The North East Opera and Middlesbrough Town Hall Community Choir showcase My Great Folk in Middlesbrough Town Hall this weekend at the Shine Festival.

One of the performers will be Yohannes Eyob, from Eritrea, who escaped to this country in fear of his life some years ago and was spotted doing the Park Run at Albert Park (in Middlesbrough) by sports coach, Peter Conner.

He was encouraged to start training as a marathon runner with the TS Harriers. As well as a top-class athlete back home in Eritrea, he was also a kirar (a cross between an ancient harp and guitar) player and singer. He had to leave his instrument back home, but managed to build one out of scrap he found in a skip. He created a thing of absolute beauty with a sound so that is unique and other worldly. It was with this instrument in hand that he went along to singing workshops at the Methodist Asylum Project (MAP) in Middlesbrough.

North East Opera workshop leaders Emily, David and Terry run weekly workshops at MAP and Middlesbrough Town Hall where they offer singing workshops in all styles of music for anyone to join in.

"We have an open-door policy," says Middlesbrough-born Emily. " We want to welcome people of all walks of life into our sessions."

These workshops are to empower people, to give a voice to the voiceless – to stand proud and strong in the face of adversity. They sing all styles of music from folk, rock, gospel, and opera and regularly perform around the North-East. In the MAP sessions, members are encouraged to share songs and dances from their countries and teach them to the rest of the group.

My Great Folk is inspired by the industrial history of Middlesbrough. In the early 1800s, the area called upon workers from Ireland, Scotland and Wales to work in its various industries of mining, brick making, ship building, iron and steel.

In recent years, Middlesbrough has become a place where a considerable number of asylum seekers have been sent. Iranians, Eritreans, Nigerians, Kurdish and Syrians have found themselves on Teesside and have forged a life for themselves here.

With this in mind, My Great Folk is a celebration of the undeniable history of migration in Middlesbrough. It is funded through a new pilot scheme made possible with support from Creative Lives Know Your Neighbourhood Programme, funded by Arts Council England and the UK Government to explore how creativity can help to tackle loneliness and encourage volunteering.

It consists of folk music from all around the world that has been collected from the people of Teesside and arranged into a Folk Opera. It embodies the music of those who have made Middlesbrough and Teesside their home from the early 1800s to the present day.

They will be joined by the Middlesbrough Town Hall Community Choir and performing arts students from Middlesbrough College. A total of 150 performers will be taking part accompanied by a band of folk and rock musicians.

Tickets for the event, which takes place on Sunday, February 25, are £3 for adults and £1.50 for children. For more information, visit