Tynemouth Station saviour's surprise celebration

Booksellers yesterday celebrated a happy ending to a story which began more than 30 years ago

Ylana First, organiser of the Book Fair at Tynemouth Metro train station
Ylana First, organiser of the Book Fair at Tynemouth Metro train station

Booksellers yesterday celebrated a happy ending to a story which began more than 30 years ago.

It was then that Ylana First took up the fight to save the 1882 Tynemouth Station, which was facing the threat of being reduced to a Metro halt.

Ylana helped set up the Friends of Tynemouth Station and is still the organisation’s secretary. She was a driving force in the long battle to have the listed station and its expanse of ornate, glazed cast iron canopies restored.

She also organised book fairs at the station to highlight how it could be used for events and to raise funds for the Friends’ fight.

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the first book fair and around 50 booksellers sprang a surprise for Ylana.

To mark the anniversary, and Ylana’s recent 80th birthday, she was presented with an inscribed stone book sculpture, created by bookseller and stone mason Gert van Hoff. Cullercoats community choir Making Waves also sang Happy Birthday to Ylana, who lives in Tynemouth.

Also thanked was Ylana’s “right hand man” Ken Rowley, from North Shields.

Ylana also began the art displays on the station’s bridge, and has organised 45 exhibitions so far.

The station’s restoration, completed last year, has won it a hatful of awards and it has now been taken off English Heritage’s At Risk register.

It now provides an impressive gateway to the North Tyneside coast and is the venue for weekend markets and many other events, while also fulfilling its transport role.

Bookseller Elaine Cusack from Whitley Bay, who helps Ylana organise the book fairs, said: “The Friends of Tynemouth Station is a pressure group which has actually achieved its aims and Ylana’s efforts in this have been amazing.

“She is a true friend of the station, of the booksellers and artists, and we wanted to thank her. I’m full of admiration for what she has done.”

North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn, who turned up to pay tribute to Ylana, said: “I want to thank the Friends for what they have achieved and for the determination they have shown. I think Tynemouth Station is unique.”

It was in 1978 that plans emerged from the then Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive to demolish part of the station and its bridge and to turn it into a platform halt for the forthcoming Metro system.

Ylana helped organise a protest resolution by Tynemouth branch Labour Party and she and Tina Watson, who started the first flea markets at the station, launched a petition which collected 4,000 signatures.

Ylana also played her part in a feasibility study to save the station, commissioned by Community Service Volunteers in 1987.

Ylana said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed by the surprise presentation. It has been a long, hard struggle, but I now call the station the Crystal Palace of the North.

“There is a feeling of incredible satisfaction when you fight for something for so long .

“What is now happening at the station is absolutely brilliant. Its potential is flowering and it is what we have dreamed about for years.”

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