Durham University

Department of Geography

News Archive

Folk Song that Captures the Heart of Durham Goes Viral

(18 January 2018)

The song was professionally recorded at White Wolf recording studio in Wheatley Hill, County Durham and the film was made simply using iMovie software on an iPhone. On his music page, Sam describe the song as retelling the "story of Durham from the perspective of 'sanctuary', from St Cuthbert's exile in 875, through to the miners' strike of 1984, to refugees who have fled a civil war in the Middle East, to find a home in Durham". The song's catchy chorus chants:

"In these ancient streets, there's a heartbeat of sanctuary. All are pilgrims of a kind. In these stones you're not alone, there's a place to be... In the city of Sanctuary".
The song's title comes from a national based refugee support organisation - City of Sanctuary - and grew out of Sam's involvement in the Durham City of Sanctuary group. Sam is a resident of Durham, having moved to Durham in 2008 to study Geography. Having completed a PhD in Human Geography, he is currently devoting his time to writing music, engaging with communities through music and gigging across the North East. In Sam's words:

"I'm completed overwhelmed that the video for City of Sanctuary has been viewed so many times, provoking memories, nostalgia and love for the city. The song was originally written as a response to feelings of unease at the backend of Brexit and negative feeling around immigration. By showing that Durham has always had arrivals and refugees - from St Cuthbert to recent refugees - I hope it can inspire that all can find a home in these ancient streets. I'm touched that it seems to have connected with so many people who feel a sense of sanctuary in Durham".

You can listen online to the Mike Parr interview with Sam on the story behind the song 'City of Sanctuary', from 2:21:00 (login required).