Over 100 people from the Bishop Line community joined together to celebrate the importance of connection. On 22nd June participants young and old came together at Locomotion, Shildon to share their experiences of participating in the Our Line Connections Project.

The project celebrates shared connections in the community and involves artists and groups who co-created a songbook of original songs and art by people who live along the route of the Bishop Line.

Over the past four months Visual Artist Michelle Tripp, Songwriter Em Whitfield Brooks and Digital Artist Humira Imtiaz have been visiting schools and community groups across Darlington, Newton Aycliffe and Bishop Auckland to explore what connection means to them and develop art and music which reconnects the community.

Our Line Connections builds on the earlier project ‘Our Line’, which was an audio play broadcast online during the pandemic in 2020. Set on a train from Darlington to Bishop Auckland, this play was written to last as long as the train journey (just over 30 minutes) and featured a range of real and imagined stories. The original play, songs and artwork can be accessed at www.our-line.net.

Our Line & Our Line Connections are projects by Luxi in collaboration with the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership & Northern, supported by Arts Council England, Cross Country Trains, County Durham Community Foundation, Durham County Council, Greenfield Arts, Locomotion & the National Lottery Jubilee Community Fund.

At the celebration event the children and community groups performed the songs they had written and the artwork created throughout the project was displayed around the museum. The project artwork will be on exhibition in Locomotion until the 11th July.

Caroline Pearce, Creative Director of Luxi comments “Our Line was borne from a joint fascination about the interplay between theatre and trains, between experiencing something entertaining whilst moving, and how the topic & the experience affect one another. The theatre on train we created was a real moment of achievement for us at Luxi and for the team at Bishop Line & Northern at the time, in 2018. And it led to profound and beautiful conversations and connections with audiences and participants and communities.

The opportunity to create a project around that experience became really compelling and after 2 years of regular meetings the core partners found more & more people who wanted to support the work, funders and partners all appreciating the value of human connection and stories. Working with what is now a large team of specialists, Our Line Connections has become a programme of activity that we hope will just keep getting better and enabling more and more people to understand how to get involved and the value of doing so.”

Marie Addison, Regional Community and Sustainability Manager, Northern,  said “It has been an absolute pleasure to be involved in the Our Line Connections project. Experiencing some of the workshops first hand and meeting some fantastic people has been a true highlight, as well as working collaboratively with the rest of the team. The celebration event is the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together to say a huge thank you and to showcase the fantastic work created”.

Felicity Machnicki, Officer for the Bishop Line Community Rail Partnership commented, “We felt in our bones that this project could help rebuild connections, strengthen people’s confidence in themselves and give people the drive to travel again. Having sat in some of the sessions, listening to the teenagers share their angst of making friends, watching students come together who haven’t mixed with other age groups for months, listening to isolated adults talking in close contact with others while they learn about neurographic art, I see that Our Line Connections is the success we aimed it to be. But more so it is the start of even more connections and that is a success in itself”