By Jo Potter, chair of DfC

What can be done to attract audiences away from their home-entertainment systems to support the many events that take place in Darlington throughout the year? You often hear that it is too expensive, or car parking is difficult, or that there is no bus service, but many events, particularly bands at some bars, are free and they just hope you will buy a drink or two.

There is often free street entertainment in the town centre, particularly at weekends, sometimes with the added attraction of specialty food stalls. Car parking is free for two hours at some car parks, and free after 6pm, plus there are improved bus services.

Darlington boasts a wealth of talented artists. There are numerous community theatre groups, most putting on at least two productions a year in venues from church halls to The Hullabaloo. Ticket prices are rarely more than £8 full price with concessions £6.

Darlington Orchestra’s summer concert in July at the Dolphin Centre was a great evening’s entertainment – and for just £7 or £5 a ticket it was tremendous value as well. There are at least half a dozen choirs offering programmes for all tastes from Vocal Collective and Voices of Darlington to Darlington Choral Society, which last November produced Verdi’s Requiem with 150 singers, two orchestras and four internationally renowned soloists. Their concert of Christmas music this year is at St Cuthbert’s on 1 December.

These talented individuals and groups need the oxygen of audience attendance to thrive, and they play an important part in promoting our town’s visitor economy. Darlington, like most other towns, is struggling to meet the challenges posed by a changing retail model. The arts are integral to the town’s wellbeing and economic survival and we need to support all artists and groups as often as we can.

Have a go at something new

There are numerous clubs and societies in Darlington, so people can get involved with arts and culture. For writers and poets, for example, there are Inkerman Writers and Vane Women. For the more energetic there are Morris Dance groups and for musical fun check out Stockton to Darlington Ukulele Express, either for membership or to attend their hugely popular concerts. You can find groups online, and the council website lists many of them too.

So if you’ve always wanted to try dancing, painting, poetry or other arts activities, the start of a new term in September is a great time to get involved.