Council hits back at think tank’s cultural slur on South Tyneside

Arbeia Roman Fort is one of South Tyneside's cultural jewels.
Arbeia Roman Fort is one of South Tyneside's cultural jewels.

A think tank which branded South Tyneside as culturally inadequate has been dubbed a ‘thicktank’ by a borough councillor.

Coun John McCabe hit out at the Royal Society of Arts’ (RSA) “deeply flawed” Heritage Index, during a meeting of South Tyneside Council at Jarrow Town Hall last night.

The list ranked South Tyneside as the ninth-worst place in England for culture.

“I call them a thick tank,” he said. “They call themselves a think tank, but they didn’t seem to think very much when they delivered this report.

“How else can they come up with the idea that we are culturally deficient?”

Coun McCabe’s comments came as councillors voted to pass a motion in defence of the borough’s cultural offer and demasnded that a representative of the RSA comes to see the borough’s cultural scene for themselves.

The RSA’s Heritage Index triggered protests last month, when it was produced last month.

The motion read: “This deeply flawed report has caused understandable anger amongst borough residents and regional cultural organisations, who find it hard to understand how the RSA could justify their claims about a borough with such a rich cultural heritage.”

Councillors have also demanded that culture secretary John Whittingdale visit the area.

The borough’s two MPs are also to be asked to raise the issue in Parliament.

Deputy leader Coun Alan Kerr said: “As a borough, we have Arbeia, which is the best Roman fort still left in the whole world. We have Bede’s World and we had the first written Bible.

“The first English history was made here. The Times said Marsden was one of the best beaches in the country.

“How can these people from the RSA have overlooked all this? It just shows that this report is misguided.

“It actually is a load of rubbish.”

Coun Kerr also addressed criticism that there were no “Blue Plaque” houses in the borough – placed to commemmorate where famous people were born or lived.

He said: “We have a lot of famous people born here, but their houses are often no longer there.

“To put up a blue plaque is difficult, but we’ll see what we can do.”

Coun McCabe said: “We have to make them see that we are culturally sufficient.”