Michael Portillo visits South Tyneside in first episode of new Great British Railway Journeys TV series

Michael Portillo’s acclaimed Great British Railway Journeys steams into South Tyneside in the first episode of its new television run.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 23rd December 2019, 5:07 pm

The 11th series of the BBC2 show begins with Portillo and his faithful Bradshaw’s train guide visiting Jarrow to learn about the 1936 Jarrow March.

Two hundred marchers left the town on October 5 that year and spent 26 days walking to London to present an 11,000-strong name petition to the House of Commons.

They were angered at the failure to find replacement jobs following the closure of Jarrow’s main employer, Palmer’s shipyard, two years earlier.

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Michael Portillo visits Jarrow in the first episode of the new series of BBC2's Great British Railway Journeys.

The BBC has released the following information about the first episode: “Michael Portillo begins a new series of railway journeys through 1930s Britain, armed with an interwar Bradshaw's guide.

“He explores an unmistakably modern era of glamorous locomotives, cinema and dance halls but also a time of high unemployment and widespread poverty, when storm clouds gathered across the Channel.“Beginning just outside Newcastle in Jarrow, Michael uncovers the desperation which led 200 men to march 300 miles to Westminster in order to petition the Government for work.“In Newcastle, Michael admires the city's iconic railway bridge before heading to Byker, where he discovers a new innovation in greyhound racing. Tips for picking a winner lead to a photo finish...“There's a visit to Durham Cathedral to see the bones of the Father of English History and a chance to fire up the fryer at a coal powered fish and chip shop frozen in time.“In Spennymoor, Michael meets the son of a Durham miner who became one of the most famous 20th century artists of the North East.”

It will not be the first time that former Conservative Cabinet member Portillo, famed through the series for his bright blazers, has visited South Tyneside for the series.

He also searched for “the lost pit village of Marsden” in 2014 and visited St Paul’s Monastery, back in Jarrow, the following year to learn about the scholarly Venerable Bede.

The Jarrow March in 1936.

The first episode in the new series will be shown on Monday, January 6, at 6.30pm on BBC2.