Jolly good fellows set to be honoured by South Shields theatre

Singer John Miles, left, Hays Travel founder John Hays, centre, and  playwright Tom Kelly and are to be inducted into the Customs House Academy.
Singer John Miles, left, Hays Travel founder John Hays, centre, and playwright Tom Kelly and are to be inducted into the Customs House Academy.

A trio of South Tyneside men are to be handed an honour for their contributions to the arts in the borough.

Singer John Miles, playwright Tom Kelly and Hays Travel founder John Hays are set to be celebrated by theatre the Customs House, in a special ceremony.

Some of my most memorable nights at the Customs House have been when Tom and John and worked together to produce some terrific musicals.

Ray Spencer, Customs House executive director

Mr Miles and Mr Kelly will be handed Honorary Fellowship Awards and Mr Hays will be presented the first Corporate Fellowship Award as they are inducted into 
the Customs House Academy.

They’ll be handed their honours in a ceremony, hosted by Jarrow’s BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown, at the theatre in Mill Dam, South Shields, on Sunday, October 18.

The Academy was set up to honour the achievements of individuals with a connection to South Tyneside who have made a major contribution to the world of arts and entertainment.

Jarrow-born Mr Miles started out as part of local rock band The Influence alongside Roxy Music’s Paul Thompson.

At 22, he secured a recording contract with record label José, and released his first UK hit Highfly in 1975, followed by critically-acclaimed album Rebel.

His career took him from acting as Tina Turner’s music director during the 1980s and 1990s to playing organ on Joe Cocker’s album Night Calls in 1992.

He released 10 albums throughout his career. The final one was a collaboration with Mr Kelly for the 1999 musical Tom and Catherine, which was staged at the Customs House and told the life of South Shields author Catherine Cookson.

Mr Kelly, also born in Jarrow, has a career in the arts spanning 40 years.

The poet and playwright has written for the BBC and staged 15 plays and musicals at the Customs House, including award-winning I Left My Heart in Roker Park and most-recently, Geordie The Musical.

He taught drama at South Tyneside College for 25 years and has had seven of his poetry collections published.

Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House, said: “It’s an honour for us that two people born and bred of the borough have accepted to become members of our academy.

“Some of my most memorable nights at the Customs House have been when Tom and John and worked together to produce some terrific musicals and I’m a fan of both of them as a musician and as a poet and playwright.

“I’m really looking forward to this night and hope lots of people come along to celebrate our own.”

Mr Hays has supported the Customs House through his travel agents Hays Travel for many years and is the main sponsor of the venue’s annual pantomime.

Mr Spencer added: “John’s support from Hays Travel has been significant for over a decade and it’s great to know that he has confidence to be involved with the Customs House.”

Tickets for the 6.30pm event are available for £39, which includes a drinks reception for three-course meal.

All proceeds from the event go to the Customs House Trust.

l To book, email events@customshouse.co.uk or call 0191 454 1234.