2025 will be a very significant year in the history of the North East. It will be 200 years since the first steam-hauled passenger railway - the Stockton & Darlington Railway - that shaped the future of rail travel across the UK and around the world.
Life along the Line
is an intergenerational community project that engages people who have lived, worked, and travelled along the railways around Shildon through storytelling and songwriting.
Through a series of digital and in-person workshops, the project captures the lived memories of those who have lived around the railways in Shildon through music and engages these songs/stories with primary school pupils to tell the history of the railways in Shildon.
The project was launched on Wednesday 28 April online
The community songwriting workshops took place on the 1st and 11th June (see photos below).
We launched the songs at the National Railway Museum at Locomotion Shildon on 15 July 2021. You can watch some of the recordings from the Locomotion concert here.
In 2022, we professionally recorded the songs with Xtrasonic Media along with the Shildon Institute Singers. The songs were performed to launch the album at Shildon Railway Institute on 1st April 2022.
Read below to learn more about the project.
Storytelling day - 1st June 2021
The first community workshop brought together 12 people to learn about the railway history in Shildon, and to share with each other our own connection to Shildon. The workshop brought together people from Shildon as well as one or two others with an interest in the railway history of the region. We were delighted to be joined by Jane Hackworth Young, the great, great granddaughter of Timothy Hackworth, the locomotive engineer and pioneer of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
The day began with a tour of New Shildon including the Masons Arms Crossing where Locomotion famously set off to launch the railway on the 27th September 1825 as well as Hackworth's Cottages and the coal drops by the station. We then continued the conversations at Shildon Railway Institute - the world's first railway institute - reflecting on the stories that inspired us the most as well as exploring our own connection to Shildon and the railways of the North East.
Songwriting day - 11th June 2021
The conversations from the storytelling day were written up and key themes emerged including 'sense of belonging to Shildon', 'early memories of Shildon' and 'what Shildon means today'.
Each of the two groups then picked a theme for the song they then worked on. Two songs then
emerged out of the conversations in the group and facilitated by community songwriters Sam and Alex on each of the tables.
At the end of the session, each group performed the song they had begun to the rest of the room, inviting helpful reflection from the others.
Early drafts of these songs will be written by Citizen Songwriters and shared back to each group to check the songs reflect the stories within each group. This is our 'Citizen Songwriters' method to community songwriting, ensuring that each member of the group has a chance to shape the song and gets a credit in the writing process.
We of course hope the day inspires anyone to have a go and write their own song on their story of what Shildon means to them!
Shildon in Song - 15th July 2021
On Thursday 15th July, participants from the songwriting workshops came together with Year 4 pupils from Timothy Hackworth Primary School outside Locomotion Museum to sing 4 brand new songs all about Shildon.
- Set the World on Track (sung by Samantha Townsend, Alex Summerson, Sam Slatcher)
- Shildon Town (sung by Alex Summerson, Sam Slatcher and Cindy Luo)
Recording the songs - February 2022
On Friday 28th and Saturday 29th February 2022 we recorded some of the songs from the project using the natural acoustics of the Shildon Railway Institute, along with the newly formed Shildon Institute Singers led by Rosie Bradford from Happy in Harmony Music. We were joined by two new musicians, trumpet player James Goldberg (see below) and fiddle player Cathy Edmunds.
Launching the CD - 1st April 2022
On Friday 1st April, we performed a concert called 'Cradle of the Railways' that shared some of the songs we'd recorded as well as songs written last year. We were joined by James Goldberg, Cathy Edmunds, Dave Reynolds, Rosie Bradford from Happy in Harmony (and choir conductor of Shildon Institute Singers), the Railway Institute Singers themselves, along with Sam Slatcher and Alex Summerson from the Citizen Songwriters team.
The CD will be available for sale in May 2022.