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Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

Visit South Tyneside

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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.

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Written by curly

July 16, 2012 at 9:08 am

Scouting for Girls, and Jenny too.

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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!

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Written by curly

July 15, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Olympic Torch arrives in South Shields

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Olympic Torch Relay, South Shields
Our moment to shine

I don’t know what compelled me to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning after a decent night of celebrating England’s win over Sweden in Euro 2012, it seemed a rather silly thing to do considering that I’ll be working until 10:30 pm this evening, but I’d promised “Missy” that I’d take her to see the Olympic Torch Relay as it reached South Shields. I was even more surprised that she managed to be out of bed and ready on time, most weekends she doesn’t surface until about 08:30 am. So we  passing the Town Hall in Westoe Road at just after 07:15 really surprised to see so many people already waiting in the rain – yes the incessant rain. I’d decided that anywhere between Crossgate and the back end of the Town Hall might be a bit busy, as well as the top end of Ocean Road, so I’d go for the South Marine Park opposite the Wouldhave memorial. My guess is that the area around the Leas and the Bamburgh would also be choc-a-bloc full as Haile Gebrselassie and Brendan Foster put in their appearances.

So whilst waiting in the rain I bumped into one of your Labour councillors also getting a good soaking, but already working hard for local charity Cancer Connections today, puts some of us to shame I thought.

There was a lot of hooha and fanfair about the event as Met. Police motorbike outriders drove down Ocean Road with all of their flashing blue lights, shaking hands with children as though it were a carnival, they were followed by the sponsors buses, the sounds of music and a DJ announcer as hawkers tried to sell Union Flags along the pavement, it occurred to me that there were far more policemen from the Met than there were sponsors, organisers, and torch bearers, just made me wonder how much money is being spent sending these lads around the UK as the “security bubble”. As two of the bearers made their relay swap one torch was ignited from the other before the preceding one was extinguished, I was asking just how many torches were made as each bearer ends up keeping the torch as a personal memento (or disposing of it on eBay at a mighty profit.) I’m guessing that there are an awful lot of used butane cylinders to dispose of too, or do they use a different fuel? Fuel, yes fuel, how much petrol and diesel is used during this relay?

Anyway, the event passed through South Shields on its way to Whitburn rather quickly and everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially the little children who had been dragged out of bed rather early on a weekend.It must have been a great occasion for those local torch bearers who had been chosen to carry the flame along our small part of the route, they’ll be proud, pleased as punch, and have stories to relate to their grandchildren.

There all sorts of mini events taking place along the sea front and beaches today to mark our part in this journey, all planned in the hope of glorious sunny warm weather…….oh well that’s one thing you can never guarantee.

Now I just need to force myself into getting excited about Greco-Roman wrestling, equestrianism, fencing, and archery.

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Written by curly

June 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

South Shields? It’s like Ibiza!

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Beach party, South Shields

End of school party

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?

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Written by curly

May 26, 2012 at 10:40 am

Dreaming in kitsch

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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.

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South Shields and the Great North Run

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Red Arrows at the Great North RunGreat news (for photographers) – Red Arrows will fly

Readers will be very aware that I’m a keen photographer and never miss many chances to promote South Shields and the north east of England with my images, particularly through my main photoblog South Shields Daily Pictures. The Great North Run with its 50000 entrants jogging down the 13.1 miles from Newcastle each year is one of those events that really has helped to put South Shields on the map with great TV coverage from the BBC and massive news coverage in the media over the Sunday and Monday each year. So it was with some concern that I viewed the possibility that the RAF Red Arrows might not have been able to fly at the event this year following the investigation into the tragic death of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging who was killed at an air show in Dorset last month. However those fears have been allayed with the announcement that the famous Hawk trainer display team will complete all of their remaining engagements this year and will fly over the Tyne Bridge in the eight plane “missing man” formation, I am still unclear whether or not they will fly a full formation over South Shields as it is reported that the Red Arrows ground commander, Red 10 – also known as Graeme Bagnell – will be running the race himself, adding an extra poignancy to the display. The Red Arrows are expected above the finishing line in South Shields at 13:15 Sunday 18th. September.

Having seen the huge Great North Run village being steadily erected on The Leas over the past ten days, and the wreckage wrought by the remnants of hurricane Katia , it is indeed good news that the event will have its usual shape and compliment of attractions. As normal, hundreds of competitors will camp in South Shields over the weekend utilising the two caravan parks and the Bents Park, and many will also be staying in our few hotels and many guest houses, such a shame that we didn’t have sufficient facilities for many more of them to enjoy a full weekend here. The visiting competitors from around the UK create themselves a good party atmosphere from Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening, and for amateur photographers South Shields offers exceptional opportunities to add to your portfolio with celebrities, internationally known athletes, TV personalities, and the RAF Red Arrows all waiting to be snapped.

My best hints and tips include staying away from the finish line unless you are really familiar with the local layout, you will only get a few seconds worth of chances to photograph the winners, and find a way in to the inner part of the course before the runners reach South Shields. Getting around on the inside of the course is relatively easy with a few good positions granting ease of access for photographers. Try these to capture both the leading runners and/or the massed fun runners:

  • Roundabout at the junction of John Reid Road (A1300) and Newcastle Road (A194)
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and   Winskell Road
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and Boldon Lane
  • Junction of John Reid Road and McAnany Avenue
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and King George Road (A1018)
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Sunderland Road – Harton Nook
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Marsden Lane (B1301) – Marsden Inn
  • Foot of Redwell Lane at junction with Coast Road (A183)
  • Blackberry Hills (accessed from Hertford Avenue at rear of Lincoln Road), please park considerately here it is residential.

From these locations, easily travelled by bicycle or car, you will get plenty of colour fill shots, good crowd shots, and excellent chances to get close to the athletes as they near the finish, you will also find other entertainment and side shows to fill your memory cards with, I’d suggest taking at least 2 X 2 Gb memory cards as you will fire a lot of frames.

Best positions for shooting the Red Arrows include Blackberry Hills (where I took the above shot from in 2009), or if you are on the “outside” of the course, Souter Lighthouse makes a great backdrop and gives a good chance to combine the Red Arrows with the piers at the mouth of the Tyne. Other good spots, particularly if you have a DSLR and a long lens, include the south pier looking towards Trow Rocks, top of the South Marine Park to catch the planes over the piers, and the top of the North Marine Park.

Some other hints and tips – look for the unusual, especially amongst the spectators and fans. Try and capture the whole feel of the environment, this is as much about feet and legs as it is about celebs, besides they pass so fast you might miss them! If you are using either a compact or a DSLR set your camera on aperture priority at around f16 and try and get some slower shutter speeds to introduce some motion blur to your shots, and if the weather happens to be bright and sunny remember to take a neutral density filter to cut down the light. Otherwise, set your camera to shutter priority mode at around 1/500th second or faster to freeze the action, or use a sports mode if you have one. Get your camera down to ground level now and then to capture a wider vista of massed runners on the road. If you are going to get down at the finish line don’t stop shooting just because the Red Arrows have finished their display, there are loads of opportunities to capture families reuniting with runners, tired and aching athletes and the elated looks of those with their T shirts and medals.

After the event be aware that there will be transport difficulties as thousands of competitors and visitors make their way out of the town, another good reason for hanging back and getting those extra valuable shots that tell the whole story. Be patient and don’t be in too much of a hurry to get back to your PC to process the pictures, and once you do make a start, don’t be afraid to try a few in black and white, it conveys the mood and the story possibly even better than colour.

If you are coming to South Shields for the Great North Run have a great entertaining time, be safe, and make the most of it, hope you all return again soon.

You can see my 2009 series of pictures starting from here, just keep clicking on the right hand arrow to move forward.

Happy shooting everyone!

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Written by curly

September 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

This will kill the town!

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Beach Road, South Shields 16.45 17 August 2011

Beach Road, South Shields 16:45 17th. August 2011

THE introduction of pay and display parking meters near South Marine Park in South Shields will deter visitors coming to the town, critics have claimed……..

Coun Ahmed Khan, Independent Alliance representative for Beacon and Bents, has claimed parking charges were becoming a “cash cow” for the council and predicted that the cost of the residents’ parking permit would spiral year on year.

He said: “The top and bottom is that there is no such thing as a rationalised parking strategy.

“This is purely about one thing, and one thing only, that’s generating extra revenue for the council.

“Increasingly, motorists are being taxed in all kind of ways and it’s becoming obvious that they are, in effect, cash cows, that the council feels can be milked for every last drop.

“This scheme is just the tip of the iceberg. In the next two or three years we are going to see a plethora of these type of schemes, introduced whether or not residents or businesses want them.”

Nice to see that Cllr. Khan is agreeing with me on at least one thing, however I do disagree that these schemes will kill off the town or deter visitors, I took this picture less than an hour ago, it has been a fairly dreary grey and damp Monday in the middle of August with no great reason to be visiting South Shields. Yet, as this picture clearly demonstrates there are only three spaces left available at the end of the afternoon, people are obviously using these spaces and happily (well, perhaps grudgingly) paying for them, even at this late stage of the afternoon usage of these parking spaces is very much as you would normally find on a Monday. Drivers have not been deterred!

We are still generating visitors to the town centre and generating needed revenue, however as the world stares down the gun barrel of economic disaster caused by the building of debt mountains by ever profligate governments, shouldn’t we be looking at every possible way to stop our spending instead of squeezing more money from the people at the bottom of the pile, we are after all the ones you will increasingly rely upon to provide the Holy Grail of economic growth!

The other bi-product generated by this move is the self publicity for a man named as the defendant in a USA court over a pretty unsavoury business, a man who so far has failed to propose any sensible or useful policies that may help South Tyneside Council out during the current economic crisis, and as far as we are aware has failed to make a single policy proposal that has been accepted and could be said to “have made a difference”.

Own goals do not come cheaply.

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Written by curly

August 8, 2011 at 5:54 pm