not acting our age newcastle - march 2017                            #IWD17olderbolderNCL #IWD17icantkeepquietNCL

DURHAM HYMNS - 'SONGS OF WAR' @ hmp frankland


As part of 'Durham Hymns' I have been engaged to work in HMP Frankland, Durham Prison, working with prisoners to facilitate the research, creation and arrangement of musical compositions exploring World War One. Our composition, based on thorough research and exploration of archive materials, is a ten-verse ballad telling stories of ordinary soldiers, forgein nationals, conscientious objectors, munitionettes and depicts the true effects of war on those who contributed to the war efforts, both at home and afar. The composition is currently being arranged for brass ensemble and will be showcased in winter 2016.


This project is ongoing and a blog will follow soon.... 


wingrove wassail - january 2017

Further information, photographs and journal entry to come very soon!

wylam winter tales festival - january 2017

coal - november 2016

martin luther king peace committee - education


As part of an extensive Hertage Lottery Funded project exoploring the role of the The WEA In World War 1 in the North East  in May 2016 I lead an all day songwriting workshop 'Voices from the Ruins' to create poetry and music compositons based upon reflections and reactions to resources and human stories uncovered during an extensive international research project. 

I then arranged the compostions creating musical pieces - recordings of the finished pieces can be heard HERE and more information on the wider project can be found HERE 


Here are some examples of lyrics: 


I carried him back, I carried him home

To his friends, family and mother

Did he save them from the hell of a foreign foe

Or was he that foe to another?


Where have you gone my dear friend

I can't see for the dust in my eyes

I call you hero, your mam calls you son

But now you’re a victim of war

A victim of this toxic war 

-Toxic War - M. K. / B E Coyle


A happy boy, a loving son

Grew up with n’er a thought of war

But then you said it was your duty

And with your friends you went a’wa


I watched you go, my heart was aching

With a false mile upon you face

The fear I felt I could not show you

If you were scared you showed no trace

- Springtime Skies - M. W. / B E Coyle


My name changed, my life changed

My bonny lad, my canny lad

Mother once wife, charring for coppers

There was a gun, my life changed


The world changed, our lives changed

The bonny lads, the canny lads

Enola Gay’s smiling boys
No more guns, our lives changed

- The Widow's Lament - E. P. / B E Coyle 


A war to end wars, we were told

Oh wiper’s, oh wiper’s

Bombs and bullets are still being sold

Remember wiper’s town


Cities flattened to be built again

Oh wiper’s, oh wiper’s

Dresden, Beirut, Aleppo - the pain’s the same

Remember wiper’s town

 - Wiper's Town - G. J. / B E Coyle


Working throughout 12 Bishop Aukland schools, alongside a team of wonderful artists: a dancer, photographer, textile artist and storyteller, we created a festival celebrating and sharing over 100 years of British Culture. 

As part of my work I created bespoke music education resources including musical arrangements of popular songs, an interactive participatory music quiz, BSL signs and actions - to enable the inclusion and use with children of all abilities.

The project culminated in a mass performance sharing event at Bishop Aukland Castle at the end of June 2016.


For more information on my teaching and education projects please see HERE


This springtime I was commissioned to create a springtime festival of song - BIG SING IN SPRINGI worked throughout Bishop Aukland, an area in the South of Durham, visiting different classes within 15 schools and one nursery. Participants were aged between 2 - 11 years old! We explored song, music and movement from around the world, exploring many languages, culutres and practice. Exploring the themes of 'rebirth, renewal and springtime' we gave new life to household rubbish by creating many wild and wonderful instruments which we then used to accompany our songs.


The project culminated in a mass performance over over 400 students, at Bishop Aukland Methodist Church. (See above for photographs of our very colourful musical creations!)


Feedback from education staff:


  • "The children loved working with you, thank you!"
  • "My class worked with you on 'The Big Sing in Spring' - they thoroughly enjoyed learning the songs and performing at the church"
  • "You have a wonderful manner with the students, I am so impressed with their work"
  • "I wanted to say thank you - we really enjoyed the Big Sing in Spring today"

north east socialist singers (NESS) - 2014~present




Bethany is founder and Musical Director of the 'North East Socialist Singers'


"an independent, community collective  campaigning for social justice, political reform and positive change"


NESS are based at the Mining Institute, Newcastle. All are welcome regardless of ability or experience.


For info:




Journey to Justice is a human rights organisation who's aim is to 'inspire people to take action for social justice through learning about human rights movements' 

Alongside our visionary Director Carrie Supple and with the support of the fabulous NE Steering Group; I  coordinated the organisation's pilot project 'Footsteps to Freedom' in the North East. The role was an incredibly diverse one including the design, development and delivery of an extensive exhibition programme; a month long array of educational events, training courses, lectures, walks, talks, art exhibitions, film screenings and music events accompanying the travelling exhibition (hosted by the Discovery Museum, Newcastle during April-May 2015).


Newcastle was especially chosen to be our exhibiton launch place due to it's rich heritage and because of the fact Newcastle University (one of our partners) awarded Martin Luther King a honorary doctorate in 1967. As part of the pilot exhibiton, we created a smaller exhibiton hosted by the Great North Museum, depicting King's visit and screening a film documenting his acceptance speech (discovered whist working at Newcastle Unviersity by our friend and partner, Professor Brian Ward of Northumbria University).


The exhibition tells the stories on the unknown and unsung heroes involved in the US civil rights movement, details Martin Luther King's trip to Tyneside in 1967 and tells the stories of local Tyneside social justice struggles. 


Through education, music and the arts, Journey to Justice illustrates historical and contemporary human rights struggles from around the world to show how grassroots movements can bring about profound and sustained social change. The exhibition is now touring the UK after its launch in the North East - look out for it in your area sometime very soon! 


For more information on Journey to Justice 'Footsteps to Freedom' please click HERE


Please read on for further information and photographs of the various elements of the programme and education projects I delivered as part of my role...




the journey begins...

My journey began in June 2014 when I recieved an email 'out of the blue', asking for musicians and community choirs to join a fleeting volunteer organisation 'Journey to Justice' with it's crowdfunding campaign. I recruited the North East Socialist Singers and together in unison with singers on London's South Bank, we sang for social justice and Journey to Justice was born! A couple of months later as Director Carrie was visiting Newcastle to explore potential exhibition venues out paths crossed again and soon I was engaged as regional coordinator to oversee the development of the organisations' first pilot programme and exhibition launch - no small feat in this current climate! But with the support of comrades and colleagues alike and deeply inspired by the stories and songs of struggle, we worked incredibly hard; fundraising night and day, creating partnerships, forging friendships, nuturing networks, attracting audiences - all of our hard work enabled the fruition of Journey to Justice. As I watch the legacy unfold, I relflect on the many lessons learned, the invaluable experience I gained and I see the true value of it all - we educated people, what can be more valuable? As the JtoJ motto states our aim to 'inspire people to take action for social justice through learning about human rights movements' - that we certainly have. I remember a friend warned me when I told them of our plans "that's ambitious" - but we have to be, don't we? If we want to change the world... 

selma preview screening at star & shadow cinema

THE JOURNEY BEGAN one Saturday in January... after setting up online ticketing system I knew that we had already SOLD OUT of tickets for the screening, still I was godsmacked to see lines of people queueing outside the cinema in hope of gaining entry!  Slowly but surely more seats were created, from cushions, kitchen chairs, all manner of equipment, people sat on the floor, the stairs (all whilst staying within health and safety regulations, obviously!)... I knew then we were off to a good start! The first fundraiser a SELL OUT? HOORAY! 


I opened the event with a rendition of 'Birmingham Sunday' and would like to share with you some of my speech... 


"...That was a song written by Richard Farina, depicting events in Birmingham Alabama. In 1963 the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed killing 4 black girls who were attending Sunday School. This was the same church Martin Luther King and other USCRM activists had recently attended to launch a campaign to register African American voters. A week before the bombing Governor George Wallace had told the New York Times that to halt racial integration Alabama needed a “few first class funerals”…


The music and arts of social justice is one of the key themes of Journey to Justice. We are an alliance of volunteers, activists, educators, artists and academics who’s mission is to inspire and empower people to take action for social justice through learning from human rights movements.


In the last year JtoJ has been quite a journey itself, following incubation by the Centre for Innovation in Voluntary action and a successful crowd funding campaign we have begun to create our first project, an exhibition. This will pilot at the Discovery Museum in April 2015. Newcastle was chosen to be the pilot city partly, as Newcastle University gave MLK an honorary degree – 5 months before he was assassinated.


The exhibition will focus on the stories of some of the less well-known men, women and children involved in the USCRM, people of all ages and ethnicities, whose voices are not often heard but without whom it would not have happened – people like ‘us’. The story of a child from Birmingham Children Crusade will in fact feature in the exhibition… 


It will examine what leads people to become and stay active in campaigns. We will highlight factors which make a human rights movement succeed e.g. motivation, vision, courage, tactics, empathy, organisation, understanding power, allies, leadership, persistence, sacrifice, publicity, training and funding.  There will also be a section telling the story of a local campaign for justice to be chosen by a team in whichever community we visit. In Newcastle this will be created by young participants of the Space 2 project in Newcastle city center.


In London, consultations with community groups and the development and piloting of volunteers training courses is leading to a showcase event at the House of Lords at the end of this month. In Newcastle and Sheffield steering groups have been established and partnerships are fast developing. We also have links with Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester, Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Norwich, Newport and Bradford.


THANK YOUS - Now to the important part – Thank you all for coming today - 100% of the proceeds from today’s SELMA preview screening will go towards funding social justice education projects in Newcastle, as part of our month long planned programme of activities, courses and events in April 2015. 

As I mentioned earlier, JtoJ is predominantly volunteer ran; ‘a labour of love’ and I’d like to thank our wonderful Steering Group, volunteers, advisers, our Northumbria University Work placement Students and supporters. We are delighted to have been awarded HLF to deliver local history projects. I’d also like to thank Newcastle University for their generosity in awarding us a grant and in kind support and Unison’s Newcastle Local Government Branch for giving us office space within the Civic Centre. Finally, I’d like to thank Pathé Films and Star and Shadow Cinema, especially Arto who is a valued member of our Steering Group, If you would like to become involved in the project – please get in touch, we offer full volunteer training...


Our Northumbria Unviersity partner and expert in American Studies, Professor Brian Ward spoke to introduce and contextualise the film - for those unfamiliar with Martin Luther King and the US Civil Rights Movement. He spoke with his usual eloquence and expertise.


I invited Ladies of the Midnight Blue to perform at the event and instead we had another debut! Hannabielle screened the video to her 'Protest Culture' video and the audience loved it... Journey to Justice - Footsteps to Freedom was go!


After many months of meticulous research (including 2 Oral and Local History projects delivered by the fabulous Curiosity Creative, working with participants from Space 2, Newcastle) preparation and planning, our exhibition opened on the anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination, April 4th 2015. The exhibition was opened by Marcia Saunders, US Civil Rights Activist and Spencer, a young pupil from Gateshead whom I taught in a community choir (and who's voice you can hear singing out of the Journey to Justice exhibiton dukebox!). When Carrie and I were discussing who we thought could open the exhibition, Spencer came to mind. In the spirit of Journey to Justice We wanted both known and unsung heroes to be given a platform and his committment to his studies, work, family, music and our choir was exemplary and to me, an inspiration. The launch was attended by 300 people, featured contributions from our supporters, participants, partners, activists and local politicans and featured music performances from myself, North East Socialist Singers, Kingsmeadow Community Choir and The Crossings Band.

a king's speech - martin luther king on tyneside

oral history projects @ space 2 with curiosity creative



'train the trainers' with 'movement for change'            &  'facing history and ourselves'

For teachers, youth and community workers and anyone interested in developing their practice using our unique combination of human rights history, the arts and social change. This course focuses on community organising and citizenship education.


volunteers training



For more information about this project, music and lyrics please click HERE

the free southern theatre: telling black us history onstage

The Free Southern Theatre pioneered a union of civil rights activism and political theatre in 1964, during one of the pivotal campaigns of the African American civil rights movement, the Mississippi ‘Freedom Summer.’ This talk with Northumbria Univeristy's Joe STreet, explores the FST’s understanding of the role of theatre in the struggle for racial equality in the United States.

the king of south shields


I assembled a fabulous Steering Group, to support the development of the project. The group were of a diverse demographic, including: students, volunteers, academics, artists, educators , social workers and musicians - people from all walks of life, all of whom shared a passion for human rights and social justice issues. As part of my role I was chairperson of the fabulous group I tried to ensure members expertise and skills were utilised and all suggestions, input and ideas included in the design of the project. 



As part of my role I supervised the 'NU7' - seven brilliant third year Northumbria University History Students who completed a work placement by working alongside me helping with aspects of the project such as: fundraising, publicity and communications. 


For more infomation about the wonderful work of Journey to Justice please click HERE

british values - folk culture festival

During the summer term of 2015, I worked with classes in 15 schools throughout Bishop Aukland. Working as one of a team of four artists, we worked collaboratively contrasting our own chosen mediums of music*, dance, photography and storytelling to explore the history of British folk cultures and the complex idea of 'British Values'. Utilising my passion (skills and training) in traditional folk culture, I taught the children a range of folk music from the UK and the further afield the British diaspora, exploring and celebrating our eclectic culture and heritage. 


Our project website with resources, documentation and further information can be found here.


Working alongside a wonderful writer and theatre maker, I created music and to accompany theatre produced by international human rights defenders which depicted women's struggles from around the world. The song was intersperced throughout the performance, the full text is below...


Join our journeys to justice

Share our stories, unsung

We are the givers of life

Let us unite as one


Our roots bounds

By ritual and roles

Remove the mask

Uncage our souls

Futures forged (by)

Tragic tradition

Echoes of ancient rhythms


Cycles of silence

Quell their cries

Culture and creed

Transcend time

She fights for freedom

On the front lines

As her spirit dreams to fly


Like fire she burns

Wise as the world

Weaves tapestries

Of truth, unheard

As strong as the tides

Moon and sun

She is mother to everyone


Education is key

To our society

Campaign for justice

Equality, peace

We must all live in hope

Know we are not alone

We are women the front lines


the coast road



Bethany Elen is part of The Coast Road a collective of musicians based in the NE of England, lead by maestro Dave Camlin (Mouthful, Solfest). She is joined by the beautiful Bex Mather (Mongrel Theatre, The Safires), the brilliant Brendan Murphy (Rhumba Palace) and bass virtuoso Paul Susans (The Baghdaddies). The cohort of community musicians perform an eclectic mix of folk fusion.

For info:

under the fields of heaton festival - 2015~16







Bethany is involved with the organising committee of the 'Under the Fields of Heaton' festival



 For info:

kingsmeadow community choir, gateshead - 2014~15

 Bethany leads the fabulous 'Kingsmeadow Community Choir (KCC)' a music ensemble based at Kingsmeadow Community School, Dunston, Gateshead.

The collective create, explore and perform an array of music and song from around the world. 'KCC' shared their voices with Journey to Justice, collaborating with 'NESS' to create parts of the musical soundtrack to the exhibition - you can hear their voices on the Journey to Justice Jukebox

lawnmowers i.T.C - 2011~2014

Volunteering before graduating, from 2011-2014 Bethany worked with the brilliant Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company developing music, singing and cultural research projects; establishing and developing the 'Kulture Krew', 'Find Your Voice' and 'Songs for Change' projects. Her time with Lawnmowers was a transformational one, during which time she gained invaluable experience collaborating with wonderful artists at this world renowned theatre company which for 30 years has pioneered learning disabled lead arts work; forum and legislative theatre.


For more information please see their website HERE

lawnmowers - find your voice

lawmowers - songs for change

lawmowers - kulture krew

lawnmowers - krocodile krew

brazil - 2013