Four honoured for support of the arts in South Tyneside

From left, Bob Olley, Sheila Graber, TMayor of South Tyneside, Coun Olive Punchion, Alex Ferguson and his grandson Jordan Alexander,  Mayoress of South Tyneside, Mrs Mary French, and Richard Ord.
From left, Bob Olley, Sheila Graber, TMayor of South Tyneside, Coun Olive Punchion, Alex Ferguson and his grandson Jordan Alexander, Mayoress of South Tyneside, Mrs Mary French, and Richard Ord.

Four people who have made an outstanding contribution to the arts in South Tyneside have been inducted as Honorary Fellows of The Customs House Academy.

The honour was bestowed upon animator Sheila Graber, playwright Alex Ferguson, artist Bob Olley and businessman Richard Ord.

They were presented with their awards by Ray Spencer MBE, executive director of The Customs House, and the Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Olive Punchion and Mrs Mary French.

Mr Spencer said: “It is a terrific opportunity to celebrate the unique talent and career longevity of four extraordinary people.”

Coun Punchion added: “South Tyneside is well known for its wealth of talent, with The Customs House playing a major part in nurturing aspiring stars of the future. It’s wonderful to recognise and celebrate those who are doing such great things and helping to inspire the next generation in arts and entertainment.”

Sheila Graber, who was born and raised in South Shields and worked on the Paddington animated television series, was recognised as an artist, animator and teacher.

She said: “The Customs House has given the arts in this area a heart and kept up the tradition of helping Tyneside prosper. So it is a particular pleasure for me to receive this Honorary Fellowship from a building and town I know and love.”

Alex Ferguson, who was born in Jarrow and also grew up in South Shields, has written for TV, radio and film and founded Bold As Brass Theatre Company.

He was honoured in recognition of outstanding and continuous achievements as an award- winning playwright and author.

He said: “I have lived and worked all over this island of ours but to be honoured as an Honorary Fellow of The Customs House pleases me greatly.”

Bob Olley, who was recognised as a sculptor, artist and painter, said: “My family and I are overwhelmed by The Customs House Honorary Fellowship Award.

“It was especially gratifying as so many of my long-time friends attended the dinner and I thank them all for their support over the years.”

Richard Ord was honoured in recognition of the support The Customs House has received from Colmans over the last 10 years.

He said: “Ray and all the team at The Customs House have done such a tremendous job and we are only too pleased to support them in our small way.

“I am absolutely delighted and honoured to be made an Honorary fellow of behalf of all at Colmans.”

The Customs House Academy was established to honour those in the arts and entertainment who are from, or have been associated with, South Tyneside and surrounding areas and who have gone on to make a significant contribution to the development of arts and entertainment locally and nationally. 

Existing Honorary Fellows include: Sarah Millican, Jason Cook, Chris Ramsay, Joe McElderry, Encore, Ann-Marie Owens, John Woodvine, John Hays, Tom Kelly, John Miles, Andy Bogle and Lindsay Kemp.