A PERMANENT gallery exploring the rich diversity of the region and its people is being launched today.
The highly anticipated exhibition, called Destination Tyneside, is being unveiled at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.
The collection tells the story about the people who have come to the region over the last 200 years to make a better life for themselves, or to flee persecution from countries around the world.
A preview event was held yesterday, attended by a number of special guests, including residents whose families made Tyneside their home.
Irfan Asghar from Gosforth, Newcastle, attended the event to celebrate the contribution his late father made to the region.
The 35-year-old said: “My father came here from Pakistan in the 1960s and he literally had nothing. He settled here and went on to open the biggest Asian supermarket in the North East.
“I really like living on Tyneside because of its diversity and because it is inclusive. There is very little racism here.”
The event was also attended by Peter Cheng and his son Ken. Peter moved to South Shields from China in 1961. He came to the region because he already had relatives living here.
Ken said: “He’d heard he could make a better living here and that’s what he did. He opened a Chinese supermarket in Westgate Road, Newcastle, in 1975 and in 1978, he opened a business in Stowell Street, now known as Chinatown. It was my dad’s vision to create a Chinatown in Newcastle and he is now considered to be the founder of it.”
Dorothy Sadlik, whose Jewish father, Walter Schartenberg, moved to North Shields to escape Nazi Germany in 1938, was amongst the guests.
The retired teacher from Gosforth, Newcastle, said: “My father worked in manufacturing and was allowed to keep a passport to travel for work.
“He was at Russell Square underground station in London when he saw an advert telling people to come to Tyneside for work.
“After he moved to the North East, he established a factory and was able to employ many people. He was leaving the horrors behind and it was very traumatic for him, but he always felt very loyal to the region and wanted to give something back.”
Children from Chillingham Road Primary, Newcastle, entertained the guests by performing a special song they have written to coincide with the exhibition, which has been recorded on CD.
Ellen Costello, 10, said: “I’ve liked learning about the history of the region and about the people who came here to live.”
Leah Mielnik, nine, added: “My favourite part has been learning the stories behind the people who came to live here. It’s really interesting.”
By 1911, one third of the population of Tyneside were migrants or children of migrants. Jobs in coal mining, shipbuilding and heavy engineering mean the North East became a major centre of migration as people searched for work.
Between 1991 and 2001, the region saw the second biggest rate of change in migration in England. This is believed to be largely due to international students who stay in the region for high-skilled work.
The gallery’s official launch today runs from 11am to 3pm and will feature a range of family activities.