New film shows what Dame Catherine Cookson may think of modern South Tyneside

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A new educational film gives a unique look on what Dame Catherine Cookson may think about modern-day South Tyneside.

Our Catherine has been created by South Shields- based Unified Media and playwright Tom Kelly especially for The Word.

Ryan Gibson, Phil Skinner and Jon Burton, of Unified Media who made Our Catherine.

Ryan Gibson, Phil Skinner and Jon Burton, of Unified Media who made Our Catherine.

The 13-minute film can be viewed by the public in the Market Place venue as part of an exhibition to mark the 20th anniversary of her death.

Jon Burton, film-maker and co-scriptwriter, said: “The film is a little bit different to what most people would probably expect.

“The concept is what Dame Catherine would think about all the changes in South Tyneside if she were here now to see them.

“The borough has changed so much from her era, in some areas it’s probably changed beyond recognition – so it’s a lot different from what she would have grown up knowing and also written about in her books.”

Dame Catherine Cookson

Dame Catherine Cookson

The title of the film is inspired by the autobiography of the author ‘ Our Kate’, who was born in Tyne Dock, South Shields and died in 1998 aged 91.

The illegitimate child of an alcoholic named Kate Fawcett, Dame Catherine grew up thinking her unmarried mother was her sister, as she was brought up by her grandparents Rose and John McMullen.

Dame Catherine wrote almost 100 books, which sold more than 123 million copies, with her novels being translated into at least 20 languages. She remained the most borrowed author from public libraries in the UK for 17 years, until four years after her death.

Jon said discovering Dame Catherine’s past has been a great learning curve for him and his team.

He added: “We didn’t know much about Dame Catherine, apart from her being a famous author from the region that our mams would read.

“But when researching her during the process of writing the script, we realised that her life was an incredible story in itself.

“What inspired us about Catherine was how much she went through, and how she dealt with it all. She experienced no shortage of tragedy and hardship, but yet was able to channel into something so creative and meaningful for her and her millions of readers.

“It was then that we knew that the educational video needed to be a short drama film if it was to do her justice.

Our Catherine can be seen at The World until October of by visiting www.unifiedmedia.org.uk.