Charities band together to celebrate key workers

ORGANISERS of a free Sunderland concert to celebrate the work of frontline staff have teamed up with three charities to raise awareness of their vital work. 

Rocking In The Free World will take place at Herrington Park on 22 May 2021, with a number of artists donating their time for free as a thank you to key workers during the COVID-19 crisis – including award winning headliner Emeli Sande.

And Andrew Kennedy and Ben Potts, who are pulling together the event, have now partnered with Mental Health Matters, Dementia UK and the Red Sky Foundation, which supports people with heart problems in the North East and beyond.

The concert started as a way for Andrew to show thanks wife, Jan – who heads up the emergency unit at South Tyneside Hospital – and quickly snowballed into a much bigger project to reach more of the essential staff in the region.

Along with Emeli Sande, the line-up includes Ben’s tribute band The Sons of Eden, singer-songwriter Karen Harding and South Shields-based singer Christian Yu, who is also a nurse. 

And the pair have recently announced the addition of a DJ stage, featuring Katie Goodman, James Haskell, Carly Wilford and Charlie Davies.

Organisers have plans for a funfair, bars and street food vendors, with buses to transport concert-goers to the site from Darlington, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Newcastle, Gateshead, Durham and Sunderland. 

“It’s quite surreal to look back at how this idea started, now that it has grown into such a huge event, and we’re very humbled to be able to work with some really incredible charities as a part of it,” said Andrew.

“We’ve had such a positive response from everyone who has heard about the concert and it’s set to be a really fantastic day celebrating the work of our frontline staff – with even more still be to announced.”

Claire Hall, of Mental Health Matters, is delighted to be involved in such a unique event and said: “At MHM, our mission is to help people achieve good physical and mental wellbeing and live life to the full.

“The concert provides an opportunity for us to show our appreciation for key workers, offer our support and use our experience in mental health to promote positive wellbeing.”

Sergio Petrucci, founder of the Red Sky Foundation, believes the event will have a great impact on the charities involved.

“We’ve been so excited to release this news, especially as music is so close to our hearts, just like our heartbeat and its vital pulse,” he said.

“It has the ability to resonate throughout our entire body, which can have a calming influence and help to lower blood pressure – but this news has really got our hearts racing.”

Hilda Hayo, CEO of Dementia UK and Chief Admiral Nurse, added: “We know that living with dementia can be a difficult and lonely experience. 

“The support of an Admiral Nurse is a lifeline for families affected by dementia and the invaluable support of Andrew Kennedy and Ben Potts will mean we can provide this vital, life-changing support to even more families who need it.” 

The organisers have also set up a Just Giving page to help raise £20,000 towards financing the event, which can be reached at

Anyone wanting to register for tickets when they become available can do so at

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