South Shields art project breaking down cultural barriers

CELEBRATING DIVERSITY... Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader for South Tyneside with special responsibility for culture and leisure, with Masuma's children Mahrin, 11 and Tahrian Chowdhury, nine.
CELEBRATING DIVERSITY... Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader for South Tyneside with special responsibility for culture and leisure, with Masuma's children Mahrin, 11 and Tahrian Chowdhury, nine.

A SOUTH Tyneside illustrator is drawing inspiration from art to help break down cultural barriers in the borough.

Author and illustrator Anne Curtis worked with members of the Bangladeshi community to update a traditional Bengali fairytale during a six-week residency at a pop-up studio at South Shields Central Library.

She teamed up with South Tyneside Council’s Library Service to launch the innovative partnership celebrating ethnic diversity.

Working with adults and children, she has re-written The Old Woman and the Big Red Pumpkin – which tells the story of an old woman who manages to trick a bear, tiger and jackal to avoid being eaten – bringing the traditional Bengali tale back to life with new illustrations.

The story has been translated into Bengali by local woman Masuma Yesmin and made into an animated book which people can download for 79p via an iPad app.

Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader for South Tyneside with special responsibility for culture and leisure, said: “This project has been hugely successful in building bridges between cultures.

“South Tyneside is made up of a diverse multi-cultural community and has a proud history of tolerance. It is important to support initiatives which aim to bridge the gap between different groups to ensure social harmony is maintained.”

Anne added: “I’m a great believer in ‘one world’ stories. I try to support children in sharing the similarities of their traditional stories, while celebrating their differences. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside South Shields’ librarians to explore how we can use story to bridge worlds and bring our community together.”

The app, designed, animated and published by Shoo Fly Publishing, will be officially launched on World Book Night on April 23, at the Central Library, in South Shields.

A range of Arts Council-funded art projects will be taking place this year which will aim to link the Central Library with the new Central Library and Media Hub, being created as part of the £100m 365 regeneration scheme.

Ideas in the pipeline include a story chair, a book trail and a project to identify the top 25 books in South Tyneside.

Twitter@shieldsgazchris