The sounds of wildlife will feature among the attractions of a new online Unity Festival this weekend which will also bring rap and jazz direct into people's homes.

The new event, being hosted by Newcastle's Skimstone Arts, is out to bring the outdoors indoors and, as well as creating a music festival atmosphere, it will be inviting visitors to a virtual 'Music Tent' to join in the likes of singing, song-writing, drumming and rapping workshops.

There will be a Chill Out Tent too, where the online audience can relax and immerse themselves in stories and themes of nature and fantasy.

Chris Watson at work
Chris Watson at work

Among the festival's headline attractions is well-known local sound recorder and composer Chris Watson, who has won a BAFTA for his work on David Attenborough documentary series The Life of Birds.

This time he will be talking on Saturday morning about his adventures in covering a range of sounds and rhythms across the planet from Antarctica to the Arctic.

Other headliners at the Unity Festival, which celebrates community, nature and social action, will be Newcastle rapper and hip hop artist Kay Greyson and singer-songwriter Bumi Thomas, whose music is a mix of jazz, folk and soul and who will be performing songs from her EP Broken Silence.

Bumi Thomas will be taking part in the free online Unity Festival
Bumi Thomas will be taking part in the free online Unity Festival

The festival will get under way with a Launch Party on Friday, March 5 with a live radio broadcast at 5pm via Skimstone Radio - outlining what will be coming up - then the programme will run on Zoom from 10am until 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday.

On offer will be a huge range of events including bands playing live on a Main Stage; African dance workshops; virtual singalongs; relaxing mindfulness sessions; an opportunity to take part in creating a new story; open mic events; urban gardening and nature ideas and suggestions of how to use apps to make an animated GIF.

Festival-goers can 'meet for lunch' and listen to a podcast on the Festival Green and even those who do not have access to the internet can join in by giving the festival a ring at lunchtime to hear a song.

Claire Webster Saaremets, artistic director of Skimstone Arts which supports diverse artists and people at risk of social isolation, said: "We hope that this festival provides a sense of community and togetherness that has been sorely missed during the last 12 months.

"Unity Festival is the culmination of a three-year Reaching Out programme which has seen Skimstone Arts engage with people of all ages across Newcastle and the North East to create original music, film and photography with regional and international artists that has been celebrated at festival events and more recently on our very own internet radio."

She added: "This festival marks not only the end of this exciting programme of activity but celebrates the new adventures we have planned for the future as we continue to support local, international and diverse artists and those at risk of isolation, to create work with, for and about the world that matters to them."

The festival events are free and are considered suitable for all. The full programme can be seen here.

To tune into Friday's radio launch event see here and the Zoom link to catch the weekend action will be made available here each day.