Rock musician Sting tonight expressed his pride at being able to return to his roots for the staging of his Geordie musical The Last Ship.
The Grammy-winning star spoke as some of TV and music’s biggest names arrived at a glittering, red carpet event to attend a special, gala performance of his play at Newcastle’s Northern Stage.
The Last Ship tells the story of a community amid the demise of the shipbuilding industry in Tyne and Wear, with the closure of the Swan Hunter shipyard.
Beaming with delight, Sting said: “I’m enormously proud to show this play at last where it springs from, here from Tyneside, and to tell the story of the community that I was brought up in.
“It’s the story of the shipyards, how difficult that work was and of how proud the community was of what they built. The biggest ships constructed on planet earth were built at the end of my street.
“It’s a love story, a story of social history, but it has a surprise ending.”
Sting revealed that he would be performing himself last night after actor Joe Caffrey took sick.
He said: “The actor who is his understudy didn’t know his song, So I have stepped in. It’s all hands on deck. I’m happy to do that. I wasn’t expecting to be on the stage tonight.”
Among those attending were Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson, along with homegrown stars such as Denise Welch, Alan Shearer, Joe McElderry and Hairy Biker, Si King.
Ms Welch said: “I’m very excited to be back here and to be seeing it. I just think anything up here which is about here and about our love of the North-East and the demise of the shipyards has got to be a success.
“This show is going all over the place. But I think we are a region that love our own and we like to celebrate our own.
“I’m so hugely proud. I think tonight will be very poignant. I hope it will be a celebration, but it will also be quite sad, that those days are long gone. And combined with Sting’s music which is just so haunting and so beautiful, I am very excited to see it.”
The gala performance was held in aid of the Graham Wylie Foundation and all funds raised last night will support the Newcastle-based charity, which was formed to “help, inspire and educate children across the region”.
Mr Wylie said: “I am incredibly grateful that some of the greatest talents this region has ever produced are giving up their time to attend the premiere and support the foundation.”
The charity has built the first Nordoff Robbins music therapy centre outside London, at the Matron’s Lodge of the former Fleming Hospital – and Sting and Ricky Wilson will officially declare it open this morning.
Sting said “Music has been the most important part of my life, ever since I was a young boy growing up on Tyneside.
“I truly believe that access to music, in its many forms, can benefit and support everyone, giving them the chance to discover a life-long love.
“It’s great to see a music therapy centre coming to the North East funded by the Graham Wylie Foundation to support the important work of Nordoff Robbins.”
(c) The Northern Echo by Gavin Engelbrecht / (c) Photo by Darren