THE eyes of the country were once again on South Shields yesterday as a huge religious extravaganza was broadcast from the town’s seafront.
The Great North Passion saw 4,000 people flock to Bents Park, while millions more tuned in to watch coverage on BBC One.
The contemporary event – which included performances from Sunderland band The Futureheads, opera singer Graeme Danby and X Factor winner Alexandra Burke – retold the story of the last hours of Christ.
It was the epic culmination of work that started in 12 communities in South Tyneside, Sunderland and across the region several months ago. It was a collaboration between the BBC and the Cultural Spring, a £2m Arts Council funded project working in 10 wards across South Tyneside – including Biddick and All Saints, Boldon Colliery, Cleadon and East Boldon, Whitburn and Marsden and Whiteleas – and Sunderland.
Communities were chosen to work with an artist to interpret themes based on the Stations of the Cross, and each prepared a performance for yesterday’s live event.
Breakdancing group Bad Taste Cru put on a performance with pupils from Boldon School to represent the theme of ‘the burden you carry alone’.
Choreographer Conor O’Kane said: “Bad Taste Cru have been working with Boldon School over the last eight weeks. It’s been a really enjoyable journey the whole way. The group really embraced the theme and the project.”
Pupil Alicia Lloyd, 15, from Boldon, added: “It’s really exciting to be involved with a project like this and to work with Bad Taste Cru and learn new skills.”
The programme was hosted by Fern Britton, who said: “We’re telling the story of the Easter passion and we’ve been blessed with wonderful weather for a great show. I can’t thank everyone from the North East enough for everything they’ve ploughed into this – all their hard work and diligence.
“It’s so poignant too. There are bits in it that, as the emotion builds, I’m literally trying to swallow hard and think of something happy because I start to get very emotional.”
After the show, Alexandra Burke said: “It’s a real honour to be here and I’m so grateful that the weather was awesome and so many people came out to have fun with us. It’s just made my Easter extra special.
“It’s really nice to see people come together for things like this because the true meaning behind Easter has most definitely been displayed today. For those who may not have known, this was a great way for them to get to know. It was a beautiful event and I’m really thrilled to be part of it.”
Other South Tyneside groups involved included pupils from South Shields Community School, who performed a verse with poet Kate Fox, and community groups from Chuter Ede CA and Souter Lighthouse.
n Read more reaction to the Great North Passion in tomorrow’s Gazette.