New songs, poems and films by North East artists were launched in Darlington this week on Wednesday 27 September to mark the two year count down to the bicentenary of the Stockton & Darlington Railway.
The performance, titled ‘Storylines live’, took place at The Forum Music Centre and featured brand new material from artist residencies on board Northern train services between Bishop Auckland and Saltburn, along parts of the original The Stockton & Darlington Railway.

Harry Gallager performing on stage

The new pieces celebrate stories of passenger travel and featured poems written and performed by Harry Gallagher, Rowan McCabe and Tees Women Poet’s Lizzie Lovejoy and Carmen Marcus. The night also included new songs by singer-songwriter Sam Slatcher.

Some of the stories gathered were turned into new short films produced by Lonely Tower Fim & Media which can be previewed here. These films featured stories of regular passengers, as well as the famous Rhyming Conductor, and local human rights campaigner Shams Abdou Moussa, a refugee from Niger. The films are “gorgeous moving-portraits of real people and their stories, giving fascinating glimpses inside the worlds of the passengers and the stories they carry with them!” according to poet Carmen Marcus.

Singer-songwriter and Storylines curator Sam Slatcher said “what’s unique about the Stockton & Darlington Railway is it began a revolution of passenger travel – from timetables to tickets, to moving people and ideas around, to literally changing the way the world runs. It’s incredible to think the whole concept of being a ‘rail passenger’ was first imagined here in the North East. These new pieces of work help people celebrate what it means to be a passenger and how our lives are changed by it”

Lizzie Lovejoy performing a new poem

Chair of Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership, Caroline Pearce says, “We’re so pleased to be working with all the creative partners on the Storylines project to help bring the 2025 celebration to the forefront of people’s minds and involve local people in preparing for this momentous celebration”.

Wednesday also saw the first look of the 2025 bicentenary festival named S&DR200, a nine month festival in 2025 that that will include rail journeys, exhibitions and arts projects. The artists from this project will be performing their new work across the North East over the next few years in the build up to bicentenary.

‘Storylines Live’ was hosted by Tracks, the not-for-profit music development organisation in Darlington, and the project was commissioned by North East social enterprise Citizen Songwriters in partnership with the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership. The project is supported with funding from Northern, Cross Country and the Community Rail Network.

The new pieces were warmed received by a full audience at The Forum Music Centre, Darlington