Ocean Road suffers again.
The brief but intense thunderstorm which hit the north east of England this afternoon was not in any way an exceptional summer weather event, the storm lasted less than an hour and the volume of rain was far less than the last storm to hit us in South Tyneside. Yet once again a familiar story unfolded as parts of South Shields were dealt a miserable hand due mainly to inadequate drainage solutions. Ocean Road once more bore the brunt of the weather as shopkeepers and guest house owners reached for the sand bags and plastic sheeting in a hurried attempt to prevent damage to their flooring. A similar picture was emerging at Tyne Dock at its junction with Eldon Street.
After scores of promises of action, millions of pounds worth of investment from Northumbrian Water, a similar level of activity from South Tyneside Council, we still see scenes such as these in South Shields and other parts of the borough. People that I spoke to this afternoon were almost distraught and bitterly frustrated that their businesses could be put at risk by a simple summer rainstorm and the apparent inability of local officialdom and utility players to keep a few drains running clear. The residents know exactly which drains will block, how quickly, and can almost accurately count the minutes before the waters will subside, yet they still have to suffer.
We can count ourselves lucky that South Tyneside Council were only having three free concerts in the Bents Park as part of the Summer Festival this year, otherwise the usual final concert would have been an ordeal to say the least.
The Mayor of South Tyneside to cut her weight
The Mayor of South Tyneside Cllr. Eileen Leask told me today that she is on a mission to make serious cuts! No, not more public finances under threat but her waistline!
Eileen is determined to lose a few pounds and will be asking people to sponsor her to raise funds for some of the Mayoress’s charities this year. Having lost a few myself over the past two years I’ll be only too happy to help her out, and a little publicity to start her campaign cannot cause it any damage. More details when I get them – best of luck Eileen
Short set from former X Factor winner
Heard quite a few moans and groans in the Bents Park, South Shields this afternoon as Matt Cardle fans seemed a little cheesed off at his late arrival at the venue and the late start to his performance. The former X Factor winner was also heard moaning about his audio and asking technicians to make adjustments to his vocals in between songs. Most disappointing was the shortness of his set at around thirty minutes, but I guess at a free gig beggars can’t be choosers. The concert attracted a very decent sized crowd, although not as large as last week’s even though the weather was ten times better. The park was bathed in warm sunshine with just a few clouds floating by as we all filled the place with deck chairs and aluminium tables for a decidedly family afternoon of music and entertainment. Unfortunately it was left to local performers to pad out the schedule but they took it in their stride, and despite nervousness gave a good account of themselves. For me the real star of the show was former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Ryan O’Shaughnessy, he finished in fifth place in the sixth series of the popular TV talent show in May this year. Like Cardle, O’Shaughnessy just appeared with a guitar to warm the crowd with some very mature songs, the Irish lad really was a breath of fresh air.
I guess it’s a bit of a shame that he eclipsed Cardle, but he had the audience in his hands whereas Cardle seemed to be totally unaware of where South Shields was!
Oh well, with a choice of a free concert in South Shields or an almighty struggle with crowds down the road making for the Sunderland International Air Show I think I made the right choice (anybody else notice the apparent lack of planes over South Shields this weekend?)
The advertising campaign
OK we must have seen this a fair bit now, and apart from one desperately upset reader in the Shields Gazette it appears to have hit the right notes, if it didn’t it hit people who are not bothered about complaining too much. Personally I think it is a very good edit squeezing as much content as possible into 45 seconds, I’d prefer to see a little less “branding” and a little more of the sea front parks and beaches but perhaps I’m nitpicking. I’ve seen it on television, online, and at public events, I assume that it has also been distributed to cinemas.
I’d be interested in knowing how much has been spent on the campaign and how South Tyneside Council plan to measure its success. I’d also like to know if any of our local businesses were asked to contribute to the cost in return for a second or two of fame.
It is good to see that our council is now reaching out more openly to wider markets by allowing content to be freely shared on YouTube and Facebook, there are still some who won’t.
South Tyneside Festival now in full swing
I found it difficult to hide a little disappointment that South Shields would not see any of The Mouth of the Tyne Festival this year, the Saturday night parade has become a luminary and pyrotechnic spectacle that we all much looked forward to, and the varied entertainment on the Sunday was also a great “crowd magnet”. However, times are hard, cash is tight, wee have to cut our cloth, yet still we can manage to bring thousands of smiles to faces in South Tyneside as our Summer Festival adapts to the changes as today’s free concert in South Shields’ Bents Park provided some attractive and stirring competition to the street walkabout acts in Tynemouth. I missed last Saturday’s opening parade because of work commitments but there was no way that I would be missing today’s event as local girl Jenny Stevens and her band The Hiccups stepped up another notch to play to probably the largest crowd they’ve ever played to.
The South Shields based four piece now have a more rounded sound and style with some heavier riffs and beats to accompany the melody created in Jen’s self penned songs, Jenny has been a member of the Curly’s Corner Shop Message Board and a Twitter user for some time now, so many of us were delighted to be able to enjoy her warm up act which was a very decent set played to a demographic which perhaps was not her usual “market” (lets be fair most buyers of the band’s CDs are a little bit older than the average Scouting for Girls fan), she has also done a great deal of self marketing and promotion through the use of social networking sites so there really were no excuses for local music lovers NOT to know that she’d be playing today. The set included a great selection from the first album Meg’s Hill and the new album Better Frame of Mind. If you don’t know the music of Jen Stevens and the Hiccups watch this video for a taster:
Thankfully the weather stayed dry, a mixture of cool clouds and breezes interspersed with some warm sunshine, it certainly helped in getting the crowds out and I’d not be far wrong in guessing that perhaps 18000 packed the Bents Park, almost as many as attended the Joe McCelderry coming home concert last year. The giant screen first introduced at the Bents Park last year was in use again and very much appreciated by those families at the back, whilst at the front of the stage thousands of young boys and girls recreated a version of a “mosh pit” revelling in seeing their faces caught by the cameras. Unfortunately it made my job of taking pictures that much more difficult with a camera rostrum erected right in front of the centre of the stage, shooting over the heads of thousands of youngsters is difficult enough without other obstructions, I think I’ll take along my own step ladders next time
Next up were the headline act Scouting for Girls whose debut self titled album went to No. 1 in the charts in 2007, the next album Everybody Wants t be on TV reached No. 2 in the charts and gave them a No. 1 hit single in 2010. They are a three piece band from London with a huge fan base in the mid to late teens group who were very vocal today. Not exactly my taste in music, but hey if they draw a crowd into South Shields for the right reasons then that’s fine by me, they sound a bit too much like the Gary Barlow Take That genre. Anyway here’s the one that had them all jumping!
All in all a great afternoon, pretty busy, lots of cash being spent and lots of visitors in town. South Shields and South Tyneside can be happy that the Summer Festival is definitely in full swing, next Sunday we have former X Factor winner Matt Cardle in the Bents Park, sure to be another big draw!
Former Foreign Secretary takes the sea air in South Shields
A lot of people were rather bemused that Prime Minister “call me Dave” Cameron carved out “chillaxing” time at the weekends by losing his daughter at the pub or playing games on his iPad, or even fitting in a game of tennis, but really it must do an MP (or a PM) a world of good to get away from the Westminster village and make time for more important matters, especially if he/she has a young family. So it was good to see our constituency MP David Miliband along with his wife Louise and the two boys “enjoying” yesterday’s horrendous rain on the sea front in South Shields. Sheltered beneath his NASUWT umbrella, the former Foreign Secretary was in very anonymous mood dressed down in denim jeans, and a sporty looking waterproof zippered jacket that could easily have come from one of Mike Ashley’s outlets (let’s hope not), matched to a very expensive looking pair of brown suede boots. He and his family were making the most of this trip to the constituency as the parade for Armed Services Day was about to make its way down from Gypsies Green Stadium to the Bents Park, yet despite the weather they all seemed to be enjoying themselves quite unperturbed by the lack of apparent interest in them, they could easily have been Mr. and Mrs. Thompson from Tynemouth on a day trip – Joe Public was none the wiser!
Oddly I didn’t see David Miliband in the Bents Park for the commemorative service for our armed personnel (that is not to say that he wasn’t in there for a time) but I did see him and one of his sons making his way along Bents Park Road homeward bound as the service was in progress. The talk was of things that young boys find so important of course, like building some sort of “transformers” type machine big enough to hide inside of a van and ready to gobble up marauders, and as most fathers know only too well thoughts quickly turn to the empty stomach and move towards lunch if the lads have had some exercise.
Now Colemans fish and chips are very nice, but on a Sunday?
Well, why not? However, it has to be said that there are other fish and chip shops worth a try in town, but when it comes down to ice cream the lads are totally correct, there is no other ice cream in the world after you have tasted Minchellas!
The Badlanders ride into town
I don’t know why, but every time we hold a special commemoration for Armed Forces Day in South Shields we end up with heavy skies and rain, and so it was on this damp Sunday morning as the Badlanders MCC rode into town along the Coast Road to the Bents Park. A cavalcade of hundreds of big noisy brash and expensive motorbikes preceded the parade of local armed services personnel and youth groups led a pipe band marching from Gypsies Green Stadium watched by a very encouraging crowd which grew massively as they approached the entrance to the Bents Park. The parade took the salute from the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear Nigel Sherlock O.B.E. alongside the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside Cllrs. Eilleen Leask and Olive Puncheon at a dais erected next to the clean and modern looking caravan park of Sea Road. Considering the inclement weather (no we have had our fair share of rain this summer too) it was encouraging to see so many youngsters and families coming along to pay homage to the courage, bravery, and steadfastness of our armed services in the service of our country.
In past years the parade and salute has taken place at the Town Hall on the same day as the rest of the country, at times the parade was so short that it almost went unnoticed, so the decision to combine it with the excellent and well organised fun day provided by these motorbike enthusiasts appears to be the right one. Many of the Badlanders are former members of the armed services and will often be seen visiting South Shields for the annual Service of Remembrance each November at Westoe, they spend months and months planning and organising this huge event which grows and grows each year – they are to be heartily congratulated for the sterling work that they do raising thousands of pounds for service charities each year.
As the parade entered the Bents Park the groups lined up in front of the main stage for an inspection by the Lord Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear and the Mayor of South Tyneside, this was followed by a special religious service conducted by vicar of St. Michael and All the Angels, Westoe, the Revd. Paul Kennedy, himself a former decorated serviceman. His exhortation included the ode from the moving poem by Lawrence Binyon “For the Fallen”:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
The National Anthem was played by the Durham Army Cadet band.The rest of the day was spent in showing off the magnificent machines, sports and games for the children, demonstrations, and live music from local rock bands. If you would like to see pictures form the “fun” part of the day, you will need to tune in to South Shields Daily Picturesover the next few weeks. No amount of thunder or lightening was going to stop them!