Pupils take the spotlight in history of theatre project in South Shields

Children from Harton Primary School with Elizabeth Kane and teacher Amy Emmerson
Children from Harton Primary School with Elizabeth Kane and teacher Amy Emmerson

Children have been learning about the history of theatres in South Shields as part of a new heritage project.

The learning and participation team at The Customs House was awarded £21,000 from the National Lottery’s Heritage Lottery Fund to run the project earlier this year.

Janis Blower

Janis Blower

Pupils from Harton Primary School, Sea View Primary School and Dunn Street Primary School have all taken part in a heritage walk with Elizabeth Kane, learning officer at The Customs House.

Local history writer Janis Blower helped prepare the content for the walk, which started at Pier Pavilion in Ocean Road and ended at The Customs House.

Elizabeth said: “The children were very observant and noticed details like the masks of comedy and tragedy on the old Theatre Royal façade and the more rowdy Greek god Dionysus on the Empire Palace’s impressive front.”

About 150 children have been involved in exploring theatres and the entertainers of the past.

The tour also took in The Word, where the children worked with librarian Catrin Galt to trace the route of their heritage walk using an Ordnance Survey map from 1913.

The schools will now appoint teams of ‘heritage ambassadors’ to work with freelance animator and filmmaker Sheryl Jenkins to create an animation using archive material.

Amy Emmerson, teacher at Harton Primary School, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to engage our pupils with high quality heritage and arts projects.”

A celebration event is planned for July 2019 at The Customs House, which will also share a range of resources from the project, including an audio guide produced with Janis Blower.

Elizabeth said: “The difficult part for me was selecting which bits of our theatre history to focus on.

“I am very excited to see where the school’s new heritage ambassadors take the story of theatres in the town. I’m really looking forward to seeing their animations.”

Elizabeth has thanked staff and parents at the partner schools, Sheryl, Catrin and Janis and volunteer Lauren Aspery.