Customs House in South Shields wins £164,000 boost to further 'serve the community'

Vital community work is set to continue at The Customs House thanks to funding from The Garfield Weston Foundation.

The arts venue has been awarded funding through the Weston Culture Fund to grow community engagement, improve mental health for young people in South Tyneside and to help the venue to become more accessible to audiences and performers.

“After such an incredibly difficult year when the people of South Tyneside have given us so much positive support it is fantastic news that the Weston Culture Fund has given The Customs House the resource we need to reach out to our community to tackle some real concerns,” Customs House Executive Director, Ray Spencer, said.

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“As a result of this investment we will be a more diverse and responsive organisation operating within a more inclusive and accessible building ready to face the challenges of a post pandemic recovery.”

The Customs House, South Shields

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    The borough venue and charity has been provided with £164,400 through the Weston Culture Fund.

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    The funding will create two new posts – a Community Engagement Officer, providing a link with under-served members of the community, and a Digital Project Co-Ordinator who will expand the digital offer beyond lockdown, bringing the venue’s entertainment offerings to a wide audience.

    The Customs House will tackle the growing concerns surrounding young people’s mental health during the pandemic with two projects working with the Local Cultural Education Partnership.

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    Executive Director at the Customs House, Ray Spencer

    A piece of children’s theatre, written by Danielle Burn, will be produced with the support of a portion of the grant money. The fund will also support the development of a choir for children and young people.

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    The grant will also help increase the venue’s accessibility for both visitors and performers, with the installation of a new lift to the back-stage area and audio description equipment.

    New equipment and facilities, including sound-proofing, cinema projector and digital equipment, will also see the venue make better use of facilities, enabling them to serve more of the community.

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    “Serving our community is what we are here to do and we are delighted that we are able to do even more with the help of this fund,” Mr Spencer added.

    “A huge thank you to the Garfield Weston Foundation for making this possible.”

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    Commenting on the awarded funding, the Garfield Weston Foundation’s Director, Philippa Charles, said: “Our cultural sector is at the heart of our local communities providing not only entertainment but education and inspiration for many.

    "Our Trustees were impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit shown across the arts in response to Covid-19 and it was a privilege to hear what organisations had been doing to not only survive but also to reinvent the way they reach audiences.

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    "What really stood out was the level of collaboration and support they had for each other and the determination to keep going, despite the increasingly difficult situation.

    “We all want and need our cultural sector to thrive and, if anything, our time away from the arts has shown just how important they are to us - bringing much needed pleasure and enrichment to our lives.

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    "Arts organisations are desperate to re-open and get back to what they do best and we hope that this new funding will help many of them do exactly that."

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