Heart of the House: Celebrating 25 years of The Customs House

The Customs House in South Shields prides itself on being at the heart of the community it has served for 25 years – but now it’s getting its moment in the spotlight.

A spectacular light and sound performance will showcase the building’s illustrious heritage and contribution to the arts in a special outdoor event taking place over three nights later this month.

Heart of the House is the brainchild of the team behind award-winning creative design agency NOVAK, who were commissioned by The Customs House and The Cultural Spring to showcase the venue in a most unusual way.

Heart of the House

Studio Director Adam Finlay said: “We’ve spoken to a lot of people about what a special place The Customs House is and we’ll continue with those conversations.

“We’re creating a narrative, the story of The Customs House and we’ll then use this to produce a large-scale sound and light show, with video being projected on to the iconic South Shields building.”

NOVAK specialises in motion design and large format video, working on art installations, stage visuals for music artists and video accompaniments for theatre and dance performances all over the world.

As well as the UK’s largest light festival, Lumiere, they have previously worked in the region on the outdoor dance spectacular RUSH in 2015 and mass participation dance event WordPlay in 2016, both for The Cultural Spring in South Shields.

NOVAK filming in progress

NOVAK will be working with long-time collaborator Ed Carter on a soundtrack for the celebration, which will take place from 6pm on Friday, October 25, Saturday, October 26 and Sunday, October 27.

Michael Barrass, Joint Project Director for The Cultural Spring, said: “We’ve enjoyed working with NOVAK in the past and were impressed with the ideas and energy they brought to the project.

“We also like the way in which they’ve engaged with so many people to really understand what a big part The Customs House plays in South Shields and South Tyneside.”

Ray Spencer MBE, Executive Director at The Customs House, added: “I think it’s a great idea to celebrate the people, performances and stories that have made us what we are.

“We’ve come a long way during our first quarter of a century and I think NOVAK’S ambitious plans for our celebrations sound like a fitting way to mark and enjoy our anniversary.”

Comedian Jason Cook being interviewed for Heart of the House

The Customs House was formerly a customs post, built in the 1860s for commercial shipping, just before South Shields was declared an independent port and at a time when the River Tyne was a thriving centre of trade and activity.

After the decline of the shipping industry, the building fell into disrepair and was derelict during the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1990s, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation funded a redevelopment of The Customs House, turning it into an arts and entertainment centre.

This was done by refurbishing the original building and adding a new purpose built theatre. The Grade II listed building opened its doors in November 1994, providing South Shields with a new theatre and its first cinema in 12 years.

One of the community groups featuring in Heart of the House

The Cultural Spring is an Arts Council-funded project aiming to encourage and increase participation in the arts in South Tyneside and Wearside.

The project’s four partners are the University of Sunderland, The Customs House, South Shields, Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and Sangini, a women’s health organisation.

Find out more about the Cultural Spring click here or for the very latest news follow the project on Twitter @Cultural_Spring.

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