Heart of the House in South Shields

Stuart Forster introduces Heart of the House, a free-to-visit light and sound show that will be projected onto The Customs House in South Shields from 25 to 27 October 2019.

Disclosure: This article was sponsored by The Cultural Spring, which did not review or approve the post.

A spectacular free-to-visit light and sound show, Heart of the House, will be held in South Shields from 25 to 27 October 2019. The event marks the 25th anniversary of The Customs House opening as an arts and culture venue.

Heart of the House
Information about Heart of the House (image supplied courtesy of The Cultural Spring).

The Customs House as an arts venue

The Customs House is home to a 437-seat theatre and a 145-seat studio that’s also used as a cinema. The ground floor hosts Dame Bella’s bistro and bar plus the River View private dining room, that seats up to 22 diners. The venue also has three exhibition spaces and regularly hosts creative workshops and events.

Standing at Mill Dam, overlooking the River Tyne, the name of the Customs House reflects one of the previous uses of the building. It was constructed in 1863-64 to a design by T.M. Clemence.

Blue plaque erected bt Tyne and Wear County Council on the wall of The Customs House in South Shields.
Blue plaque erected bt Tyne and Wear County Council.

Heart of the House in South Shields

The visual aspect of Heart of the House will be projected onto the north and east facades of The Customs House. It celebrates the building’s heritage and its present guise, including characters from popular shows and icons from South Tyneside.

The projection will loop every 10 minutes from 6.00pm to 10.00pm on the evenings of the weekend ahead of Halloween. You might find that appropriate, once you learn that the building known today as The Customs House was previously the site of morgue.

The front of The Customs House in South Shields.
The front (north facade) of The Customs House.

Expect engaging sounds as well as flags made in workshops held by The Creative Seed and attended by people from South Tyneside. Visitors are welcome to view the lightshow more than once. Expect to spend about an hour observing and interacting with Heart of the House.

Outdoor seating by the amphitheathre at Harton Quays Park close to The Customs House.
Outdoor seating by the amphitheathre at Harton Quays Park close to The Customs House.

The installation is by Novak, a creative studio based at Newcastle’s Biscuit Tin Studios. Novak specialises in immersive experiences and motion design. The studio’s work has previously featured at events including the Singapore Night Festival, Glastonbury Festival and Lumiere Festival (which returns to Durham City from 14 to 17 November 2019).

Sailor statue on the Merchant Navy Memorial on Mill Dam in South Shields.
Sailor statue on the Merchant Navy Memorial on Mill Dam.

Celebrating The Custom House’s 25th birthday

“I’m looking forward to seeing the building in a different light, literally and figuratively. It’s a beacon for the community and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate our 25th birthday. It was important to us that the event is free so as many people as possible can come down, enjoy the event and helps us celebrate,” commented Ray Spencer MBE, the Executive Director of The Customs House.

The Customs House is a five-minute walk from The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word, next to South Shields’ Market Place. The centre has a rooftop terrace, a café, a visitor information centre plus a library. Until 23 February 2020 Amazing Space, a celebration of space exploration in fact and fiction, is on show in The Word’s ground floor exhibition area.

Sign at The Customs House inviting people to celebrate the arts venue's 25th anniversary.
Sign at The Customs House inviting people to celebrate the arts venue’s 25th anniversary.

It’s a 15-minute walk to The Customs House from South Shields Interchange on Keppel Street. The town’s new transport hub, from where Metros and buses depart, cost £21 million to build and was opened in July 2019. Due to the limited parking around The Customs House it will make sense to travel by public transport to view Heart of the House.

The Customs House opened as an arts venue in 1994. Prior to its redevelopment, the building was run down and used both as a book depository and a taxi office.

A quarter of a century later The Customs House plays a key role in the cultural life of South Shields. Heart of the House celebrates that journey.

The Merchant Navy Memorial in front of The Customs House on Mill Dam in South Shields.
The Merchant Navy Memorial by The Customs House on Mill Dam.

Further information

The Customs House (Mill Dam, South Shields, NE33 1 ES; tel. 0191 454 1234) hosts a programme of theatre, musical productions and films. It’s also the venue for Jason Cook’s Comedy Club. Twenty-five years on since it was first shown at the theatre, Snow White will be The Custom House’s 2019-20 pantomime. Dame Bella’s (tel. 0191 427 3737) is open daily from 10.00am until late; the bistro and bar’s menus are available online.

Discover more about Heart of the House on The Cultural Spring website.

Novak created the Heart of the House installation that will be projected outside of The Customs House from 6.00pm to 10.00pm on Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 October 2019.

Unless otherwise stated, illustrating photos are by Why Eye Photography, a photography company based in the North East of England.

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4 Comments

  • Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)

    October 18, 2019 at 10:32 Reply

    This looks like a real eye-catcher of a spectacle!

    • Stuart Forster

      October 18, 2019 at 12:03 Reply

      It certainly sounds as if it’s going to be. I look forward to attending on the opening night.

  • Dr Shobha Srivastava

    October 23, 2019 at 19:43 Reply

    Wonderful time while we celebrate Diwali on the 26th. Absolutely fantastic.

    • Stuart Forster

      October 24, 2019 at 10:40 Reply

      Enjoy celebrating. I recall Diwali being a magical time of year to experience India. Here’s to Heart of the House wowing people in South Shields.

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