Lancaster ‘twinned’ with North Shields for musical celebration of historic high streets

Lancaster has been unofficially ‘twinned’ with North Shields by Historic England and Newcastle-based company Unfolding Theatre as part of a national cultural programme celebrating our historic high streets.

Released from today (September 9), High Street Duets is a series of new songs inspired by Lancaster' s and North Shields’ high streets and local communities, commissioned by Historic England and produced by Unfolding Theatre.

They have been written by Lancaster-based Daniel Bye and Beccy Owen, who together with Unfolding Theatre's Associate Artist Alex Elliott, collected stories from local people about their towns.

The four songs - written in different musical styles - reflect the range of views and emotions that people within the local communities shared with Daniel and Beccy. The songs will be released one by one over the next four days here and can also be accessed through QR codes displayed on signage in shops and other businesses around Lancaster.

Lancaster ‘twinned’ with North Shields for musical celebration of historic high streets. Singer/songwriter Beccy Owen will be performing Duets live on Sunday September 12 in Lancaster. Picture: Rich Kenworthy.

The first song, released today (September 9), is New Planet City, a slice of upbeat electronica about the kind of future we want to build, and how that relates to the past. This will be followed by the soulful Sunken Boat (released September 10), and What do People Want? (September 11), a punky protest anthem bringing together a gathering of contradictory voices. The quartet of compositions is rounded off with Shipping, a folk song about traveling to the past and future on waves of time (September 12).

Beccy Owen will be performing Duets live on Sunday September 12 in Lancaster and is inviting the public to join her in performing the songs as part of a pop-up choir. Participants are invited to join Beccy at Kanteena in Lancaster between 11.30am-1pm, followed by performances at 1pm and 2pm as part of ‘Something’s Happening Here’ event in the Mill Race area (car park next to the Lancaster Grand Theatre, St Leonard’s Gate, Lancaster, Lancashire, LA1 1NL) Each performance will last approximately 15 minutes. No previous experience or perceived musical ability is necessary. To join the Beccy Owen’s Pop-Up Choir, visit hereEllen Harrison, Head of Creative Programmes and Campaigns at Historic England, said: “Each song in High Street Duets is very different but all are equally brilliant. The voices of the communities are clearly heard through the songs so it’s both fantastic and fitting that local people will get opportunity to help premier the songs in North Shields.”

Daniel Byes, writer, said: “Working with a songwriter as brilliant as Beccy Owen is one of the greatest gifts to give a writer. The opportunity to embark on that collaboration amidst such richness and generosity from the people of Lancaster and North Shields has made it even more joyous. I’m enormously proud of what we’ve created - I hope hearing them gives you as much pleasure as creating them has given me.”

Annie Rigby, Artistic Director of Unfolding Theatre, said: “At Unfolding Theatre we love to collaborate and create connections, so working with local communities in Lancaster and North Shields to celebrate their local town centres in song was right up our street, if you’ll forgive the pun!”

Singer/songwriter Beccy Owen and writer Daniel Byes have written is a series of new songs inspired by Lancaster's and North Shields’ high streets and local communities.

Councillor Gina Dowding, cabinet member with responsibility for strategic planning and place making, said: “Culture and heritage are at the heart of our ambitious plans to revitalise Lancaster’s high street. That’s why this new commission of music inspired by local places and people is so exciting as it harnesses creative energy to reach a wider audience. I would urge everyone to take a listen and join the pop-up choir if you can.”

High Street Duets is a nationally commissioned project by Historic England to support the Lancaster High Street Heritage Action Zone, a four-year programme run in partnership with Lancaster City Council, which aims to make the high street a more attractive place for communities to live, work and enjoy leisure activities.

It is one of six Twin Towns commissions that are part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, led by Historic England, in partnership with Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Cultural Programme aims to make our high streets more engaging and vibrant places.