Community leaders hit back as South Tyneside branded one of country’s worst for culture

South Tyneside Summer Parade 2015 in South Shields
South Tyneside Summer Parade 2015 in South Shields

Proud community leaders have hit back at a national list which brands South Tyneside as one of the worst places for culture in the UK.

According the Heritage Index the borough is the ninth worst place for cultural experiences.

Summer heatwave weather at Sandhaven Beach.

Summer heatwave weather at Sandhaven Beach.

The list, created by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) is calculated by recording different areas’ cultural assets and dividing them by its size.

Council chiefs and bosses at many of South Tynesde’s leading venues say they are baffled by the findings.

Coun Alan Kerr, South Tyneside Council’s deputy leader with responsibility for leisure and culture, said: “It appears this list is, quite frankly, highly flawed and compiled by people with absolutely no knowledge of South Tyneside or its rich cultural heritage. It’s just ridiculous.

“We get tourists coming back to South Tyneside year after year because there is so much for the whole family to enjoy here.”

First three finsihers in yesterday Great North Run including No1 Mo Farah with the crowd near the finish line

First three finsihers in yesterday Great North Run including No1 Mo Farah with the crowd near the finish line

He added: “From Roman sites to areas of outstanding natural beauty and beautiful beaches to award-winning parks, as well as the birthplace of the Venerable Bede, South Tyneside has it all.

“Furthermore, the council puts on a wide range of free entertainment throughout the year which makes South Tyneside the envy of neighbouring areas.”

Read more: Saveloy dips and seaside vibe: 10 great cultural experiences in South Tyneside

Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House in Mill Dam, South Shields, said: “I am genuinely saddened to see us in the bottom 10 of this list.

Marsden lime kilns

Marsden lime kilns

“It’s a shame it doesn’t look and the value and quality of the work we do across South Tyneside, rather than just the quantity of things we have.”

Mick Simpson, the National Trust’s warden for Souter and the Leas, believes the list has been compiled wrongly.

He said: “This borough has more than 2,000 years of culture right on our doorstep. We’ve got fantastic coastlines, and a borough steeped in heritage, it’s one of the most beautiful areas around and everyone says this.

“I personal think they’ve got the list upside down.”

The Heritage Index took a range of features into account, including nature reserves, heritage open days, archaeological groups, blue plaques and designated local foods.

Rebecca Ball, director of The Cultural Spring – a project to get people involved with the arts – says the list’s creators should come for a visit.

She said: “I think we have so much to offer in South Tyneside. I think these people who complied this index need to come along for themselves and see how much culture we really have here.”

Geoff Woodward, manager for Arbeia Roman Fort and South Shields Museum, is also keen to share the wealth of culture the borough has.

He said: “This survey actually highlights that the Museums, Archives & Artefacts in South Tyneside are ranked in the top 26 per cent in the country.

“South Tyneside has a very rich and significant heritage and cultural offer embracing everything from its Roman past right up to the present day. Arbeia Roman Fort is a key part of the Hadrian’s Wall Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

He added: “The Roman Emperor Severus, the Venerable Bede, the invention of the lifeboat, historic parks, a breath-taking stretch of coastline and a massive programme of cultural activities; all this and so much more makes South Tyneside a really great place for culture and heritage for residents and visitors alike.”