South Tyneside arts project hailed a success

Winners Alex Ayre, Lauren McCaughey, Sel McLean and James Potts, with host Jason Cook.
Winners Alex Ayre, Lauren McCaughey, Sel McLean and James Potts, with host Jason Cook.

An arts festival in South Tyneside aimed at under-25s has been hailed as a regional example of how arts groups can attract young talent.

Daniel Clifford, learning and participation Officer at The Customs House, South Shields, was invited to give a keynote speech about the success of the organisation’s annual Takeover Festival.

It was part of a takeover day planning event held at The Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery in Carlisle.

Takeover Day is a national initiative led by Kids in Museums, which encourages cultural venues to invite young people to take on jobs that would normally be reserved for adults.

The national Takeover Day takes place in the middle of November every year, while The Takeover Festival at The Customs House runs for a week during the May/June half term.

Daniel said: “This year was the third Takeover and it was the biggest and best yet. All of the events had bigger audiences, but the quality of work from emerging artists was also at a fantastic standard. It was really inspiring.

“We had over 300 artists under the age of 25 showcasing their work and we had 1,400 people coming along to enjoy the work on offer.

“As part of the Takeover we had The Terry Kelly Poetry Prize, whuch grew from something relatively small last year to a really lovely and well-attended event.

“One hundred poems were submitted, with 20 poems chosen to be published in a special book, which was released at the prize-giving event, attended by 80 people.

“The North East Young Filmmakers Awards saw almost 400 people fill the auditorium to see short films made by under 25s from all around the region it was hosted by comedian Jason Cook.

“We also had the Mean Teens Breakdance Jam in partnership with Just Jam International and 125 people turned up to enjoy hip-hop music and dance, including those from all over the north east but also from Leeds, Derby and even Devon.”

The Takeover Festival is part of a wide offering for children and young people at The Customs House, from school holiday arts and crafts activities to youth theatre and film- making clubs and participation in the Arts Award scheme.

Daniel added: “The Takeover Festival is really key for the work that we do with children and young people, as The Customs House is committed to supporting emerging artists, to showcase their work and give them the space to develop their skills.

“We are already planning for next year and it was a privilege to be asked to share our best practice with people from other museums, galleries and cultural venues across the north and take away learning for next year’s event.

“It was really helpful and it gave us lots of ideas for things that we want to try out next year to make the festival bigger and better.”