North East OperaBased in Middlesbrough, North East Opera (NEO) is an opera company for anyone who feels marginalised in society, including people recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse, asylum seekers and refugees, those who have experienced homelessness, those who identify as neurodiverse and more.

With its project ‘My Great Folk’, NEO set out to bridge some of Middlesbrough’s social divides, create a sense of community and belonging, and an understanding of everyone’s connection to the town. 

During 45 weekly workshops, the group drew on people’s stories and songs, from those ‘local’ to Middlesbrough and those newly relocated. Together they created an hour-long folk opera, and ‘My Great Folk’ was performed as part of the Shine Festival on the main stage at Middlesbrough Town Hall.

“Always at the heart of its creation was the idea that each individuals’ ideas and suggestions would be the backbone to this piece and seamlessly interwoven from one song to the next,” says David Pisaro. 

“During the project we worked with a total of 225 volunteers aged 16-90, 150 of them took part in the final performance including soloists from Iran, Eritrea, Kurdistan, South Africa, Namibia, Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ukraine. All those involved were left with the uplifting feeling that Middlesbrough is a place to be proud to come from, and that the power of the arts is capable of making positive and much needed change to the people, the community, and society at large.”

You can find out more via their website or follow them on Facebook,  X/Twitter and YouTube.

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