Customs House 25 years on

Published: 27 November 2018
Reporter: Peter Lathan

The Customs House in South Shields will celebrate its 25th birthday during the coming twelve months with a series of special productions and a fundraising campaign.

Tonight—27th November—this year’s panto Beauty and the Beast opens and next year’s show is announced. It will be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was the first panto ever to be staged in the Mill Dam venue in 1994. Snow White will run from 27 November 2019 to 5 January 2020. Booking is already open.

During the year, there will be a revival of the musical Tom and Catherine, the story of the lives and love of Tom and Catherine Cookson, written by Tom Kelly with music by John Miles, which was first performed, directed by Ray Spencer, at the Customs House from 22 September to 2 October 1999.

This revival will be a production with the South Shields Gilbert and Sullivan Society and will run from 5 to 9 March 2019.

Last year’s successful production of When the Boat Comes In, adapted from James Mitchell’s TV script by his son Peter, will be revived from 13 to 16 March.

The sequel to When the Boat Comes In, When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years, comes to the theatre from 12 to 28 September.

The anniversary year also sees a major fund-raising campaign, asking people to “sponsor a heart for the Customs House.”

“We often call ourselves The Little Panto with the Big Heart,” says Ray Spencer MBE, Executive Director of The Customs House, “but we would like to think that we are right at the heart of our community.

“For 25 years we have made magic, supported good causes and given a lot of special memories.

“Now we launch an appeal for people to show their love of The Customs House and place their heart in the heart of our building and give us the foundation to continue serving our audiences and wider community for another 25 years.”

The aim is for supporters to sponsor a heart. These hearts will be displayed in the box office area at first before spreading throughout the building, and will contain a small message so people can dedicate it to someone or add something to signify their precious memories of The Customs House.

The hearts are available in four sizes and prices start at £25.

People can also get involved in the 25th anniversary celebrations by snapping up one of 25 places The Customs House has secured for The Great North Run.

Panto stars Dame Bella and Arbuthnot—aka Ray Spencer and David John Hopper—will be among the runners taking part in the half-marathon from Newcastle to South Shields on Sunday 8 September 2019. Those who know them will know that this is no light undertaking. (Geddit? Well, it is panto season...)

To join them, runners must raise a minimum of £250 in sponsorship for The Customs House Trust. For more information, contact Kelly Anders on 0191 427 8199 or e-mail [email protected].