Metro marks 50 years since Dr Martin Luther King Jr visited Newcastle

13 November 2017
15 year old Yuri Neves records extracts from Dr King's speech

The Tyne and Wear Metro has played its part in marking the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s historic visit to Tyneside.

Extracts from the speech that Dr King delivered at Newcastle University on 13 November 1967 were played across all 60 Metro stations using Metro’s public address system.

This dovetailed with a series of events across the city marking 50 years since Dr King was presented with an honorary degree at the university. A city-wide cultural programme  - Freedom City 2017- has explored the impact of the civil rights movement and the life of Dr King through art, theatre, music, photography and more.

The extracts from the speech were voiced by 15 year-old Excelsior Academy pupil Yuri Neves. The recordings were then broadcast across the Tyne and Wear Metro system today (Monday 13 Nov), four per hour.

Yuri Neves was chosen to do the recordings due to his involvement with Young Writers City, a New Writing North led project based at the Excelsior Academy in Newcastle’s west end for two years.

He was eager to get involved in the project marking the 50th anniversary of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle as he is passionate about the spoken word and how it can help to bring about positive social change.

Customer Services Director at Nexus, Huw Lewis, said: “We were honoured to be asked to play a role in marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to Newcastle in 1967, where he made a very important and historic speech.

“Metro is at the heart of our community, so it’s the ideal platform to help the city to celebrate Dr King’s visit. Extracts were played at all of our stations using the PA system. It’s had a great response and is a great tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, a man who did so much to fight against war, poverty and racism.”

On 13 November 1967, Newcastle University awarded Martin Luther King Jr an honorary degree, the only UK university to do so in his lifetime.

On accepting this award, King made a speech in which he called for us to join him in the ongoing struggle against war, poverty and racism. This was to be his final public speech outside of the US before his assassination.

Commissioned as part of the year-long Freedom City 2017 programme and produced by Wunderbar, the unannounced recitations from the speech included barbers, radio phone-ins, train platforms, shopping centres, banks, bridges, schools, fast food outlets and hospitals.

King was the most influential civil rights activist in history and the speech has incredible poignancy in today's climate. Participants stepped out of their usual role for moments to recite before handing out cards acknowledging the speech context to listeners.

Ilana Mitchell, Artistic Director for Wunderbar, said: “To make this project happen, we’ve met so many people: food bank volunteers, university professors, politicians, school pupils, business leaders, hairdressers, asylum seekers, doctors. People of different sexes, different races, different ages, different abilities. And the most striking thing for me is that pretty much across the board it’s been them telling us why this project is so important, not the other way around."

"It’s been inspiring to recognise the willingness to speak about difficult issues, and to speak out against racism. In these challenging times, it’s a real testament to the city to hear Martin Luther King’s words so powerfully echoed by the voices of its residents."

Vikki Leaney, senior festival and events manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, added: “Exactly 50 years on from Dr King’s impassioned speech at Newcastle University we are still feeling the effects of the three ‘urgent and great problems’ of war, poverty and racism, that he spoke of, in our societies today. These issues continue to impact on all of us, no matter of age, sex or race.

“The city-wide cultural programme for Freedom City 2017 explores the impact of the civil rights movement and the life of Dr King through art, theatre, music, photography and more. Through projects such as #MLK1967 and the involvement of internationally renowned artists, such as Jeremy Deller, we want to inspire people to tackle the issues of war, poverty and racism.”