THE Great North Passion showcased the very best of South Tyneside, spectators and organisers alike have agreed.
The religious extravaganza was seen by millions of people across the country as it was broadcast live on BBC One from Bents Park, in South Shields, on Good Friday.
The event – a modern-day retelling of the last hours of Jesus’s life, putting the events into a contemporary setting – was a culmination of work that started in communities across South Tyneside and Sunderland as part of a collaboration between the BBC and The Cultural Spring, a £2m Arts Council funded project aimed at getting people interested in art.
Fern Britton hosted the event, which saw performances from X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, Sunderland band The Futureheads, and opera singer Graeme Danby, as well as people from across the borough and the north east.
Pupils from Boldon School got involved by putting together a dance performance with members of Bad Taste Cru, students from South Shields Community School performed a poem they wrote with Kate Fox, Chuter Ede Community Association got involved by their personal passions, while Souter Lighthouse is the home of artist Joseph Hillier’s specially commissioned sculpture.
Coun Ernest Gibson, Mayor of South Tyneside, was in Bents Park to watch the event. He said: “It was an extremely exciting day. We were blessed with the weather and blessed with the BBC going live from South Tyneside – it was absolutely brilliant.”
“It’s taken a great lot of planning but it’s really benefiting the borough. South Shields is a fantastic place, it’s the best place to be on Earth and we’re very proud of it.”
South Shields MP, Emma Lewell Buck, was also there. She said: “This is absolutely fantastic and I can’t believe the rest of the country got to see how beautiful South Shields is.
“The big thing about this is that we got to show what we’re really good at here in South Shields and the rest of the North East, which is bringing communities together and celebrating all of our talents and skills.”
Ray Spencer, executive director of The Customs House, added: “It was absolutely brilliant to see so many members of the community involved in the event. It’s proven to people from our community that they can produce national quality artwork and share it with the rest of the country.”
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “What a fantastic event. The Great North Passion has been a very special occasion and one that will leave lasting memories for many years to come.
“Members of the community have been able to see, be a part of, and enjoy a groundbreaking religious programme marking the last hours of the life of Jesus Christ.
“On behalf of South Tyneside I want to thank the BBC and The Cultural Spring Programme as well as everyone who took part in the event from local groups, dancers, musicians, poets and writers, to the thousands of visitors who came to see this incredible performance.
“Bents Park was the perfect venue for this unique cultural event and truly showcased South Tyneside and further cemented our excellent reputation for providing first class events.”
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