Sunderland’s past inspires young song writers create work for Split Festival

A group of youngsters have been taking part in a music-writing course at Pop Recs.
A group of youngsters have been taking part in a music-writing course at Pop Recs.
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SONGWRITERS of the future have been drawing upon the past for inspiration as they gear up to make their musical debut at the city’s biggest festival.

Under the guidance of successful Mackem musician Martin Longstaff, aka The Lake Poets, a group of young people are spending the week visiting city landmarks to spark their song-writing imagination.

The project will culminate in them performing their tracks at a community stage at this weekend’s Split Festival in Mowbray Park.

Wallace the Lion, Sunderland Minster and the Old Fire Station are among the places the budding musicians, aged 12-19, have been visiting as part of the project.

Lauren Calvert, 15, from Millfield is among the teenagers taking part in the workshop, staged at Pop Recs Ltd in Fawcett Street.

The Academy 360 pupil said: “It’s been really interesting. Usually I just write a song that pops into my head, but this gives you more inspiration.

“It makes you think more about Sunderland. I think my song’s going to be about being stuck in Sunderland, not in a bad way, but that there’s other places to go as well.”

She added: “I feel really nervous about performing at Split, especially knowing that people like Dizzee Rascal will be playing later on.”

Over the course of the project, the young musicians will also be working with Barry Hyde, of The Futureheads, Natasha Haws, This Little Bird and folk singer Keith Gregson to hone their sound.

Martin Longstaff, from East Herrington, often references his home town and its lost industry in his lyrics which he has performed at prestigious festivals and venues around the country.

“It’s been great to see how much the city has sparked their imagination,” said Martin, who will play the main stage at this weekend’s Split. “For example, we went to the museum to see Wallace the Lion and I asked them to try and imagine why there’s a lion in Sunderland.

“One of the boys said it was a metaphor for Sunderland, how it was proud and strong a 100 years ago, now it’s not so strong, but it still has that fighting spirit. It shows them that they don’t just have to write songs like the ones in the charts.”

The week-long project has been set up by New Writing North who also run a regular Cuckoo Young Writers group at Pop Recs Ltd.

Amy Mitchell, programme manager for young people at New Writing North, said: “At New Writing North we focus on all types of creative writing for young people, but as Sunderland has such an up and coming music scene we thought it would be a great way to get young people interested in song-writing.

“Martin’s storytelling through his songs is so rooted in the region, so he’s perfect to lead the sessions. It’s also been really interesting to hear a different generation’s views on their home city.”