Community artwork illuminates South Tyneside Underground

Artwork celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Tyne and Wear Underground has been displayed at three stations in South Tyneside.

The artwork was produced as part of a project by The Cultural Spring, in collaboration with County Durham artist Laura Brenchley and a mix of local community groups.

The project was a partnership with Metro operator, Nexus, and was funded by Arts Council England, as part of the Metro Community Takeover project marking the network’s 40th anniversary.

The artwork is in the form of large collages made up of individual tiles created by members of the community groups and can be seen at Hebburn, Chichester and Bede stations.

Groups and schools that took part in the project included Hospitality and Hope’s Wellbeing Hub, Hebburn Sea Cadets, Lord Blyton Primary School, Monkton Academy, groups from Bilton Hall Community Trust and NAAFI Break South Tyneside, a veteran-led organization for veterans.

Cultural Spring Project Director Emma Horsman said: “Our Metro 40 project was a great project to work on with local community groups, and I think Metro riders will enjoy the results for years to come.

“Artist Laura Brenchley asked people to think about what the Underground meant to them and what memories they had of it. The groups then produced tiles using cutouts from old magazines and recycled materials – the tiles were then used to create large collages of memories.

Laura added: “I’m really, really happy with the end result and excited that something so awesome has been created using everyday materials. What was particularly powerful about the project were the stories behind so many tiles – and how proud each one is of their own contributions and the final collages.

Alison Collins, a teacher at Lord Blyton, led the school’s work on the project: “There were around 20 children in Years 5 and 6 involved in the project and they loved working on it – learning about the area in which they live as well as learning new artistic techniques.

“They loved seeing their work in the flesh too.”

Laura said she particularly enjoyed working with Hospitality and Hope: “Working with Wellness Manager Kerry Bell and the team there was great and we had some fantastic stories – there was one on one pony and another about a woman escaping on the subway.”

One of the stories of hospitality and hope depicted on a tile comes from Adiatu Kamara. She explained: “I came here from London and didn’t understand how the ticketing system worked. I thought it was the same as the Oyster card from London and what I paid for would get me to Newcastle.

“Obviously it’s not and I was fined and it reflected on my tile,” she added.

Joe Mills, chairman of NAAFI Break South Tyneside, said around 28 veterans had attended three sessions with Laura: “I was amazed at the reaction to the project, and family and friends got involved and not just our veterans.”

Rebecca Ditchburn, Office of Stakeholder Relations at Nexus, added: “We began working on the project with Laura and Emma at The Cultural Spring in 2020, looking to find a variety of groups to work with.

“It was great to hear all these stories and what the metro has meant to so many people. The result is something special – a work of art that can be enjoyed for years.

The takeover of the metropolitan community has breathed new life into the system through dance, song, music and visual arts projects, involving major regional arts organizations including Sunderland Culture, Dance City and The Cultural Spring .

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