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  • The acclaimed play about a group of Ashington miners Pitmen Painters, penned by Tynesider Lee Hall, is following in the footsteps of his other dramatic success Billy Elliot and heading to Broadway. The original cast - mostly from the North East - will perform at the Manhattan Theatre Club from September. The play, which started out at the Live Theatre on the Quayside and also played at Newcastle's Theatre Royal and the National in London, is also directed by the Live's Max Roberts. Consett-born actor Chris Connell said: "I'm delighted to be going to Broadway." Check out our interview with Lee Hall in the culture section.

    Standout highlight of the December calendar in the North East was the Gateshead Sage's fifth birthday concert on December 20, featuring celebrated Northumbrian composer Kathryn Tickell and superstar special guest Sting. It was a magical night. Tickets were gold dust but if you weren't there don't worry - you can read our review of the gig here. We've also got a great interview with Kathryn. Listen to her talking about her music, her North East, Sting and her mum - the inspiration for one of her best-loved pieces My Favourite Place. A full version of this song also features on a brand new "Best of" CD out now with 30 other great tracks.
  • Congratulations to South Shields lad Joe McElderry on his magnificent win on the X-Factor. The 18-year-old who was a performing arts student at Newcastle College and worked as a waiter at South Shields Customs House has the world at his feet with the chance of a 5million singing and acting Hollywood career. An incredible 10 million votes were cast as Joe - backed by Geordie songbird and X-Factor judge Cheryl Cole - beat Essex lad Olly Murs. Joe said: "It's amazing to have won - it's a dream come true. I'm thrilled that the public picked me." ITV presenters Ant & Dec paid tribute to him, saying: "You did fantastically well. Congratulations Joe." He got a hero's welcome when he returned to South Shields for the first time since his X-Factor win and found 3,000 fans waiting to meet him. He signed CDs of his single The Climb, at HMV and said: "I can't believe people would be waiting for me. It's really strange, totally surreal."

  •  It was a busy November. I bumped into Gosforth guitar genius Mark Knopfler backstage at the Royal British Legion's Silence in the Square at Trafalgar Square on Poppy Day. He played Remembrance Day - a great track from his new album Get Lucky. Proceeds from that track and Piper to the End (a moving song about his Uncle Freddie - a Tyneside Blackwatch soldier who died going into battle in World War II playing his pipes at the age of 20) will go to this year's Poppy Appeal.
  • Just days before I was in the Red Sea on a scuba diving trip to Sharm El Sheikh. (When I'm not interviewing North East celebrities I teach people to dive and get to visit some of the best scuba hot-spots in the world)
  • Check out our great Bryan Ferry interview with him talking about all his favourite North East memories. TV's Geordie Hairy Biker Si King gave me a bell the other day to talk about their new series Mums Know Best which is on the telly in January and February, and they have a live roadshow tour playing Newcastle City Hall, Durham Gala and Darlington Civic in the next few months. You can listen to Si talking to ne4me about his cooking inspiration - mum Stella - and in a separate interview all the stories behind the hit BBC 2 show.


Michael Hamilton


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