Creating unique songs together
Citizen Songwriters is a social enterprise based in the North East of England that realises the power of writing music to bring people together who wouldn't otherwise meet. Citizen Songwriters offers unique experiences for people to connect with the heart of songwriting and in doing so, connect deeper with their communities and the people they live with.
Citizen Songwriters began in April 2018 as ‘Stories of Sanctuary’ a songwriting project that brought together people seeking sanctuary in County Durham, including Syrian refugees and other residents of the city of Durham. Stories of Sanctuary was found by singer-songwriter and community facilitator Sam Slatcher through an Arts Council ‘Grant for the Arts’ grant. The following year Stories of Sanctuary took participants on tour across the UK with the songs they’d written about their different journeys of sanctuary to the North East. They visited various festivals including the Migration Matters Festival in Sheffield and Journeys Festival International at Leicester Cathedral.
In December 2018, Citizen Songwriters – a Community Interest Company – was founded by Sam along with participants of Stories of Sanctuary, Pippa Bell and Sabah Al Hassoun. Since, March 2019 Citizen Songwriters has delivered workshops at Stockton Arts Centre with performance artist Natasha Davis, Stronger Communities Middlesbrough (Middlesbrough Council), Durham for Refugees Festival, Jack Drum Arts in Crook, Oasis Community Housing in Gateshead and national songwriting events with City of Sanctuary. You can read all about our 2019 activities in our end of year report.
In 2020, we expanded our team to include Stacey Deinali, the founder and director of ATOMS Education, and music practitioner Alexandra Summerson. Although 2020 and the Covid crisis has hit the arts hard with challenges of how to meet together, write and perform, Citizen Songwriters has been adapting to these changes through our online programmes: Citizens Online, Create & Connect (Sanctuary Songwriting) as well as our participation with the Sound Out! programme and Unforgettable Experience's 12 week songwriting programme. We have also been producing educational resources on songwriting and playing the ukulele which we are delivering to children and their families in East Durham to help support their musical education.
This year (2021) Citizen Songwriters has been working in four communities (Shildon, Stanley, Sunderland and Durham). ‘Life along the Line’ has brought together 45 residents (and 30 pupils) in Shildon to create original songs about Shildon, the world’s first railway town. We have also begun ‘Stories of Sanctuary Sunderland’, a project in Sunderland with Sunderland Council to engage people seeking sanctuary in a storytelling project similar to the one in Durham. This year Citizen Songwriters has started a choir for 15 people with RTProjects in Durham, supporting their mental health, improving self-esteem and confidence. In September 2021 ‘Songs for the Soul’ will bring together 15 people in Stanley who have been referred via PACT House.
If you would like to commission Citizen Songwriters for a workshop or performance, please get in touch with the team here. We base our fees on the Artist's Union recommended pay rates.
“This is a brilliantly creative project, enabling young people to develop their own skills and share their stories—stories that need to be listen to and taken seriously for they contribute to the building of safe spaces of sanctuary for all”
(Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal, founder of City of Sanctuary)
“On the tour, we were hosted by local residents. We were welcomed with warm hearts…. Music is the language of the world. When I was singing I felt every word I sang. I sang from my heart to all the hearts of the audience. I wanted to tell them that despite pain and sadness, we are brave because sometimes you just need to hope and have faith that things will work out”
(Sabah, Tour Coordinator)
“Citizen Songwriters was an excellent vehicle for bringing together a very diverse group of residents who were experiencing a variety of challenges. Sam’s exceptional engagement skills created a space where all could contribute equally to create songs, which have been showcased at a number of subsequent events. Using art and culture in an innovative way resulted in people developing positive relationships, which have outlived the project”
(Shahda Khan, Stronger Communities Middlesbrough)
“These sessions help us keep very alive, lively. You know, you can’t stay in the house, there is no internet, no television, so programmes like this help to keep our minds busy. It’s good for our mental health"
(Mahmoud, asylum seeker in Hartlepool)
“The deftness of collaboration is the most striking element, bringing forth the voices of those who are often overlooked and unheard through music”