A touring exhibition celebrating the North East’s finest triumphs and achievements begins its journey at the weekend.
Organised as part of the Great North Run’s cultural programme, Great North Greats, Ordinary people, Extraordinary Achievements opens on Saturday in South Shields as the countdown to the half marathon’s historic millionth finisher milestone continues.
In case you hadn’t heard, on September 7, 2014, the Bupa Great North Run will become the first sporting event of its kind to achieve its one millionth finish, and a suitably impressive programme of cultural celebrations to run alongside it has been scheduled, including an opening ceremony spectacular on Thursday with a bill including Sting, Mark Knopfler and Ant and Dec.
The Great North Greats exhibition will feature five of the region’s celebrated ‘greats’: inventor Joseph Swan, industrialists William Armstrong and Rachel Parsons, as well as sporting legends Harry Clasper and Tanni Grey-Thompson.
Presented alongside them will be an ever-growing number of digital stories and oral histories, collected at a number of ongoing community events and sessions, which will highlight and celebrate many of the regions unsung heroes and their stories of triumph against the odds.
Beth Bate, director of Bupa Great North Run Culture, explains: “September 2014 is a milestone, not just for this great region, but for the world. The region’s sporting triumphs and industrial achievements should be seen side by side and the Great North Greats event is a shining tribute and example of this.
“Behind all of this success is a shared set of characteristics that have shaped the identity of a region and the values of its residents.
“In less than thirty-five years, the Bupa Great North Run has become one of the most recognisable sporting events on the planet and far from being something new, greatness in the North East is a result of centuries of achievement and innovation that have played a role in the lives of anyone that has ever lived or worked here.”
The opening event of the exhibition at 105 Kings Street in South Shields will run from 11am to 4pm and will be thoroughly family affair, offering a host of fun activities held both in the exhibition space and a short walk away at the South Shields Museum & Art Gallery.
The display, which will increase in size and content as the gathering of stories and experiences continues, will travel to a number of community venues along the Great North Run course ahead of reaching its final destination at Discovery Museum in Newcastle next summer, in time for the 2015 event.
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure, added: “September 2014 will be remembered as the landmark date when the Bupa Great North Run became the first sporting event of its kind to reach its one millionth finish and we’re proud to be hosting the Great North Great event in South Shields.
“This exhibition tells the story of individuals and communities, everyday triumphs and ground breaking achievements that makes our town and region what it is today.”
Working in partnership with Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, and funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, this is just one of the events Great North Run Culture has planned throughout a year-long program of events, exhibitions and workshops aimed at exploring the region’s rich heritage and promoting the North East as a sporting and scientific powerhouse of technology, enterprise, innovation, talent and determination.
As part of the Great North Greats exhibition programme, visual artist Matt Stokes has been recruited as the GNR Million artist in residence and has been researching the industrial heritage of Tyneside with a view to exploring the communities and pastimes that emerged from the working world.