On a stage at Gosforth Civic Theatre, Northern Roots put on an event we will never forget. The message I’ll take away from this, is that when you curate an event using genuine passion and understanding for a world you want and need to exist, a world we need to have and the spaces we have every right to occupy, for us by us, anything is possible. Everyday a new safe space is emerging, ones that allow minoritized groups to exist unapologetically and loudly, to connect to their history and weld together their future that society tried to erase. The visual landscape of the stage to the influential lyrics, notes and moves of the creatives on stage, all together came to create something that will stay with a lot of people for a very long time.

The background was so stunning, curated by the talented Yve Ngoo who, really encapsulated a calm, welcoming and comforting presence that allowed the music to draw you in, ask you for a cup of something hot and make you feel like you returned home.

In every direction there is something magical and jaw-dropping that takes your breath away, whether that’s the dancers, or the mesmerizing bond from Ladies of the midnight blue and their connection to their drums, to your left Rob Rez captures every single moment with a swift and gifted brush.

The artists differing and beautiful melodies swirling around the room, wrapped around you like a hug.  This event emitted confidence in all of its talent that took over, better yet owned the stage. After a traumatic lockdown, connecting with tunes that took you away from the current situations around you, especially with the Black lives matter movement we needed places to express Black joy but also all our valid emotions that had been silenced for so long needed to be let out. Art provided the opportunity to convey yourself unapologetically whether you were the one creating it or admiring someone else’s, and that is exactly what Kema Kay, and Kay Greyson have achieved effortlessly, what they curated and created exemplified the fine acts that the North-East has to offer. And such talents cannot be ignored.

The art and performances by Kema Kay, Kay Greyson, Rob Reza, Ladies of the midnight blue, Young gifted and Black, The Trilling Three, Jay and Jasmine, R3, Fabz, Sam and Brian, Nitro Nick and Flyness exemplified how we cannot wait for a seat at a table what was not built for us to thrive as we are. If you have not yet watched the stream from the night I implore you to follow this link you will not be disappointed! There is an array of young talent within this region that shone brightly, it illustrates the immense need for more organizations and community groups to keep promoting the voices that are often silenced. At a time when the world needs to be louder than ever, we must keep coming together like Kema and Kay, bringing together what unites us and what we love, to strengthen bonds and environments around us so we can keep thriving.

“If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

My personal favourites were Ladies of the Midnight Blue, Fabz and Flyness. I love pieces that bring you to a familiar place, sounds that unravels a part of yourself and then can be further understood through your unique connection with the sounds you hear and the breakdown of each sentence. Being of Nigerian descent I especially connected with Ladies Of The Midnight Blue, they were very reminiscent of my experiences attending a Nigerian Pentecostal church, that was always filled with loud and booming music that got you on your feet, it didn’t matter if you’d heard the song before or not because your body automatically knew how to flow to its rhythm. An experience whether in person or through your phone screen, the years and years of ancestry flowed through your mind, body, bones, and soul so you knew exactly how to be one with it.

“I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me – like food or water.” Ray Charles

You could see it naturally in the band, a wave of tranquillity and peace as they communicated through their drums and invited the audience to feel along with the beat. You were being welcomed through a rhythm, you were conversing through a beat and that performance was just moving, it is so hard to describe this in a way to give the night justice. For a couple hours, everyone attending and watching, was in a bubble, one that encapsulated the history and creation of hip hop, grime, soul, R&B and more. A formidable reminder of what Black people have conceived, a talent that has always lied within us and was passed down to the generations of today, witnessed and shared on that very stage.

“Music does a lot of things for a lot of people. It’s transporting, for sure. It can take you right back, it’s uplifting, it’s encouraging, it’s strengthening.” – Aretha Franklin

What I love most about this event is the ability to relate to the themes behind it, as a Black and Queer woman there are so many parts of my identity that is not represented. The lived experiences are rarely exemplified or talked about in mainstream spaces. But what I have come to realise, especially within the last few years, is how we can create our own defining moments, how we can learn and grow together. There were so many amazing people involved and must be praised such as COH Visuals a North-East based videographer that brought to life the concept and dreams of these young talented musicians and created their own music videos.

At a time, as described by the event producers, where young musicians were making music from their bedrooms, unable to access studios and their equipment due to COVID, having these avenues to witness what was once written on a sheet of paper or in a phone memo become a streamed event on YouTube in HD,  a community that not only supports their dreams but advances it.

It reminds young people that their work holds a profound importance and deserves to be seen, especially at a time when being indoors and away from loved ones, the understandings, and appreciations of life’s simplicities from shopping with friends, spending some time in the studio or just dancing outside the monument with likeminded enthusiasts was so quickly taken away. The confidence that beamed through the screen from every performers faces was dazzling; you could tell they belonged and knew they were walking within their purpose. For some it can take a lifetime to understand what you are here to do, but from my eyes, I can confidently say Kema and Kay’s work and guidance was present within every performer who was definitely in the right place and were going to go far.

So I ask you, what will you take away from this event?