City students celebrate arts grant by jamming with stars of American Idiot

Aspiring musicians had the time of their life jamming with the stars of Green Day musical, American Idiot.

Wednesday, 25th May 2016, 5:47 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th May 2016, 6:48 pm
American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Cast and crew with students from St Aidan's and The Bunker

Chart-topper Newton Faulkner, Amelia Lily, Alice Stokoe and the tour’s musicians and sound tech team took a break from the energetic musical to rock out with talented students from St Aidan’s School and The Bunker.

The workshop saw the launch of a new project, Beyond the Band Pit, which has received a £15,000 from the Arts Council after a joint application from Sunderland Empire’s Creative Learning Department and Sunderland Music Education Hub.

American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Amelia Lily

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

As part of the year-long collaborative project, young people will be able to take part in an Arts Award learning programme for rock and pop bands aged 14 and over from schools across Sunderland.

Double Platinum record-selling Newton, who rose to fame with hits Dream Catch Me and I Need Something, said: “This funding is exactly the kind of thing the arts needs.”

Speaking about the show, which is running at Sunderland Empire until Saturday, he said: “The crowds were amazing last night. It’s different to other musicals, it takes you to some dark places, but people are really passionate about it.”

Co-star Amelia Lily, from Middlesbrough, said she was enjoying being back in her native North East.

American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Newton Faulkner

“I’ve spent my whole life coming to shows at the Empire, so it’s great that my mum and dad can come and see me here in a large-scale production like this. The response from the crowd here has been epic, it made me proud to be Northern,” she said.

American Idiot is set in a post 9/11 world to the tune of some of Green Day’s greatest hits, including Boulevard of Broken Dreams, 21 Guns, Wake Me Up When September Ends, Time of Your Life, Holiday and title track American Idiot.

Amelia, who appeared in the 2011 series of X Factor, added: “There is nothing like this show out there. People really relate to the stories and it’s an epic show to be in because of the range of emotions it takes you on. It has a great energy, you can be really tired but as soon as those first notes of American Idiot kick in in the first scene it lifts you up, there’s such a buzz.”

This date on the UK tour is also a special run for Alice Stokoe, from Jarrow, who used to attend the Empire’s summer school Stage Experience as a teenager.

American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Cast from left Amelia Lily, Newton Faulkner and Alice Stokoe

“It was those summer schools that gave me a real taste of musical theatre,” she said. “This is such a fun show to be in. When you look at Green Day’s lyrics written down they have so much meaning. The album this show is based on was written in the George Bush era and is about how people were feeling at the time so it’s really powerful.

“It came out when I was 16/17 when punk rock was the thing, everyone in class was listening to it.”

Hollie Coxon, creative learning manager, Sunderland Empire, said: “We’re extremely excited to work with our arts partners in exploring interesting ways in which we can connect closer to the amazing musicians, artists and productions which visit Sunderland, as a means to inspire learning and nurturing a passion for a creative careers for local young people.”

Following the launch and workshops with the American Idiot production, young people will be invited to work with project partners throughout the half-term in creating their own music compositions, films and blogs. This will then be shared at their own live event at Pop Recs, in Stockton Road, on Friday, June 3.

Jamming session with American Idiot

Liam Huitson, project manager at the Bunker, said: “The Bunker are excited and thrilled to be part of such a unique project which is giving young people an insight into theatre productions and careers within music.”

American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Amelia Lily
American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Newton Faulkner
American Idiot at Sunderland Empire. Cast from left Amelia Lily, Newton Faulkner and Alice Stokoe
Jamming session with American Idiot