Keeping past alive with sweet music

THIS sweet couple are a one stop shop for preserving Geordie traditions.

THIS sweet couple are a one stop shop for preserving Geordie traditions.

Not only is confectioner Alan Clough celebrating his family’s 75th year behind the counter of their Newcastle sweet store, he and wife Catherine are on a mission to keep alive the region’s rich history of song and dance.

When Alan isn’t behind the counter of popular Heaton Road Shop Clough’s Sweets, he enjoys the traditional miners’ pastime of rapping with swords.

Meanwhile Katherine I’Anson-Clough teaches clog dancing and Geordie folk songs at a number of schools across Tyneside.

Then when the pair come together they form Best of Fettle, reciting Geordie poems, jokes and ditties.

To celebrate 75 years of Clough’s Sweets, Alan and his brother Ian, 72, have produced a book celebrating the history of the shop since 1934 when their father swapped his life as a sales rep for life behind the counter.

“We’ve been here ever since,” Alan, 61, said. “I’ve never regretted spending my whole life here. It’s always been an important part of the community. Even the students have taken it to their hearts. That’s why we’ve made the book, because so many people take an interest in the shop. I suppose I’m the Willy Wonka of Newcastle.

“There’s still nothing better than seeing the excitement on children’s faces when they pick their sweets.”

The store has sold sweets since it was built with the rest of Heaton 111 years ago. In 1943 Alan’s dad Arthur took on the franchise and, over the coming years, he and wife Edith paid to become full owners.

Recently Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole picked it as her biggest miss when asked what she regretted about leaving the North East. Members of her family are still spotted popping in for something sweet on occasions.

The Cloughs, who have three children, and live in Whickham, Gateshead, believe it is their love of North East culture which has helped the store survive for so long, and feeds their energy for promoting traditional Geordie performance.

Catherine, 55, said: “The whole idea of the North East matters to us. The previous generation had a much harder time than us and it’s important we all learn what they went through. Songs and monologues are the traditional way of passing messages through the ages.

“We do corporate events, but the best performances are more low-key, at the WI, or for schools. “People up here like to hear the Geordie songs and sing along.

For Alan, his shop, which remains dedicated to selling just sweets, is crucial part of North East tradition.

He said: “We’re lucky to live in an area with such a strong culture. “People love the fact that we’ve been here so long and that’s why we’ve developed such a reputation.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer