Black Cats Stories explore football through opera

WORKSHOP: Fans have been sharing their memories for Black Cats Stories.
WORKSHOP: Fans have been sharing their memories for Black Cats Stories.
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A SNAPSHOT of people’s passion for the beautiful game will help to hit the high note in an opera for Sunderland.

As part of the on-going project to create the operatic piece, Black Cats’ Stories has been taking place across a series of workshops.

I ended up telling the story of our family because Sunderland AFC and football is so ingrained in our history.

Ray Blythe

SAFC fans were asked to share their personal memories of the Black Cats and worked with digital storytelling experts Curiosity Creative to create short pieces of audio-visual made up of photographs, sound, moving image and animation.

The digital stories will become sources of inspiration for the professional librettist and composer creating An Opera for Sunderland, which is themed around football.

The opera story will be penned by celebrated author David Almond, whose novels include Skellig.

He said: “It shows how we’re surrounded by stories, they’re not just in books or films but all around us. These fantastic stories have all the elements of great storytelling – the passing of time, life, death, family – with football drawing it all together.

“There is something that is magic about football and the storytellers taking part in Black Cats Stories have really brought it alive.”

Course participant Ray Blythe, whose story The Bell is based on her grandfather’s bell that is kept in the Stadium of Light reception, said: “My grandfather was very big supporter of the club and I initially wanted to tell his story through football.

“However, I ended up telling the story of our family because Sunderland AFC and football is so ingrained in our history.

“The project was amazing because although everybody’s stories were different you can tell how much Sunderland AFC meant to these people and there is a sense of belonging and community across the group.”

Black Cats Stories is delivered in partnership by Music in the Minster, Foundation of Light and Sunderland City Council Library Services, with funding from The Cultural Spring and The Joicey Trust.

Rebecca Ball, project director at the Cultural Spring said: “The Cultural Spring exists to create new opportunities for people to get involved with arts and culture and Black Cats’ Stories has been a wonderful example of this, utilising the region’s love of football.”

Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, Coun John Kelly, said: “As a city we are proud of our football team and as many fans will agree there are many highs and lows. This exhibition inspired by the community spirit we associate with football, is a fantastic way of telling the stories of some of the club’s many fans.”

Ahead of the opera, the stories can be seen during the Black Cats’ Stories Exhibition tour of libraries and community venues running until November 2015.

It’s currently on display at City Library and Arts Centre, Fawcett Street, until Thursday before moving to Fulwell Library from April 8.

You can also catch the stories on the big screen at a special Black Cats’ Stories Event at The Grange, Fulwell, on April 21 from 6-8pm. The special screening event is free to attend but places must be pre-booked by calling Music in the Minster on 07971 072225 or email info@musicintheminster.org.uk