Archive for the ‘Arts’ Category
Obsession with tourism must be troubling me
I woke fairly early this morning after a long and troubling dream in which I had just witnessed the opening in fifteen years time of the newest South Shields entertainment initiative. Iain Malcolm South Tyneside’s (by then) veteran Labour Leader had seen his latest dream come to fruition, somehow he had cobbled together enough European and UK grants in a public/private partnership to have the old telephone exchange in Crossgate, South Shields transformed into a neo-gothic styled restaurant and night club, South Tyneside Council were to get first call on use of the place and a private operator would use it at all other times. The whole of the interior had been stripped out by a force of new apprentices especially employed by the private contractor as part of the scheme, the exterior had been clad in granite and limestone and people were impressed at how much it resembled the architecture of the Town Hall in nearby Westoe Road with its solid oak main doors and traditionally styled stained glass windows. However it was the inside of the place which really caught everyone’s attention, this was South Shields’ tribute to Westminster Hall, a magnificent chamber supported by huge columns and a fake fan vault ceiling, this was to be the most opulent medieval banqueting experience in the north-east! Malcolm had ensured that old craftsman ship had been revived to some extent with carved English oak and carpentry skills taught to young lads, others were passing on the skills of the stonemason, it also housed the most modern computer controlled laser lighting system and state of the art sound system, within fifteen minutes the main hall is transformed into a multi faceted entertainment complex, yes we all agreed this was a tremendous achievement in fifteen years. The levels of kitsch were unbelievable.
Why not, we all thought, tourism had grown as a significant part of the north east economy since the dark days of 2012 when it only accounted for around £200m worth of business, these days we are reaping the rewards of over £500m per year from visitors who come to see amongst other things our enlarged Roman Fort with its added reconstructed walls, the new swimming pool and alongside it the new leisure centre opposite the beach continue to thrive even in wet weather. The multiplex cinema and outlet shopping on the Dragon had proved to be a big hit, and even Jarrow had benefited from huge upgrades and a new visitor centre for St. Paul’s church where the history of Bede is now a major pull. Pulling it all together is the new fleet of privately operated electric mini buses transporting folks from one attraction to the other, plans are also in place by a local taxi company to replace the whole of its fleet of cars with the latest Nissan electrically driven model. They would be necessary as petrol driven vehicles were no longer allowed in the town centre – that had killed off the old car parking debates ten years ago – and visitors were “encouraged” to use the park and ride facilities near White Mare Pool. Furthermore the expanded Ocean Beach Leisure Park and the illuminated sea front was drawing almost as many visitors as Blackpool, and they all had comfortable beds to sleep in at the new hotels at the Pier Head and Harton Staithes, which in turn had sparked a resurgence of the guest house trade on Lawe Road and Seafield Terrace.
Malcolm was beaming in his old age on the opening night as two hundred local dignitaries dined in the splendour of the new Cloisters On Crossgate, after a five course meal they were entertained by South Shields latest X Factor winner Geordie Robson who had seen his first two albums go “platinum” in the download charts within a month of release, the event was broadcast live on NETV and on South Tyneside Council’s website which was now enjoying the experience of having 10000 visitors for its monthly half hour meeting of the Borough Council where Cabinet decisions are rubber stamped. Yes, we all felt proud, an odd mix of Keynesian economics and private enterprise was driving money into the area, things could only get better (good grief Robson was even crooning that old chestnut on opening night).
Then I woke up!
With a house full of teenage guests, the sight of a blocked WC at 08:00 was no fun at all, and the temperature of that water was a complete shock to the system!
I put the dream on the back burner.
Little Mix chased the dream.
Exactly two years ago I used this video to illustrate this particular post where I said
“I think that South Shields girl Jade Thirlwall should think seriously about having another go at the X Factor, she could well emulate Joe McElderry next year.”
OK, so it took a little longer, but after initial rejection she was thrown in, along with fellow Shields girl Perrie Edwards, Leanne Pinnock amd Jesy Nelson to a girl group later to be known as Little Mix. It has been a hard road for the four girls as they went through the pressures of public votes in ITV’s flagship reality show but yesterday evening they won the coveted X Factor prize and that important contract with Simon Cowell’s music company. Another feather in the cap for South Shields and a great advert for the young talent that we have in South Tyneside. It takes some “bottle” to be knocked down, get up, dust yourself down, and come back fighting, but as many girls from Laygate or Simonside can attest this determination to succeed is a requisite in the tough streets of Tyneside.
To be fair we knew that Thirwall had it in her as a former winner at the Pride of South Tyneside Awards, but how many of us saw Perrie Edwards coming through? I wonder too, how much of an influence “Mark” was in Jade’s success?
Winning the X Factor is no guarantee of fame and fortune, and the winners see little of Cowell’s £1m contract, it is rumoured that they are advanced as little as £150000, and must spend the rest promoting an album on behalf of Cowell, however some are now reckoning that the four girls could be in for a huge windfall as advertisers, and promoters see the marketing opportunities presented by a bunch of young vibrant girls put together as much for their looks as well as their singing prowess. They have already featured in a Marks and Spencer’s advertisement, and will no doubt be signed up to promote hair and beauty products at home and in the UK as Cowell looks to exploit a gap in the market. Little Mix could be on the verge of reaping rewards running up to £10m. Don’t begrudge them this success, they will see very little of their home towns or families over the next 12 months, they will need bags of strength and enthusiasm to cope with Cowell’s demands, there will be travel and sleep deprivation, their lives will no longer be under their own self control – they now belong to Simon Cowell.
What does it mean for this region though?
We become seen as a nursery for talent, others may become inspired to emulate this level of success, we get a little more national press attention, and sometimes it may not be for the best of reasons as personal lives become laid bare to reporters, our youngsters may become seen in a more positive light too. Most importantly, we may see young entrepreneurs in business and commerce become more emboldened and self confident as they follow their own dreams. They may be inspired by the competitive attitudes of girls like Little Mix, and we may find that other more diverse young talents on Tyneside succeed in building bigger contracts that lead to some growth in our regional economy, the experience of the hard knocks that eventually lead to a winning position might hopefully rub off on many of Tyneside’s teenagers, upon whom our future relies.
Damian Rice’s Cannonball, great song, would not have been my choice for the winner’s single.
2009 X Factor winner proves his worth again – great advert for South Shields!
Delighted that 20 year old South Shields lad Joe McElderry once again proved to be a great advert for South Shields as last night he triumphed in ITV’s “Pop Star to Opera Star”. I’m not a huge television fan but I made the time to watch the final which was closely contested against former Bucks Fizz chanteuse Cheryl Baker, she was extremely good too, but I thought the choices of music made for Joe were stronger. His rendition of Nessum Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot was a revelation, and Joe showed great maturity and boldness in taking it on a second time, I thought he was every bit as good as Russel Watson and that’s saying something!
It seems to me that Joe McElderry’s pop career has not been superbly managed by the men at Syco who have very few lasting legacies on their books, he clearly has bundles of talent is very adaptable in what he can perform, perhaps this latest television exposure may open new doors for him and prompt a change in direction and fortunes, it would be a real shame to see this singing talent wasting away.
Joe McElderry will be performing live in a free concert in the Bents Park, South Shields on Sunday 24th. July between 12:30 and 4:30, get along early it is likely to be packed shoulder to shoulder regardless of the weather. This is another “must see” event in South Tyneside!
A weekend to remember in South Shields
I’ve certainly enjoyed this year’s Mouth of the Tyne Festival from the Saturday night sea front parade through the myriad of entertainment along the promenade yesterday.
Granted the crowds looked just slightly smaller on Saturday night but that was understandable considering the downpours which preceded the parade, but I think that overall numbers must have been up on last year when Sunday’s attractions were taken into consideration. I happily snapped away with my camera recording over 300 frames on the two days making it very difficult for me to decide which to share in here and at South Shields Daily Pictures over the coming weeks.
The great thing about the Saturday Evening Parade, which takes place at around 9:30 pm as the sun goes down, is not just the spectacle of colours, noise, lights, and pyrotechnics, but the “inclusive” feel of the whole thing as people join in behind the street theatre and move en masse from Gypsies Green to the large car park on Littlehaven Beach to watch the climax. It always reminds me of the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Many of those in the crowds were not Sanddancers but visitors from other parts of Tyneside and even farther afield, our summer events have become occasions when ex-pats return home to visit friends and family or when those from other parts of the UK decide to take “staycations” and make Tyneside one of their destinations.
The only thing that irks me now about this festival is that Tynemouth gets all of the headline acts, I’m pretty sure that South Shields could handle at least one of these concerts utilising either the Bents Park, or Gypsies Green Stadium (well, it isn’t exactly being over used is it?). Perhaps our councillors and officers might like to start lobbying for a small change in format for next year?
However back to this weekend and the picture above, for me at least, sums up one success story of recent years by allowing the operation of the caravan park at Bents Park to be privately operated. The recent investment in improved standards in the park is paying dividends and caravan owners visit South Shields or allow their units to be rented to visitors who come and spend here. We have to be open and say that we cannot guarantee good weather, but at least we can guarantee a good time in very decent conditions. In a couple of years time we will also be able to offer visitors a new swimming pool with a cafe and other indoor facilities right on the sea front as another reason to visit the town, and importantly a venue where they can take refuge from the rain!
Which all brings to mind the one and only policy initiative ever offered to us by Ahmed Khan and the South Tyneside Independent Alliance, their town green plan of four years ago was inept, poorly considered, inappropriate, and likely to have blighted our regeneration and jobs prospects for generations!
The picture above is one of the best reasons I’ve ever seen for rejecting such witless ideas.
Enjoy the slide show!
South Tyneside Summer Festival 2011 off to a scorching start
Well I missed the big parade in South Shields on Saturday, but my daughter reported that it was just as busy as the best years, the sun was out to bake the entrants on their procession from the Town Hall to the sea front and the Bents Park as thousands of residents and visitors lined the streets to get this year’s festival off to a flying start. Sunshine and warmth is certainly a great help for the Cookson Parade and huge splashes of glorious colour and noise attract visitors and encourage them to spend! “Missy” came back from the fayre in the Bents Park with a giant teddy, so her day was made.
The festivities continued yesterday with the whole sea front area swathed in crowds of summer visitors enjoying the beaches, the parks, the fun fair and the entertainment provided by local artists in the Bents Park. The park was packed as local talent was showcased on the stage in a family fun day involving rides and entertainment for the children, food and drink for the adults, selling opportunities for local businesses, and general good natured fun.
Customs House Director Ray Spencer in his guise of “Tommy the Trumpeter” was enjoying his role as Master of Ceremonies as he told me that:
“This really is as good as it gets for the first weekend, the weather has been brilliant and the crowds yesterday and today really made the effort to come and enjoy themselves. I’m delighted that local bands have got a great audience to play to today we really have some talented people in our community, and I’m looking forward to the other Sundays coming up, lets just hope that the weather continues like this throughout July.”
“Tommy” was enjoying a little break as South Shields actor Dale Meeks, who played Simon Meredith in ITV’s Emmerdale, was fronting his band “Shake ya tail feather” on the stage. The band has now been joined by a female vocalist who helps to balance Dale’s tones and add some width to the range, as they belted out a repertoire of gutsy blues based beats from the Blues Brothers to the Doors, just what the crowd needed to get them moving! We were later treated to a Beatles tribute band of unusual qualities, not as you might expect a four piece bunch of “mop top” lookalikes but a six piece combo including a female vocalist! Looked nothing at all like the Fab Four but their sound was authentic Merseybeat as they ran through a stream of early sixties Beatles covers in a very accomplished manner.
Later after the concert in the Bents Park was over another huge crowd listened to “the Proms” at the amphitheatre from South Tyneside’s youth orchestra with great vocal support.
If you were there, I am sure you will have enjoyed it, if not then you ought to have been, if you are reading this from outside of South Tyneside than can I encourage you to visit the Summer Festival web page to get a flavour of what is on offer this year and suggest that a visit here will be a rewarding experience.
Now, if you are a councillor or a council official can I encourage you to think long and hard about the numbers of people visiting South Tyneside this summer, yes it is great when the weather is this kind to us, the spending power is greatly appreciated by local businesses too, but we let a great opportunity slip by a couple of years ago to get our visitors to make more than just a day trip to the seaside. That’s right, we need to encourage them to stay for weekend breaks, and that means more accommodation in the town centre and sea front areas, the ill fated hotel at Gypsies Green would have fit the bill perfectly. We still have land and development opportunities available in the Town Centre, Harton Staithes, and further along the riverside, we could use a four star hotel and something along the lines of a Travelodge to cover the budget end of the market. We need to be bold and brave and determined to aggressively market these opportunities, let’s not be suckered twice by blinkered opposition.
Enjoy this small picture slide show of yesterday’s events in the Bents Park.
p.s. Following my words yesterday about my dying monitor (which now works again after I fixed a faulty panel switch) I was rather surprised and overcome by the very generous offer of a free monitor from one of my readers! You really were far too kind sir, and your thoughtfulness was that of a typical Sanddancer, thank you very much for your offer I shall not forget your gesture.