South Shields? It’s like Ibiza!
Is there more we can do?
South Shields is such a great place when the weather is warm and sunny, it is a magnet for visitors and tourists as I found out yesterday. I’d only intended picking up a few pictures of the pier and the beach for South Shields Daily Pictures when I bumped into this crowd behind the skateboard park on Sandhaven beach you could easily imagine that you were at a beach party in Ibiza! The sands were busy, as were the parks, and funfair, people of all ages just having fun in the sun.
This group were attracting a lot of attention purely because of their numbers, I’d estimate that there were about 130 of them in total, all aged around 16 or 17, they were a little bit noisy but not to the extent that they were annoying anyone else, some were drinking alcohol (just as we did at their age) but they certainly weren’t drunk at 5:00 p.m., they had no music with them but made up for it with their own singing and dancing. In fact I thought they’d been deliberately brought down here as some form of free entertainment. It turned out that they were all from the Gateshead area, many from the St. Thomas Moore school and were celebrating the end of their school time, they are now just hanging around waiting for exam results or college/job offers, so they got together on Facebook and travelled down to South Shields on the Metro to enjoy our beaches. A similar but more “organised” rave had been advertised on Facebook to take place in Tynemouth, but it was not this group.
I also found a group of elderly visitors who were staying in Jesmond, they were from Guildford in Surrey and they too had taken the Metro to see what we had to offer, they didn’t mind the kids at all but were very critical of the “Americanisation” of the end of school life with the introduction of horrendously expensive “proms” in the UK, arguing that some parents were spending almost as much om a prom night as they might for a daughter’s wedding! Curiously these four southerners were very surprised at all of the green open spaces, they revelled at the South Marine Park, they could see the Leas but thought they were a little too far away to walk, they had this horribly preconceived idea that South Shields was a dirty industrialised place, but had come along at the recommendation of the hotelier in Newcastle. Needless to say, once they were informed of our summer activities they are planning to return!
I couldn’t help thinking about the missed selling opportunities, if you were in Ibiza or some Mediterranean beach resort you would find lots of stalls and vendors along the sea front area, you might be offered cheap watches, jewellery, chilled drinks, chilled fresh fruit, beach clothing, surf boards, skateboards, sandwiches, toys, souvenirs etc. There is very little of these activities along our beaches in South Shields, apart from a few outlets in the Ocean Beach Pleasure Park. We have a lot of spare capacity in our Market stalls and I just wonder if there may be a demand on an ad-hoc basis to hire a stall to set up on the promenade behind Sea Road to sell wares to our visitors. I cannot help feeling that we don’t allow sufficient ice cream/chips/hot dog/drinks vendors to bring their vans down to the promenade for a small fee.
This is a seaside town we need to create the seaside “theatre”, visitors are transitory and we need to really strike out to reach them if we want them to keep returning.
Even the kids in the picture above have money to spend, they probably spent up to £25 each on their day out at the seaside, that’s around £3000 worth of trade, this is what secures jobs and livelihoods. Where is the entrepreneurial drive of South Tyneside businesses and retailers?