Customs House selected for national programme

Published: 13 February 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Michael Heatley

South Shields’ Customs House has been chosen to take part in the Future Arts Centres Here and Now project which is designed to show the impact of 25 years of National Lottery funding and to celebrate culture within communities. It is one of 40 nationally and one of only four in the North East, the others being the Queen’s Hall in Hexham, Arts Centre Washington and ARC Stockton.

The brief given to all participating venues was to create an arts project that was “unexpected, or not what they usually do” but would tell the story of the place and its people.

The Customs House approached Michael Heatley, founder and artistic director of Newcastle-based Hit the Ground Running Dance Theatre Company, to work with pupils from Epinay Business and Enterprise School in Jarrow.

Izzy Finch, Learning and Participation Officer at The Customs House, said, “our project is called One of The Lads. Michael is our lead artist on this 12-month project and he will be exploring concepts of masculinity, mental health and men’s identities within the context of the post-industrial North East of England.

“He has started working with 12 young men from Epinay Business and Enterprise School exploring these themes through movement and physical theatre.”

Established in 2015, Hit the Ground Running's mission is to encourage and spark conversations surrounding mental health and to share real life stories of bravery and courage.

On Friday 20 March, the group will perform the piece they have been working on at The Customs House, alongside a performance of Macho, a professional dance piece created by Hit the Ground Running which takes inspiration from boys and men who experience the complexities of masculinity in a society where being a man means to not allow yourself to be vulnerable.

The company is also bringing its latest production, Suitcases, to The Customs House on 4 June after its première at Dance City on 23 May. In 1995, The Willard Asylum, New York closed its doors after a century of treating those deemed unfit for civilised society. Discovered in an attic, the suitcases of 427 Willard patients were found. This piece draws inspiration from four of the suitcases and is an exploration of the people behind the suitcases, playing homage to innocent lives lived and lost to mental illness.

Tickets, priced from £8, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online.