Great North Passion takes shape in Bents Park, South Shields

Coming together in Bents Park, South Shields, is the dramatic arena for the Great North Passion

The containers that make up the cross-shaped arena for The Great North Passion are assembled in Bents Park, South Shields
The containers that make up the cross-shaped arena for The Great North Passion are assembled in Bents Park, South Shields

Coming together in Bents Park, South Shields, is the dramatic arena for the Great North Passion.

Tomorrow, to mark Good Friday, shipping containers assembled in the form of a cross will be a national reminder of the last moments of Jesus’s life – the Biblical story of the Passion.

Groups of people from across the region have been working with artists and musicians to prepare some of the containers to represent the Stations of the Cross, the significant points along Christ’s painful journey to Golgotha, where he was crucified.

These people will be in the crowd tomorrow with presenter Fern Britton and singer Alexandra Burke when the contemporary telling of the Passion is performed and broadcast live on BBC1 from noon.

The event, while focusing national attention on South Tyneside and various participating communities, will also mark the launch of The Cultural Spring.

This is a £2m Arts Council initiative designed to get more people in areas of South Tyneside and Sunderland involved in the arts.

Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “The eyes of the nation will once again be on South Tyneside.

“Attracting The Great North Passion to Bents Park demonstrates our ability to host a national event which not only benefits local residents but attracts visitors from the wider North East and beyond.”

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, has given the Great North Passion his blessing, saying: “When communities come together with a clear vision for what they are trying to achieve, great things can happen.

“In many of our parishes across the diocese of Durham this is happening as usual in Holy Week.”

The BBC’s head of religion and ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, said: “Here in the North East, Good Friday has long been marked by trips to the sea or the fairground.

“For others it’s a day for pilgrimage walks and Christian witness.

“We hope to add to all these traditions with a spectacular event that’s part of a long Good Friday history of telling the Passion story in public.”

The event, he added, would bring together the timeless Passion story with the story of the people of the North East.

He hoped it would encourage TV viewers and those present to think of the Passion story in a new way and to remember this Easter for many years to come.

Among those who have been working with communities head of tomorrow’s spectacular event are opera singer Graeme Danby, breakdance group Bad Taste Cru, photographer Julian Germain, artists Richard Broderick and Brendan Murphy, poet Kate Fox and members of the band The Futureheads.

Paul Martin and Conor O’Kane of Bad Taste Cru have worked with girls from Boldon School on the container which is to represent the second Station of the Cross.

“We looked at issues like solidarity, strength in numbers and human weakness using dance, costumes and music,” said Paul.

“As part of our legacy for the Great North Passion we’ve also made a short film and soundtrack, which will be shown in the container over the Easter weekend.”

Rebecca Ball, director of The Cultural Spring, said many new partnerships between communities and artists would be forged over the coming three years which would “entertain, enrich, encourage, inspire and challenge”.

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