The fish quay has been at the heart of the life of North Shields for over 900 years. Now it is a lively residential, business and social area – yet nowhere is its heritage and culture celebrated. Members of the Net group are working to develop a Cultural and Heritage Centre where the story of this rich community can be explored by local people and visitors.
Supported with funds from North Tyneside Council, through their ‘Big Society Community Investment Fund’, the group has consulted the community. Following two local presentation events overwhelming support was received from the ‘folks of Shields’ and beyond. Please refer to ‘Survey results’ for more details.
Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust (also known as Buttress), working with North Tyneside Council, have offered us the Old Low Light building at the heart of the Quay for our base. This building is currently undergoing refurbishment – financed by Tyne and Wear Building Preservation Trust, with part funding from North Tyneside Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund – and if you visit the quayside you can see for yourself the progress being made.
We named our working group ‘The Net’ to exemplify our vision for a Centre which will bring people of all ages together. We want active opportunities for people to find out about the past, cherish the environment, develop skills and creativity, and share in planning for the future.
We have a clear vision of how the Centre will develop. We want to create an exhibition space, a learning area, a unique venue for hire for special events, a base for guided walks and classes, a shop with local crafts and produce for sale, a café and an outdoor sea-themed activity area for children. Along with supporting local arts projects, we would like to sustain and develop traditional crafts, giving them fresh life with new uses and purposes.
We hope to have special and strong links with Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade, sharing personnel between our two venues and encouraging cooperation between our respective enterprises. The TVLB Watch House and the Old Low Light, both valuable historic buildings, are within sight and easy walking distance of each other and much can be made of this.
We have already begun to build strong links with local schools, businesses and community groups. We feel there is huge potential to link our Centre to other local attractions. We are on the Coast to Coast cycle route, close to the DFDS terminal and the Hadrian’s Wall walk. It will soon be possible to walk from Tynemouth to Newcastle along the riverside. We could be one of many attractions, part of a marine tourist trail based on the River Tyne.
There is a vast and largely untapped bank of knowledge and skill within our community, and we hope we can encourage as many people as possible to join us on this mission.
We would like to thank the following organisations for their encouragement, advice and support:
Coble and Keel Boat Society
FISH (Folk Interested in Shields Harbour)
Living History North East
North Shields Chamber of Commerce and Trade
Local Studies North Tyneside Library Services
North of England Civic Trust
North Tyneside Council
North Tyneside Education Services
Northumberland Wildlife Trust
Remembering the Past Resourcing the Future
Retired Fishermen’s Group at RNMDF
Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen at North Shields
Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
Tynemouth Volunteer Life Brigade