Nostalgia: Giving the people of South Shields a voice

Back in 1986, Northern Voices Community Projects were set up to give local people who are “denied a voice”, a platform to ‘express their views and experiences’ of living in the North East.

A lorry leaves the Shields Gazette office.
A lorry leaves the Shields Gazette office.

The two founders were Peter Dixon and Keith Armstrong.

Recently, local historian and filmmaker Gary Wilkinson caught up with them at the The Alum House next to South Shields ferry.

Here Peter recalls some of the memories from his own past, which Gary has captured in his latest blog.

Peter said: “From 1975-80 I worked for Northern Press newspapers which included the Wallsend News, Whitley Bay Guardian, Blyth News and, where I was based, The Shields Gazette art department.

“We produced the graphics for adverts and things like that.

“This was in the day when old presses were still being used, it really was the last gasp of hot metal!

“What people tend to forget is that in The Shields Gazette you had a major employer situated right in the town centre that produced the whole newspaper under one roof.

“About 250 people were working there with proper jobs and getting proper money; all buying their sandwiches, birthday cards and whatever in the shops right there in the centre of town.

“There was a little squad of us who would regularly get in The Stags Head and the Dougie Vaults, spending our money on a few beers. Sadly all those workers have gone now.

“Before Northern Press I did some stuff for Vince Rea at The Bede Art Gallery, in Jarrow, and also designed single and album record covers for the Newcastle band Punishment of Luxury.”

Gary asked, how Peter got involved with them?

“I was doing background scenery for The Mad Bongo Theatre Company and a member of the band, Brian Bond, got in touch. Then I met Neville Luxury and the drummer Red Helmet.

“They’d done a single called Puppet of Life and Tony Visconti (Bowie, Bolan and Morrissey producer) reviewed it for Sounds newspaper. He described the sleeve that I’d done and said I was sick (laughs).

“I also co-edited a monthly magazine called The Informer. That was distributed around the North East, from Hexham, up to Blyth and down to Tyneside.

“We did around 10,000 copies a month and it ran from 2000-2010. It was originally for The Tyne Theatre but it became too expensive to run so became a magazine in its own right.

“It was a What’s On and live performance mag. It was meant as a gig guide that you could roll up and put in your pocket.

“I ran it with my co-editor. He collated the live dates and information and I designed and wrote the press releases and interviews. We both used to sell advertising. Again running it became expensive so it folded.”

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