South Shields favourite Ray Spencer was among the winners at an awards ceremony in Washington last night which celebrated long-standing contributors to the region alongside the achievements of two local young writing talents.
The chief executive of The Customs House was honoured at the annual Northumbrian Association’s combined Hotspur Awards and Writers’ Awards event which took place at Washington Old Hall.
He was awarded a Hotspur Awards’ silver spur for his dedicated work in South Shields, while the combined winners of the second solid silver spur were Durham Rifles, formerly the Durham Light Infantry, and the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers.
The Writers’ Awards went to Durham University student Laurie Harrison, 19, and 10-year-old Kieran Smith.
Judith Robson, chairman of the Northumbrian Association charity which promotes the traditions and culture of Northumbria, said: “The Hotspur Awards are for bold endeavour, something rather special, harking back to the time of Harry Hotspur.
“Ray Spencer has contributed so much to The Customs House, saving it and getting it back on its feet, and working with children, encouraging them into the arts.”
And the silver spur combined winners, with histories so ingrained in the area, are especially deserving in a year that marks the centenary of the start of the First World War.
“They are special to this region,” said Judith who gave a speech at the awards.
She added: “The Writers’ Awards were originally for young writers but they were extended to adult writers as well and Laurie was a previous winner as a young writer.”
Currently in his first year studying literature, he impressed judges this time with his thoughts about what he found special in the area of “old Northumbria” which encompassed the Tees to the Tweed.
Keiran, meanwhile, came up with an “unusual” subject, said Judith. Judges loved his eloquent piece about Killingworth Young People’s Club in which he wrote of memories of walking through its gates, the smell of “determination and sweat”, the whistle which transformed the atmosphere, and the coming football game where the ball was “king” demanding the servants to follow.
Thanks to help from the Gillian Dickinson Trust, which supports small charities and is named after the publisher who had a passion for the arts, the young writers win £100 Amazon vouchers.
There’s also a prize to Kieran’s school of a writer-in-residence to work with children there for four weeks; and, for Laurie, the John Danby Adult Writer’s Trophy, named after the charity’s late former chairman.
The Northumbrian Association published a book this year featuring writing by all ages. Spirit of the North: in praise of Northumbria by Northumbrians is available from Tyne & Wear Museums, the University Library on Palace Green, Durham, and Amazon.