Sunderland’s role in The Great North Passion

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WEARSIDE artists have taken part in a huge Easter extravaganza retelling the last moments of Jesus Christ.

The Great North Passion Play project was performed in Bents Park in South Shields in front of an audience of thousands and broadcast to millions of viewers live on BBC1 today.

PASSION-ATE EVENT ... The Great North Passion at Bents Park, South Shields.

PASSION-ATE EVENT ... The Great North Passion at Bents Park, South Shields.

X Factor winner Alexandra Burke performed and TV presenter Fern Britton narrated the event.

Groups in Red House, Town End Farm, St Andrew’s in Roker and from Sunderland Minister, along with others from Souter Lighthouse in Whitburn and Boldon School, were among those who worked with artists to interpret themes based on the Stations of the Cross.

Members of Sunderland band The Futureheads performed as did homeless 18-year-old Djanny Wele, who has lived in a Monkwearmouth hostel since last December, after leaving home at 15 due to the breakdown of his relationship with his dad. Ross Millard, from The Futureheads, said: “We’ve been working in Town End Farm for the past six or seven weeks, and there were people here today as part of the exhibition, and is a really positive thing.”

Opera singer Graeme Danby, a visiting professor of music at the University of Sunderland, worked with St Andrew’s Church in Roker, to perform at the event.

He said: “It has been four months in the planning and to sing a world premiere in front of 4,000 people and x amount of millions on the TV on Good Friday. You can’t get better than that.

“This is a massive deal for Sunderland University, which has been a co-partner in this, and it shows the rest of the world what we can do in the North East.”

The Great North Passion was a collaboration between the BBC and The Cultural Spring, a £2million Arts Council-funded scheme working in five wards in Sunderland and another five in neighbouring South Tyneside.

An exhibition of the show is open to the public today, tomorrow and Monday, from noon until 4pm.