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Making Hadrian's Wall of Sound

Helen Amess

Senior Broadcast Journalist

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BBC Music Day brings together performers from communities across the UK celebrating the country's love of music. In this post producer Helen Amess previews one of many projects mounted on Friday 5 June - a day-long musical relay spanning the length of Hadrian's Wall.

Hadrian's Wall of Sound is a musical relay running the length of near-2000 year-old Hadrian's Wall. It's one element of a UK-wide project celebrating the country's love of music. 

Our day at Hadrian's Wall starts on the West Coast in Cumbria on Bowness-on-Solway with an amazing saxophonist Roz Sluman from Carlisle who passes the baton on to acoustic guitarist, Tom Lapworth from Wallsend. Tom will perform while travelling in an open top bus to Burgh on Sands where the Dalston Male Voice Choir will be waiting to receive the baton and give their performance inside St Michael’s Church. From then on the baton is passed from performing group to performing group, culminating with a big a big finale at Segedunum (meaning 'Wallsend' in North Tyneside).

 

Dalston Male Voice Choir rehearses for BBC Music Day

At 73 miles long Hadrian's Wall isn't walkable in one day. So, we use all sorts of different methods of transport to move performers along the wall. In addition to the amazing open-top vintage bus, there are tractors pulling along little trailers, bikes, horses and even a boat. All of them transporting performers playing the music they really feel passionate about.

When we first thought about this idea, we did wonder whether given the remoteness of some parts of the wall whether we'd find enough people and groups who wanted to contribute. But the reality is that we've been overwhelmed with the response and how many of them are really excited about taking part - especially on the west side of the wall where it will be a really early start for some people.

With everyone lined up we'll pass from one musical item to the other with a special musical baton in the shape of a musical note. That baton will be passed on throughout the day. Viewers and listeners will be able to follow progress on various different programmes across the BBC starting with Breakfast from 6am at Bowness. There'll be local radio broadcasts all day on local radio and camera crews from Look North and The One Show

I've been surprised by how many different types of music we've been able to include in this project. I'd thought originally that we would end up with a bias of folk music or Northumbrian Pipes but I'm really pleased we've been able to attract huge diversity of musical styles and  people performing the music.

And of course, with an event as big as this it's also been a huge logistical challenge. I'm really looking forward to is experiencing how it unfolds throughout the day. We won't really understand that until it happens - we haven't been able to rehearse the actual route with the performers in its entirety. 

For me it's not just a live broadcast, but a live one-off performance with a certain amount of jeopardy involved. We have lots of plan-Bs in place in case anything doesn't work. But, what we're really confident about is the weather. At this moment in time the forecast is looking good. Keep your fingers crossed for us and be sure to follow the relay!

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