Buskers' £1,000 boost for Barney arts centre
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
SUMMER busking sessions at Barnard Castle’s arts centre have been hailed a huge success – and look set to be repeated next year.
More than 70 performers, from solo artists to instrumental groups, entertained visitors to The Witham during ten weekends. The sessions were staged outdoors in the rear garden area, complete with specially-built stage, when possible.
The sessions were offered free but more than £1,000 was raised towards the centre’s running costs from donations.
The sessions began in June with a set by Crash Jones – alias Steve Reay, from Wackerfield – who jokingly campaigned for a chance to play at The Witham, and concluded with a performance by Americana duo Steamtown at the end of August.
There was also a visit from Opera North, who performed The Magic Flute. This was one of the few events staged indoors.
Shelagh Avery, chairwoman of trustees at The Witham, said the weekender busking sessions have proved a huge hit with both performers and visitors.
“We've had a great response and they have been very well received.
“We have seen people visiting The Witham who we have never seen before and who came back and we have had people come especially for a particular performance.
“Crash Jones, the Richmond Hilbillies, the D'Ukes of Scarth and Eddie Tinkler gifted all their donations to The Witham, while the others shared donations 50-50. In total, donations from members of the public were in excess of £1,000.
“It’s made us think that next year we can do something similar and build on this.”
One idea being considered is to hold a festival weekend in collaboration with other venues in the town.
Ms Avery said part of the weekender sessions’ success was the opportunity for people to enjoy the entertainment outdoors.
“We had so many people in the cafe, but there are still many customers who are nervous about coming into the building. Because of the garden, we have been able to serve people either inside or outdoors.”
Staff at The Witham are now turning their attention to the autumn and winter programme, which was being unveiled this week.
Highlights include the centre’s first ever panto and a debut performance of Joseph by the newly-formed Teesdale Operatic Society.