My time at the Sunderland Echo

In preparation for my NCTJ course, which I would be taking at Darlington College, I thought it would be best to get some real experience.

I emailed the newspaper, and was offered 5 days of work placement, 9am-5pm. I jumped at the offer, as I knew it would mean an intensive writing week (hopefully) and could really put myself forward.

The first thing when I arrived on Monday morning, was I met the guy who was going to look after me during the 5 days. Kevin Clark, who was lovely the entire week, gave me a quick news writing test. This is used to establish what sort of skills I had. After he reviewed it, he told the other people in the newsroom that they could pass some stuff along to me if there was anything, because I had a good writing style.

The most memorable of the stories I was able to write when I was there, was a comment piece on the previous day’s splash (front page). The story was about Ellis Short, Chairman of Sunderland Association Football Club. He had worn a badge, when meeting with African delegates, that was emblazoned with the club’s unofficial motto. FTM which in the region is known to mean “F*** The Mags”, in relation to the rivalry with Newcastle United FC.

I was asked to go out into the Sunderland and do a Vox Pop (Short for Vox Populi, the Latin term for “voice of the people”.) I was to ask 5 or 6 members of the public what they thought of the fact that the Chairman had worn such a controversial badge when meeting national delegates. I got a bunch of interesting opinions and headed back to the office to hand the quotes in, expecting that to be it. Luckily for me though, when we got back I was told I could write up the story.

Over the days I was there, I had a couple of stories per day published in the paper, some of those added to their website.

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The Evening Chronicle: Young Reviewers

The Evening Chronicle in Newcastle runs a competition and writing opportunity every year, which I would highly recommend. It’s called the ‘Young Reviewers’ scheme, and it allows for up and coming journalists to get press access to events around the North East. With this access, you are expected to write a review.

The first stage is to write your own review, which you send to The Evening Chronicle when the competition is opened. Then a group of the best writers are chosen, who become the reviewer pool, for the next year.

If your work is good, and Gordon Barr, the Entertainment Editor, is impressed with what you write, then your reviews will be printed in the paper. They’re sometimes available to view on The Evening Chronicle website too.

I was lucky enough to have quite a few things published, things which I’ve linked to previously on this blog:

It’s a brilliant opportunity, because it can often take you out of your comfort zone. Obviously my main area of writing up to that point was based around a music setting, but when offered the opportunity to reviews things like ballet and comedy, I jumped at the chance.

It adds to your portfolio, and that’s always a good thing, and you get to and experience a bunch of new and cool stuff, so yeah, I’d definitely recommend it. Added to this, there is a prize for the top two writers from the reviewers pool, and I was lucky enough to come away with a notebook laptop, so that just makes it even better.


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Long time no speak!

I know its been a pretty long time since I updated the blog. It has been caused in part by my camera pretty much falling apart and a bunch of other stuff all happening at once. I’m going to have a look and see what the last things I wrote about were… and ill be right back!




Ok..ok! I’ve checked.

If we go in chronological order, then the first thing I need to talk about is The Evening Chronicle.

  • The Evening Chronicle
  • Sunderland Echo
  • NCTJ Diploma in Journalism
  • Hartlepool Mail
  • Northern Echo


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Tom Jones – Emirates ICG Durham (Evening Chronicle)

Sir Tom jones is back in the public eye in a big way, after high profile appearances on BBC’s The Voice, as a mentor, and a performance at the Queen’s jubilee celebration. So right now is the perfect time for a new album and a European tour, which he has graciously supplied to his adoring fans. On Saturday night he owned the stage in the beautiful setting that is Durham County Cricket Club.

As if the clouds were watching the man himself too, the rain stopped as soon as the first track began. He started with, Hit Or Miss, a new song which started off the night on a great note, a bouncing brass band delivering the depth to a wall of sound surrounding the deep booming vocals. The list of hits on display was almost endless, with a set list which spanned his entire career. From the hit which started it all, It’s Not Unusual. Which bounced and reverberated throughout the unique setting, echoed back by every member of the crowd. To, Tower of Song, a track from his newest album, Spirit In The Room, which was a beautiful soaring number which ebbed and flowed with the distinct Tom Jones style.

Hits such as Sexbomb, Mama Told Me Not To Come, and You Can Leave Your Hat On took their place as cracking sing-alongs with Toms voice sounding record perfect as always. The full band on stage, including a brass section, gave them a different sort of feel, rather than feeling like the simple recordings. The live spicy Spanish guitars and jazz pianos in Delilah gave a subtle darkness to the uplifting song, as Tom’s vocals burned like hot coals throughout. Every voice young and old sang and laughed along, despite many of the people there not being born when the song was released.

Tom’s rapport with the crowd is one which can only be crafted over a career as long as his. He greets the crowd as old friends and reminisces the previous times he has been to the north east throughout his musical lifetime. Utterly at home on the stage, he owned every second. Sending the female fans loopy with every shake of his hips, and a chorus of screams was produced with every trademark growl.

The legend himself hasn’t lost an ounce of his magic. His vocals are perfect, and despite being one of the most recognizable people and voices in the musical world, has stayed truly humble. He really is testament to the idea that age is just a number, as his newest album is yet another quality addition to his impressive catalogue.

Keane – O2 Academy Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

After a four year wait Keane are finally back with their new album, Strangeland. Bursting back onto the scene, they are marking the release with a UK wide tour, and the first night was a sellout gig at Newcastle’s O2 Academy.

They are a band which are paradoxically as simplistic as they are complex. The power of Tom Chaplin, the front man’s, voice actually surprising me at first. It was record perfect song by song as the entire show went on. From the hauntingly beautiful emotion filled, Bedshaped to the soul rousing anthem, This is The Last Time, you could see him pouring his entire self into every track. As a band, they are just four young guys who love making music and happen to have the talent to pull it off. They have a list of hits a band twice as old would be proud of.

The set list was a collection of their greatest songs to date such as Somewhere Only We Know and Is It Any Wonder? sitting alongside a selection of songs from the new album, and the transition between the two was seamless. The new songs stick to the same formula which Keane are famous for. The piano and sythesiser set the basis for the tracks, whilst the other elements are built up layer by layer, forming a complex wall of sound. The tracks on display from Strangeland showed a more melancholy sound, but the usual upbeat riffs and sing-along choruses meant they were appreciated by the eager crowd, which isn’t often the case. The Starting Line was my pick of the bunch, a slow meaningful buildup of exquisite lyrics and rhythmic synthesized pianos to a rousing chorus which soars just as well as their best hits.

Keane have taken their time creating Strangelands, and it really shows. Tom himself introduced every track as being his favourite from the new album, I can’t blame him, it’s certainly a great collection.


The English Youth Ballet: Swan Lake (Evening Chronicle)

On Monday night I had the pleasure of heading over to the Tyne Theatre to check out The English Youth Ballet present their adaptation of Swan Lake. The tragic love story of Odette and Prince Sergei, separated by his higher birth, and the meddling of the villainous Von Rothbart, who is determined to instead facilitate the marriage of his daughter Princess Odile to the Prince.

The English Youth Ballet has been going for 14 years, and was set up to allow young dancers throughout England to perform quality ballet productions in a fully professional setting. The ages of the performers ranged widely from 8-18, as well as Professional Principal Artists taking roles. With a cast of over one hundred, the scale of the ballet was truly staggering, culminating in a kaleidoscope of colour and outstanding talent.

The energy and flowing story which runs throughout each scene really is a credit to the director, Janet Lewis. As while the original story has been altered to suit the production and cast, the magic of still shines brightly.

The standout performance unsurprisingly was down to Oliver Speers in his role as the Prince, a spectacular showing of his skill and refined craft. At times he was nothing but a blur on the stage in a flurry of spins and spring jumps across the stage, and his chemistry with both the Princess and Odette really was a delight. While in return they also displayed an exquisite level of talent and poise, through individual skill and beautiful interaction.

From the smallest part to the leads, the quality was consistently brilliant. Every movement was perfect and drew the audience into a magical world, whilst the music was woven beautifully against it. Tchaikovsky’s score is utterly stunning and throughout builds tension and drama, whilst soaring at times, bringing with it excitement and merriment, in all the right places. It really was a quality night, everyone involved should be very proud.

You Me At Six – o2 Academy Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

You Me At Six are currently headlining a sellout UK-wide tour, and on Sunday night they exploded into life at the o2 Academy Newcastle. The burning hot, quick riffed rock track, Loverboy kicked off the night and the intensity did not let up for the rest of the show.

The energy of front man Josh Franceschi stood out during the high tempo tracks as energy poured from the stage and into the ecstatic crowd. Whilst having the stage presence to keep every eye on him during the more emotional and slow songs. Josh had the power to create a sincere emotional connection with a sea of thousands in the crowd. There were times when you could hear a pin drop as he sang soft and low to the lyrically beautiful, Crash, building up with slow powerful vocals to a spine-chilling crescendo.  Whilst on the other end of the scale, the entire academy almost took off during, Finders Keepers, with its dance inducing pulsing guitars and sing along chorus, which had everyone bouncing.

The Setlist found a middle ground between playing too little and too much of their latest album, Sinners Never Sleep. Supplementing it with the best of their first two albums. Some might have been disappointed with the lack of, Save It For The Bedroom, as its often seen as their signature track. Though it shows the strength of all their songs when I couldn’t think of one id have taken out of the show, for it to feature. It’s also obvious that the band are looking to move away from their more pop sounding roots, to a more rock sound. The heavier rock in room shaking show closer, Bite My Tongue, and track, Loverboy are examples this new direction, and were some of the high points of a great show.

They really are a talented band and it is clear to see they love their job. The smiles are spread across their faces from the first chord to the last, and they sound genuinely proud and thankful to the crowd for putting them in that position.

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The Awkward Squad – The Customs House Theatre (Evening Chronicle)

BAFTA winning Emmerdale writer Karin Young introduces her play, The Awkward Squad to the Customs House, South Shields. It features an all-woman cast which portrays three generations of the same family, which has been forever altered by the mining strikes and their eventual closure. We start with a family that seems to have everything, a mother about to have a community centre named after her, a rich daughter with her money loving granddaughter and another daughter who is a BAFTA winning documentary maker. But things don’t always as great as they first seem


Comedy plays a huge part in the production, and they have case four women who can really make a crowd laugh. Whether it is dark humour in the face of adversity or slapstick I found myself chucking on numerous occasions, along with the rest of the crowd. Barbara Marten plays the exhausted but loving grandmother, who brings a real softness to the role, whilst always portraying matriarchal inner steel. Her daughters are played by The Bill star, Libby Davison and Emmerdale Geordie, Charlie Hardwick. They really compliment and bounce off each other well and the sisterly banter is rather authentic, while the rivalry and love shown creates some believable characters.  The granddaughter is played by Lisa McGrillis, who is charming and really comes into her own as the play goes on.


Social media and text messages are integrated into the simple set of the house, of which most of the play takes place, with them flashing up for the crowd to read on walls or the ceiling, keeping the crowd in the loop. As well as photos and videos from the strike and closures playing to help create a mood and bring the history to the foreground.


There is cultural and social commentary on the new values which are being pushed on women in today’s society. Life without purpose and the idea of being a WAG as a career choice is abhorred.  Whilst the idea of a strong family unit shines brightest. As everyone will taste failure at some point in their eyes, the play shows that with family by your side, a happier future can be found.


Heartwarming and thought provoking, what Karin Young has created is a play which shows an otherwise unseen side to the mine closures, and the trials and tribulations of the families trying to better themselves since. With humour and wit weaved against the darker depressing results, I found it to be both charming and smartly written.


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NME Awards Tour – o2 Academy Newcastle (Evening Chronicle)

Showcasing the best up and coming artists on the music scene, the NME Awards tour has been going since the 90s in the buildup to the awards themselves. Numerous participants have went on to massive commercial and critical success, such as; The Killers, Arctic Monkeys and even Coldplay.

This year saw headliners Two Door Cinema Club, being accompanied by Metronomy, Tribes and Azealia Banks.

First up was Azealia Banks, an American rapper from Harlem, New York. Most of the set fell a little flat due to a slow filtering in of the crowd, and unfamiliarity with the tracks from the audience. Though the one track which has been released over here, 212, actually had the room jumping. A rhythmic, fast pace off beat rap straight from Harlem, she definitely has an edge to her.

Metronomy added something different to proceedings, with their ebbing synthesizer backed strangeness. Indie-ness personified, they seemed very straight faced and serious with their combination of old fashioned bounciness and almost choir-like unrelenting vocals. Confusing, infuriating and intriguing in equal parts, I found myself swaying along with the rest of the crowd.

Tribes increased the pace, and really impressed. Moody blue and red lighting lit the band as they created a thick and complex wall of sound. The front man has a really interesting voice, unique and commercial in its quality. We Were Children, is a great live track and had the entire crowd going wild, with its explosive guitars and U2-like vocals.

Two Door Cinema Club have already had chart success, with their debut album, Tourist History, reaching number 26 in the album charts, and several singles charting in the top 100. It’s not hard to see why. With catchy hooks, rip roaring guitar riffs and soaring sing-along choruses aplenty. Combined with the massive light show which came from the darkness to surround them, they built up a real festival atmosphere. Readymade anthem, This Is The Life, with it bouncing repeated chorus went down extremely well with the rapturous crowd.

Whilst each artist was unique in their own way, the quality never dipped, and its plain to see why they are tipped to win big at the NME Awards this Year, and who’s to say where these guys are going to be in the next few years?

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Snow Patrol – Metro Radio Arena (Evening Chronicle)

As if it were a test for the true Snow Patrol faithful, the day before the Newcastle show the region was covered in a layer of white. Though it had somewhat thawed before show time, a bitter wind still stung many peoples journey. Luckily for everyone who made the show, Gary Lightfoot and the rest of the band were there to turn up the heat.

Lights illuminated the stage and lasers pierced the darkness of the crowd, before the guitars struck; the band sparked and the first tune, I’ll Never Let Go, exploded into life. The massive backdrop which filled the back of stage flashed a kaleidoscope of imaged from the camera which recorded the action. Whilst a neon snowflake suspended from the ceiling broke apart and spiraled above the band.

As a front man, Gary Lightfoot doesn’t disappoint, he whipped up the crowd during their livelier tracks, dragging everyone up onto their feet in the seating areas. Immediately improving the atmosphere, which the band fed off in return. Just Say Yes, stood out, its slow deliberating synthesizer backed build up, drawing up to the crescendo in the chorus, when the crowd went crazy. However I think as an arena band I think they are at their best when the tempo slows and they play tracks such as Chocolate and Run, where the qualities of the bands vocals are laid bare. Gary has a great smoothness and tone to his voice, and the hypnotized crowd were held in the palm of his hand, while the emotion filled lyrics of, Set Fire To The Third Bar,  stirred the heart of even the harshest cynic.

The set list was a perfect balance of their older songs for the long term fans, whilst never alienated their ever growing fan base, by playing their current hits and singles. This meant all of their major albums were featured, whilst new tracks were dropped in, never feeling out of place. Due in part to the bands obvious enthusiasm for the tracks. As well as of course, their distinct sound and brand of storytelling which flows effortlessly through every song.

As a set of musicians these guys really are something special, and the genuine gratitude they show to the fans that got them to where they are, just endears them further.

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