New book sees celebrities talk of their love for the North East

A host of household names have opened up about what the region means to them for a book to raise money for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation

The spectacular Newcastle quayside lit up at night
The spectacular Newcastle quayside lit up at night

From sweeping sandy beaches to towering structures of the industrial age, the landscape of the North East can take your breath away.

But there are hidden corners of the region - some might call them its best-kept secrets - that residents often hold most dear.

While tourists can be forgiven for heading straight to obvious places like the Newcastle Quayside to get a photograph of the Tyne Bridge, it might mean they overlook hidden gems, such as Guisborough’s Eston Nab, and the glorious panoramic view of Teesside it offers, or County Durham’s High Force, one of England’s most spectacular waterfalls tucked away in the dales.

Now, two North East writers have teamed up for a new book called My North East, By Its Famous Sons and Daughters.

It is aimed at encapsulating the breadth and diversity of the region by allowing 65 of its best-known personalities share their favourite places and personal memories of the North East.

The list of contributors is impressive: former footballer Alan Shearer; musicians Sting, Mark Knopfler and Bryan Ferry; television presenter Denise Welch; Olympic gold medalist Kat Copeland; the Duchess of Northumberland; and comedian Vic Reeves all wade in to describe the landmarks of the region they call home.

Author's Michael Hamilton and Anne Graham with Alan Shearer
Author's Michael Hamilton and Anne Graham with Alan Shearer
 

Co-editor Anne Graham, who has been working on the hardback since 2008 with former Evening Chronicle writer Michael Hamilton, says the work was inspired by perhaps the North East’s most famous and best-l loved character - the late Sir Bobby Robson.

Anne interviewed the great man when he launched his foundation in 2008 and found his answers so interesting she was inspired to begin the book.

Profits will go towards the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, which raises money for the early detection and treatment of cancer.

Anne says that because of this, dozens of other celebrities were happy to be included in the work.

She said: “When I spoke to Sir Bobby in 2008 about the launch of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation he talked passionately about what he hoped the charity would achieve in the region. He wanted to make a difference in the area where his own roots lay. It has exceeded even his dreams - and continues to do so.

“Talking to fellow North Easterners about Sir Bobby after he died, it became clear to me that they shared his fierce loyalty and deep affection for this unique part of the world. And that’s how the book was born.

“We’ve brought together for the first time in words and images what home means to many of the region’s famous sons and daughters. - including Sir Bobby.”

The late darts commentator Sid Waddell is also among the names co-editor Michael Hamilton got to interview.

He said: “It was a labour of love to interview some of my North East heroes like Mark Knopfler, Brian Johnson and Paul Rodgers.”

High Force waterfall
High Force waterfall
 

Readers from this region and beyond are treated not only to some personal insights from regional celebrities who have found fame in sport and entertainment but also to some fantastic images supplied by North East photographer Graham Peacock .

The editors also mined the picture archives of The Journal and of our sister papers’ The Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

Anne said: “We have 65 personalities - some really well-known people famous in their own right - but the underlying idea was to make the region the star of the show and to show the North East in its best possible light.

“We have tried to do that through the eyes of these well-known people to bring out what people outside of the region, and in fact what some people inside the region, often don’t know about.”

Anne said while all the celebrities were a pleasure to interview, she was most struck by Paralympic swimmer Josef Craig, the 16-year-old gold medalist from South Tyneside’s Hebburn. She said the young man had grown into a fine ambassador for the region.

She said Josef was able to sum up the feeling of North East pride in his interview which Anne and Michael hoped to get across in the book.

Josef said: “I was quite young when Sir Bobby Robson was the manager, but I remember him well. There’s someone who is a true legend and inspiration - not just to Geordies but to Sunderland and Middlesbrough fans too, and just to everyone who loves football.

“Newcastle itself means a lot to me. Whenever I have been away swimming abroad and I come back home and see the Tyne Bridge, I know I’m home.

“It just gleams and shines and I love it. Seeing the Tyne and the bridges as you’re coming into Newcastle - I can’t think of anything more wonderful.”

Lady Elsie Robson, Sir Bobby’s widow, said: “It’s clear that the region has a strong pull for everyone, whether they live elsewhere, travel frequently for their work or have put down permanent roots.

“I’m delighted that so many of the best-known sons and daughters of the region have been happy to share their love for the North East, especially their personal favourite places, some of which are famous, iconic views and others which are less familiar but particularly precious to them.”

My North East is published by Kingfisher Reach Communications, £20, from www.my-northeast.co.uk

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