Great Exhibition of the North to honour Northern women with special performance: Great North Star

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Created for broadcast, viewers can watch the Great North Star performance as it happens on BBC online from 21:00 on Friday 7 September. Alternatively, the 30-minute programme will air on BBC One on Saturday 8 September from 15:15 – 15:45, following the Great North CityGames coverage.

As part of the closing weekend of Great Exhibition of the North, there will be a special performance called ‘Great North Star’, celebrating and honouring women from the North of England.

Taking inspiration from the centenary year of women’s suffrage, the emotionally compelling outdoor ceremony will highlight pioneering women throughout history as well as championing the work of women today – from suffragettes to scientists to sports champions, who have all had a significant impact on our country.

Produced by FESTIVAL.ORG, the 50-minute performance will showcase stories from inspiring Northern women and celebrate the spirit of the North of England, as exemplified during the world’s largest half marathon on 9 September, the Simplyhealth Great North Run.

Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director of FESTIVAL.ORG, said:

“Great North Star has its roots in the Simplyhealth Great North Run’s One Millionth Finish four years ago, when a triumphant running woman puppet sailed up the Tyne, illuminated with flames. For this production, I wanted to continue in that same spirit and celebrate the women of the North of England and the role they have played in fighting for equality in all areas of public life.

“The ceremony features a host of extraordinary artists, athletes and an inspiring volunteer cast, giving us an insight into the character of the women of the North and, in the words of writer Louise Wallwein MBE, the qualities of `Fairness, Fortitude and Fight`.”

Taking part in the celebrations will be five female sporting legends: Paula Radcliffe, Dame Tanni-Grey Thompson, and Kathrine Switzer, Ingrid Kristiansen and Rosa Mota, who have all overcome challenges throughout their careers to leave their mark in the world of athletics, creating change that has ultimately led to an explosion of women’s participation in running across the globe.

Great North Star will feature music performances by Northern Soprano singer Lesley Garrett, actor Ibinabo Jack (best known for her role in North East drama Vera), Grace Davies (20-year-old singer songwriter who appeared on XFACTOR 2017) and the all-female dance troupe RISE Unbroken (seen on Britain’s Got Talent).

Constructed and performed in four acts, actors Charlie Hardwick and Julie Hesmondhalgh will narrate the performances, which explore the historical struggle for equality and women’s rights, celebrate the contribution of women to manufacturing in the North and recognise Northern values of equality, resilience, and togetherness.

Minister for Women Victoria Atkins said:

 This fantastic performance pays tribute to the brave, determined and inspiring women who fought for the vote and helped shape all our futures. Without them, I and my fellow women MPs would not be able to do the jobs we do today.

“The Great Exhibition of the North commemorates the centenary of women’s suffrage and I want to thank the women from across the North East who have volunteered to be part of this celebration.”

The performance will look to the past and our collective future, with a cast of over 100 inspirational local volunteers, leading the way to celebrate the spirit of the North.

Pam Carefull, Volunteer for Great North Star, said:

“It’s a real privilege to be part of the amazing volunteer cast for Great North Star and to be able to pay tribute to the women who fought so hard for equal rights. As part of the preparation we have taken the opportunity to learn more about the history of the struggle of the suffragettes in the North, their actions and bravery, all of which has made me even more proud to represent Northern women in this performance.”

Great North Star will be written by Manchester-based poet and playwright Louise Wallwein, with new music by composer Roma Yagnik and choreography by Liv Lorent (balletLORENT) – both based in Newcastle.

Production design will be by Rebecca Brower, lighting design by Phil Supple and video design will be by Zsolt Baloch, who was responsible for the video projections for Made in Hull, which opened last year’s Hull 2017 City of Culture programme.

The title of the ceremony comes from the astronomical navigation tool, the North Star.

This weekend (8-9 Sept 2018) marks the end of Great Exhibition of the North, culminating in the Great North Run on Sunday 9 September, and will be the last chance for visitors to experience the exciting programme of exhibits and pop-up activities across Newcastle and Gateshead.

As Great Exhibition of the North draws to a close, organisers have collated initial findings to celebrate the overwhelming success of the 80-day Exhibition including an average of +55% rise in visitors at the four key venues over the summer period.

Over 10,000 contributors have been involved in Great Exhibition of the North, including artists, scientists and inventors producing content across 30 core venues and a further 83 locations in Newcastle and Gateshead. The free events, performances, installations and activities staged over the entirety of the Exhibition were sourced from every county in the North of England.

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