PEOPLE in South Tyneside have given a ringing endorsement to a proposed cultural rebranding of South Tyneside.
Council leader Iain Malcolm has asked officers to create a new “South Tyneside Culture” identity over the next 12 months in a bid to attract more tourists, boost businesses and maximise its cultural identity across the region and beyond.
Central to the plan is the promotion of historic borough tourism sites – including Bede’s World in Jarrow, Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields, South Shields Museum and Art Gallery and the Customs House – under the one branding.
Martin Hogg, 45, a stage technician at the Customs House arts venue in South Shields is supportive of the move.
He said: “I would fully endorse this, as long as it encompasses all of South Tyneside, not just South Shields.
“We obviously have the cream of the crop here with the Customs House, Arbeia and the Museum and Art Gallery, as well as the parks, but there’s a lot more across South Tyneside.
“A lot of people from out of the area seem to think we are part of Newcastle, without knowing what, as a borough, we have to offer.
“We have to separate ourselves from Newcastle as a cultural entity.”
Also supportive of the rebranding was Nikki Smith, 42, of Bambury Terrace, South Shields – as long as it was adequately sign-posted.
She said: “I think it would work if there was a trail, with information boards along the way, explaining the history of the area and sign-posting people in the right direction. There could be trails that last two hours, four hours or six hours – depending on how long people have to spend in the area.”
Retired factory worker Pat Smith, 77, of Mortimer Road, South Shields, called on cultural leaders not to forget the role Dame Catherine Cookson played in the borough’s history.
She said: “Any cultural trail should incorporate information about the ‘13 Streets’ that Catherine Cookson made famous and Tyne Dock, where she was born.”
Kathleen Brain, 34, bar manager at The Steamboat pub, is well aware of the business benefits of being located close to a popular cultural complex.
The watering hole is a regular calling-in point before, during and after performances at the nearby Customs House.
She said: “It sounds like a very good idea to bring all of the best in culture together as one brand. The borough has such a diverse and rich history. We often have people coming in and asking where to go, what to visit and asking for recommendations about restaurants.
“Any forward-thinking idea that offers a boost to tourism has got to be welcomed.”
Merchant seaman James Jackson, 24, of Highfield Drive, South Shields, said: “There are some hidden gems. Just think of Arbeia Roman Fort. It could be something along the lines of the red, yellow and blue walks in the Marine Park.”
His wife, Lauren Jackson, 22, a volunteer with The Prince’s Trust, added: “Sometimes I think South Shields is a bit of a forgotten town.
“This could help put it back on the map.”