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Review by Jade Gadd.
When most people think of the miners and colliery towns they think of the past, not the present. It’s easy to ignore the fact that the events of fifty years ago are still being deeply felt today.
In Our Streets Are Numbered the local band Ribbon Road and documentary photographer Carl Joyce team up to show the harsh reality of how lives are truly lived in the numbered streets of Horden through music, song, and photography.
The numbered streets were created when a housing association took over the area after Horden pit was closed. The residents live in sub-par conditions and have often complained and been promised improvement, but these are yet to come. These people live in poverty and isolation; they suffer bereavements and drug abuse. Their lives are not easy and while many lives are harsh, the tragedy for the residents of the numbered streets is that with a little work and government attention, their quality of life could be drastically improved.
Each folk-style song explores a different element of real lives, and along with the music, shockingly real photographs and videos bring home that these aren’t just tales passed in gossip, they’re real people who are suffering unnecessarily.
The three voices chimed together to make both one unified voice and many. It sounded as though the people of the numbered streets were talking to us through the band, like spirits through a medium.
As the performance went on, especially in the songs ‘Easy Pickings’ and ‘When Times Are Tough’, I began to feel a mixture of emotions stirring up inside. I felt anger, disappointment, motivation, but above all others, gratitude for what I have. It seems fairly mundane to me that I can write this on a laptop and that readers can use phones and computers and tablets to read it, but to the people still suffering in Horden, having three meals a day may seem like a luxury. There was a strong feeling of the community having to stick together, young and old, as Dickens said “fellow passengers to the grave”.
Outrageous as it is after 25 years with no improvements, there is no wonder the town have to strive to keep positive. I found the song ‘The Ghost’ incredibly motivational, in particular the line “there’s a ghost knocking on my door and he says get up and try.”
This political art piece was enjoyable and moving, but definitely not a pick-me-up, so pack tissues! It was particularly popular with the older generation. I would suggest it for young adults onwards as for all there is almost nothing explicit or rude, the themes are such that many children would either be bored or upset. I managed to take a quick look at the crowd; each face was turned to the stage and most eyes were moist.
I think if you enjoy politics and local history or even just creative art, this performance is definitely worth a look, harrowing as it may be.