Darlington for Culture’s highlights of 2018 included the Arts Festival in May, continuing growth of the Small Grants Scheme, and that the Darlington Culture Volunteers clocked up more than 6,500 volunteering hours.

The year began with Crown Street Library under threat of closure with the council’s planned relocation of town-centre library services to the Dolphin Centre. The council had a change of heart, following strong public representation, so now the library and art gallery will continue in their purpose-built home, and Cockerton Library will continue as part of the council’s library services.

DfC Chair Jo Potter said: “We were delighted with the council’s decision about the library service. We are also pleased to learn that the council has recognised the importance of the arts to our town economy and has appointed a dedicated Culture Team responsible for the theatres, museums, libraries and town-centre events. We look forward to working with the team to promote all events, and in particular the Darlington Arts Festival weekend from 17 to 20 May.”

Other successes for Darlington’s arts scene in 2018 include The Hippodrome and Hullabaloo celebrating their first anniversaries providing a variety of theatre for all. And Darlington Culture Volunteers (a collaboration between DfC and Darlington Hippodrome) have played a substantial part in supporting the new venues.

Across all their activities, DCV have contributed more than 6,500 volunteering hours this year supporting arts events and organisations in and around Darlington.

Highlights of the 2018 volunteering calendar include the following.

  • The twice-yearly concerts by Darlington Orchestra always attract interest and places for volunteers are filled as soon as vacancies are publicised. The feedback from volunteers is of a well-organised event combined with an enjoyable evening of music to appeal to all tastes.
  • The BalletLORENT production of ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ in September asked DCV to find ladies of a certain age, experienced in knitting and wool winding, to take part in the production. No previous acting or dancing experience was required, so two volunteers Freda and Madeleine took to the stage supervising the children at play, teaching them to knit and weave and rejoicing at the final wedding ceremony. The volunteers would certainly do it again if the opportunity arose as they thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
  • It was the final production in November by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company at the Hippodrome, and it was an excellent version of ‘Dracula’. DCV have supported the Touring Consortium’s twice-yearly plays in Darlington for the past five years. The volunteer Ambassadors beat all their previous records with 140 audience evaluation forms completed for this production and 208 reduced-price ticket vouchers distributed to help build new theatre audiences.
  • This year, DCV decided to have a formal ‘Volunteer Thank You Event’ to show appreciation for all the volunteers’ hard work and dedication. The Hullabaloo kindly offered their premises for the celebration on 5th September, which was attended by 46 volunteers, 15 other guests, 10 Morris Dancers and six audio describers.
  • New to DCV’s roles this year was the opportunity for nine volunteers to support the Darlington Festival of Performing Arts in October. The festival has been going since 1931 but this year the organisers were thrilled to have the support of the volunteers and said: “They were a very lovely group of people and we really did appreciate their help in making our festival a success.”

In addition, the Open Mic for Writers has continued to grow in the past 12 months and made a profit of £160 for DfC. It is popular with new and established writers, and at each event about 12-15 people read short stories, poems, parts of novels, plays, etc, to an appreciative and supportive audience.

This year, DfC’s Secretary Matt Roche resigned from the committee. We will miss his valuable contribution and strategic vision and we wish him well in his new endeavours.

Also, 2018 saw an increase in the number of applications and winners in the DfC Small Grants Scheme. The total has risen to 20 awards in support of a range of activities and associations. Further applications are welcome in 2019, see the DfC website’s Grants page for details.

DfC is looking forward to another exciting and creative year in 2019 and we wish the same for all our members, supporters and volunteers.