this disgruntled point of view. People often remark about wanting 'change' in many aspects of their lives; which may be fuelled by socio-economical, political, cultural constraints or power - but is change only short lived and does it soon become the norm?”

Ann Ridley from Heaton in Newcastle plays the Clerk. She says, “I saw 'Manifesto for a New City' in 2005 at the Customs House and was bowled over by it. The music was compelling. I remember rows of chairs and a sort of geometric choreography. There’s a real feeling of solidarity in rehearsals; it’s so uplifting to sing such wonderful lyrics and harmonies.”

Alongside the production, Northern Stage is running a season of events to encourage people to make their own Manifestos for change. Starting with an Open Stages project for children aged 5-12 and working with local schools in autumn to continue the project, Northern Stage has also teamed up with New Writing North and Juice Festival to support a series of writing workshops for young people.

Northern Stage Director of Participation, Kylie Lloyd explains, “The team here, inspired by Julia’s work and by the media attention on Newcastle as a city dealing with large cuts in council budgets and services, have taken the idea of ‘Manifesto’ as a central theme to our work in 2015.

“Earlier in the year we created the #minimanifesto project, which celebrated children’s ideas for change, and we’re working with Kenton School this term to create their Manifestos, teaming up with a school in Detroit to try to understand if there is any truth in the 2014 Guardian article alleging ‘Newcastle is Britain’s Detroit’.

“We would also love to hear from the people of Newcastle, so as part of the project we’ve set up a Twitter campaign, exploring the hidden secret spaces of our city and asking people to make a pledge using #Newcastleipromiseto @Manifesto_NS.”

Manifesto for a New City by Julia Darling comes to Newcastle’s Northern Stage from Thursday 15thSaturday 17th October 2015, 7.30pm - £10 / £8 concs. 
Box Office:  or phone 0191 230 5151

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