South Tyneside’s young talent take centre stage

Custom Reels film project.
Custom Reels film project.

YOUNG people in South Tyneside are being given the opportunity to take over one of the borough’s most famous venues for a whole week. Bosses at the Customs House, in South Shields, are handing over the keys this half term. VICKI NEWMAN found out more.

TALENTED youngsters are taking over the programme of events at a South Tyneside theatre this half term.

The Customs House Takeover will see members of its young people’s groups and projects organise film, dance, music, theatre and visual arts events at the Mill Dam venue, in South Shields.

Customs House executive director, Ray Spencer, said: “The Takeover is a new idea for the Customs House – we’re filling every space in the venue with an event or activity for young people during May half 

“We work with young people throughout the year so the Takeover is a chance for these participants to celebrate the great work that they do, but it’s also an opportunity for new people to come along to see what we have on offer for them. So if you’re interested in drama, dance, film, music or visual arts, get involved.

“It’s a real adventure to hand over the Customs House for a whole week to the young people of our Cultural Development groups.

Dance group Flava Bay, part of Breakdance Jam.

Dance group Flava Bay, part of Breakdance Jam.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for them to create new work and share their creativity with the people of South Tyneside, whether making a piece of theatre in a week or exhibiting their artwork. I hope they make it a Whit Week to remember.”

One of the events taking place is The Letter Room Drama Residency, from Tuesday, May 26 to Friday, May 29.

It runs from 10.30am to 4.30pm each day, plus the performance is free.

It’s a great opportunity for performers, aged 15 to 19, to work with the critically-acclaimed theatre company, The Letter Room. Participants will develop performance and theatre devising skills, creating a new piece of work on the theme of Desperate Measures, which will be performed in the studio theatre on the Friday evening.

It’s a real adventure to hand over the Customs House for a whole week to the young people of our Cultural Development groups.

Ray Spencer, Customs House executive director

Places are limited. Application forms are available by emailing and the closing date for applications is Friday, May 8 at 5pm.

A One Day Film Challenge will take place on Tuesday, May 26, from 10am to 5pm. It costs £5.

The film will be screened at the Custom Reels Short Film Showcase at 7pm on Thursday, May 28. This activity is open to those aged 13 to 19 and no experience is necessary. For more information, contact Daniel on

For those interested in songwriting, a Song in a Day workshop is being held on Thursday, May 28 from 10am to 4pm, and costs £5.

The CustomSpace’s Martin Trollope will be helping youngsters take a look at lyric writing, melodies and instrumentation with the help of his years of experience composing songs and playing in a number of bands. This activity is suitable for beginners or those with experience singing and playing instruments.

For more information, contact Martin on

An Outdoor Breakdance Jam session is also running during half term. It takes place on Monday, May 25 at 5pm and 
costs £4.

The outdoor jam is being held at the Harton Quays Amphitheatre, just outside the Customs House. It has been organised by Bboy Gribz and will feature a DJ, MC and judging panel. The winner and runner-up will receive cash prizes and graffiti canvases. Spot prizes will also be available throughout the event. It is open to dancers under 19.

Dancers can register by contacting Connor on or at the event on the day.

Aspiring artists also have an opportunity to hold their exhibition in The Stairwell Gallery.

The venue is looking for an artist under 25 to hold their debut solo exhibition of work in the gallery during the 

The exhibition will be on display for four weeks and the successful artist will curate and hang their exhibition.

The display will launch the Stairwell Gallery, which will be dedicated to the work of younger artists. Applications will also be considered for future exhibitions in the space.

Apply by contacting Daniel on with a brief outline of what your artistic vision for your exhibition would be as well as one or two images which best represent your work by Friday. Applications cannot be made on behalf of a young artist, proposals must be made by the young adult applying.

Musicians will also have the chance to showcase their talents with Live at The Customs House on Monday, May 25 at 7pm.

The event is an opportunity for solo acts and bands to play live on the Customs House main stage, supporting the headliners.

Acts can apply to perform by emailing Jordan on

Twitter: @ShieldsGazVicki