Human Jukebox project set to share people’s favourite songs

Steve Drayton with some of the jukebox records.
Steve Drayton with some of the jukebox records.

Performers and storytellers from South Tyneside are preparing for the grand finale of a ‘human jukebox’ arts project.

The Mr Drayton’s Human Jukebox - a commission by the Cultural Spring - has been working across South Tyneside and Sunderland for the past six months, capturing people’s most memorable songs and the stories behind their choices.

The project is the brainchild of freelance director for the BBC Helen Spencer and her partner Steve Drayton.

Steve explained: “We’ve been visiting the Cultural Spring wards for months, collecting hundreds of amazing stories behind folk’s most memorable songs. Some are really uplifting, inspiring or funny, others have been very moving.”

Helen added: “I’ve literally been walking the streets and stopping people in their tracks to ask them what their most memorable song is. If the streets are quiet, then I’ve interviewed people in local shops, beauty salons, cafes, even tattoo parlours.

“One morning in Boldon it was quite quiet so I popped into a nail bar and talked to the owner.

“Like many others she said she didn’t really have a good story, but I arranged to go back later to get my nails done and while I was there I picked up her story – which was a good one, despite what she thought – and also got the song choices and stories from others in the nail bar.”

Steve added: “We’ve had four very enjoyable social evenings at the Smugglers at Roker and at Whitburn and Marsden Social Club, and now we’re working hard to make our grand finale a really special night.”

The event will be held at Hylton Castle Workingman’s Club on Saturday, January 30.

Those telling the stories behind their choice of songs will include Sunderland-born author Terry Deary, BBC Newcastle’s Alfie Joey and local magician Chris Cross.

Steve explained: “Terry and Alfie will be telling their stories and then performing their songs.

“Terry will be singing Elvis’s I Can’t Help Falling in Love You and Alfie will be singing his favourite Sinatra track, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, joined by feathered dancers from Sunderland’s Kathleen Davis School of Dance.”

Others talking about their choices will include Lauren McLeish, from South Shields and 10-year-old Tom Smith from East Rainton.

Harry McCall, from the ukulele group Hylton Ukes will tell his story and the popular group will also be performing on the night.

Steve explained: “Music is a very personal thing and all of the songs chosen obviously mean a great deal to the storytellers.

“The choices make you think differently about the songs, you come at them from someone else’s perspective.”

*Tickets for the event are available from the Customs House, South Shields, on 454 1234 or from Hylton Castle Workingmen’s Club before the event and on the night.

For more about the Cultural Spring, log on to and to listen to Mr Drayton’s Human Jukebox, visit