Emily McLean reports on Never Give Up, a variety show for Suicide Awareness by Music Durham in the Assembly Rooms Theatre. 

For months now, Music Durham have been working with local charity RTProjects to bring this extraordinary concert to the Assembly Rooms stage. In aid of suicide awareness, Never Give Up was a medley of music, dance, and even magic, with all profits going towards RTProjects.

RTProjects is an independent organisation that uses creative activities to support people experiencing poor mental health. The concert’s compere, RTProject leader Beano, began by explaining that he had decided to stop using the term ‘mental health’ because of the stigma attached – instead, he decided to call it ‘happiness’. Despite the sombre subject of the concert, this decision by the enthusiastic Beano set the mood of the evening as one of optimism, hope, and looking to the future.

Kicking off the concert in style was the a cappella group Foot Notes, whose set included a touching rendition of the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’. This was followed by Suzy & Tash, a duo of wonderful dancers. Their routine was all about mutual support, which captured the mood of the evening perfectly as they held each other up. Local musician Simon Wood then took to the stage with his hypnotic drum beats, encouraging the audience to ‘om’ as he played; the sound resonated as the whole room joined together to make one mesmerising sound. The final act of the half was Durham Opera Ensemble, beginning with a trio of beautiful harmonic singing before transitioning into a rousing and impressive group piece.

With the interval now approaching, it was time for the centrepiece of the evening: the auction. In order to raise more money for RTProjects, volunteers for the charity took to the stage to auction off a range of prizes: from a painting by Beano himself to a spa trip for two, the final prize was an extraordinary cake by the one and only Henry Bird. The stunning elderflower and lemon cake (coated in Swiss meringue no less) was the envy of everyone in the audience, but the cake was ultimately purchased by one of the acts to share amongst themselves, fetching the highest price of the auction!

The second half continued in style, beginning with Durham University Brass Band and their quirky take on ‘All You Need Is Love’, a song which Beano had asked them to play as it encapsulated the mood and message of the concert perfectly. This was followed by the cake-winners themselves, Nashama, with some haunting harmonies. InStep followed with a group dance with infectious dynamism. Friend of the charity Steve Pledger then took to the stage with some inspiring words and energetic self-written songs. Swiftly following were punk band Women’s Fashion, which Beano commented were a familiar style for him but would seem brand new for many in the audience!

Throughout the concert, Beano had continuously asked ‘where is Egor?’, referring to the infamous student magician. Finally, the question was answered as he took to the stage to enthral the audience with some dazzling card tricks (which, unknowingly, we were a part of) and a frankly scary turn swallowing needles and thread!

The finale saw the return of Steve Pledger as he joined Beano so sing their self-penned song ‘What If… Never Give Up’, featuring the sounds of a thrumming heartbeat. This was truly the perfect end to the evening, with the charity’s message coming from the mouths of the people that it means so much to.

Credit for the concert must also go to Music Coordinator Olivia Peacock and Music Durham President Kirsty Dempster; their work behind the scenes was been incredible, and the evening could not have happened without their dedication.

For more information about RT Projects, go to their website: https://rtprojects.org.uk/