Even with the country being in a state of lock down, working and planning continues. Tyne Valley Community Rail Partnership (TVCRP) recently held its first online feedback of the Lyric & Line project, which has seen singer and songwriter Gareth Davies-Jones working with three groups with additional needs, using music and songwriting to facilitate experiences of rail travel. The pilot project was funded from TVCRP’s resources and it is hoped that using music to facilitate communities’ voice will continue.
The groups Gareth is working with are Gibside School, a special needs school near the Metro Centre, Zig Zag, who work with people of all ages who experience isolation in the rural community based around Haltwhistle, and Journey, a charity supporting adults with additional needs, who operate the kiosk in Hexham station providing delicious coffee and tasty home made treats.
After an initial period of research and recording soundscapes along the Tyne Valley line, Gareth began the engagement phase of Lyric & Line by enjoying a day out with Gibside School. The group travelled by train from the Metrocentre to Haltwhistle which is the Education Centre for TVCRP. Here they met Fiona Forsythe, TVCRP Officer and learned about railway safety, and enjoyed selling tickets using the Edmondson tickets TVCRP produced for school classes. They also enjoyed walks near the station to the tunnel and to see the bridges. These experiences provided Gareth with material he could use back in school to remind the children about their journey to Haltwhistle. Using soundscape audio recordings and short films he had made about the sights and sounds of the railway - from station announcements, and waiting room doors creaking, to departing trains and level crossing noises - Gareth and the children composed a song together to celebrate the journey and adventure elements of rail travel. The pupils plan to perform the song to their parents once the lock down is lifted. One of the young people suggested the melody line for their song chorus, which Gareth was delighted to use.
Zig Zag meet at Haltwhistle and have days out by train or minibus. Not all the group feel confident at using the train independently. The aim of their song was to highlight the fears and barriers which prevent people from making journeys by train, and also featured their sense of independence. They too looked at the journey as an experience and made it fun and enjoyable - not just being about getting from A to B. Their chorus line concluded that rail travel was “the best way to see the world.”
Journey are a charity supporting people with a learning disability in the North East, whose vision is that everyone should have happy, inclusive and fulfilling lives. This group had the least collective experience of rail travel and their song reflected the view that “the train can take you places you've never been before”, including handy tips like “make sure you get to the station on time”. This verse also highlighted shopping at the Metro Centre, which many had experienced before and visiting St James Park to watch Newcastle United play!
Lyric & Line is now looking to the next challenge – how to capture the confidence of passengers to return to rail travel following COVID-19. To do this the TVCRP team is working on plans to help Gareth run music facilitation workshops virtually.
Whilst music and railways have had a long history, TVCRP are enabling an innovative approach as Gareth uses original songwriting inspired by the local community to facilitate people’s experiences and views of travelling by rail.
Fiona Forsythe, TVCRP, Officer said ‘Lyric & Line has helped groups look at the railway in a different light and increased their confidence to ‘give it a go’.
Gareth Davies-Jones said of the project “It has been an exciting and wonderful opportunity to work with these special groups of people. Music and songwriting in particular can unlock ideas and perspectives that might not otherwise be heard. Lyric & Line is helping them and others to see the possibilities of the railway through fresh eyes”.
Notes to Editors.
Biographical details on Gareth Davies-Jones may be found at https://garethdavies-jones.com/bio
Gibside School song here: https://soundcloud.com/gareth-davies-jones/our-adventure/s-03qd0aIDY12