Customs House urges visitors to share their special memories as it celebrates 25th anniversary

Visitors are being urged to share their special memories of The Customs House.
Visitors are being urged to share their special memories of The Customs House.

Visitors to to Then Customs House are being asked to share their special memories of the venue as it marks its 25th anniversary.

As the arts venue celebrates its milestone year, visitors are being invited to share stories and memories with creative studio Novak who are working on a project to honour the occasion.

Adam Finlay, studio director at Novak,

Adam Finlay, studio director at Novak,

The Cultural Spring and The Customs House have jointly commissioned Novak to complete a research and development (R&D) project and it is successful, Novak would put on a large-scale sound and light show, with video being projected on to the iconic South Shields building.

Novak’s plan also involves an illuminated walkway from The Word to The Customs House which would feature a series of projections or live performances detailing key moments or people from the venue’s history.

Adam Finlay, studio director of Novak said: "We’re really excited to be working on the R&D project and obviously hope to be given the full project to deliver later this year.

"We know what a much-loved venue The Customs House has become and we’d love to hear people’s stories from the past 25 years – and even further back if people have stories or tales about the building before it became an arts and culture venue."

To give people an opportunity to tell their tales, Adam and creative director Elliot Thomson will be at The Word in South Shields on Monday, February 11, from 10am to 2pm, to listen to people’s stories.

Adam continued: “We hope as many people as possible will come and share their memories and stories.

"The Customs House is a landmark building for the borough and has played a part in so many lives so we’re sure there are many, many stories to be told.

“We’d also like to hear people’s views about how we should be celebrating The Customs House’s 25th anniversary.

"People may well have their own views and we’d love to hear them.

“If we’re fortunate enough to get the main commission, we plan to use people’s stories and memories to create a narrative for our large-scale audio visual projection mapping on to the building.

"We could also use them for our illuminated walk."

Adam and his team have already worked on large-scale productions for The Cultural Spring – the outdoor dance spectacular RUSH, which was performed at the St Hilda’s Engine House

in South Shields in 2015 and WordPlay, the mass participation dance event which opened The Word in 2016.

Michael Barrass, joint project director for The Cultural Spring, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with Novak in the past and are very much looking forward to seeing what they produce in

this initial R&D project.

"I know they’re very keen to hear individual stories about The Customs House and we hope lots of people will pop down to The Word on Monday to share their tales.”

The Customs House was formerly a customs post, built in the 1860’s for commercial shipping, just before South Shields was declared an independent port and at a time when the River Tyne was a thriving centre of trade and activity.

After the decline of the shipping industry, the building fell into disrepair and was derelict during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1990s, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation funded a redevelopment of The Customs House, turning it into an arts and entertainment centre.

This was done by refurbishing the original building and adding a new purpose built theatre.

The Grade II listed building opened its doors in November 1994, providing South Shields with a new theatre and its first cinema in 12 years.

The Cultural Spring is an Arts Council-funded project aiming to encourage and increase participation in the arts in South Tyneside and Wearside.