Lifeline for Bede's World as council moves to save attraction from closure

Bede's World.
Bede's World.

Bede's World looks set to reopen as council chiefs move to save the shutdown attraction.

South Tyneside Council is working on a deal which would see charity Groundwork take over the heritage centre, which shut its doors last month due to "financial pressures."

Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow is pictured with Andrew Watts, Executive Director of Groundwork and Councillor Alan Kerr at the Bedes World site.

Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow is pictured with Andrew Watts, Executive Director of Groundwork and Councillor Alan Kerr at the Bedes World site.

The venue had been run by Bede’s World Charitable Trust, with funding assistance from the council, but became insolvent in February, with the ownership of the land and buildings reverting back to the council.

Councillor Alan Kerr, the council's deputy leader, said since then the authority had been working to put a new operator in place to "carry on the work of celebrating Bede and the borough’s Anglo-Saxon history, and to introduce a range of new services and facilities to strengthen the appeal of the site."

He said: “Bede’s World was an important cultural and heritage attraction giving visitors a fascinating insight into Anglo Saxon life.

“Following concerns over the sustainability of the trust and careful consideration of a number of options, we believe we have found a solution to ensure this venue has a long term future for the people of South Tyneside and the wider region.

Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow is pictured with Andrew Watts, Executive Director of Groundwork and Councillor Alan Kerr at the Bedes World site.

Stephen Hepburn MP for Jarrow is pictured with Andrew Watts, Executive Director of Groundwork and Councillor Alan Kerr at the Bedes World site.

“We want the site to remain open for education, training and community uses and feel this option would protect this valuable place of learning from closure in the long run.”

Coun Kerr, who is also responsible for culture in South Tyneside, said the authority was in discussions with charity Groundwork South Tyneside and Newcastle (STAN) about taking on the lease of the Bede’s World site.

Groundwork already manages community facilities at Marsden Road Health and Wellbeing Centre, along with many others.

Coun Kerr said “The council has a successful partnership with Groundwork and its contribution to developing innovative and practical solutions in local communities is highly valued across South Tyneside.

“Groundwork has a strong community engagement ethos and we are really excited at the prospect of leasing Jarrow Hall, the farm and museum to Groundwork.

"We look forward to supporting the organisation as it develops its work to protect, preserve and improve this wonderful heritage and educational attraction for future generations to enjoy.”

Coun Kerr said the aim was to grow the educational and training elements of the attraction while retaining the museum and driving up visitor numbers by offering a wider range of family fun activities.

Andrew Watts, executive director of Groundwork STAN, said: “The opportunity to be part of this wonderful educational and cultural facility fits well within Groundwork’s vision and strategy as we have great expertise in supporting projects that are of importance to local communities.

“We firmly believe we can work in a highly positive way with the Council and partners to preserve the history and importance of the site, whilst ensuring the commercial viability of the venue for the future.

“Subject to the finer detail, we believe there is an exciting future ahead for the site and we hope to work with schools, colleges and universities to build on the excellent legacy of educating the people of the north east and beyond about Anglo Saxon times and Bede himself.

“To add value to the Bede’s World site, we are investigating new ways to create a wider visitor attraction and community offer, such as craft fairs, summer plays and celebration events.

“Over the next few weeks we will be developing our ideas and we will be working with partners to finalise our plans.”

Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn said he was in support of the plans.

He said: “Bede’s World has been a hugely valuable and internationally recognised cultural and educational resource to the Borough and our region as well as being of world historical and religious importance.

“Since the sudden closure of Bede’s World was announced, I have been in extremely productive talks with the Council to see this much loved facility reopened at the earliest opportunity.

"I am delighted that a solution has been found to preserve the long term future of the Bede’s World site for the local community and of course the wider region.”