The Customs House Learning and Participation Team have worked with many inspiring organisations, children and young people, schools, artists and members of our community over the last 25 years, in our venue and across South Tyneside. Here are some of our most recent past projects.
Toy Theatres for the Community
Working with illustrator Aissa Tyler and CVN print we created 500 toy theatres for children and their families to enjoy over the festive season. These were delivered to Marine Park Primary, Laygate Community School and Bamburgh School, and to the food banks Hebburn Helps and Bede’s Helping Hands (based in Bilton Hall CA). We can’t wait to see the stories that families have made with the help of our pretend stage and five woodland characters.
Care Packages for Our Group Members
Image (c) Eco Treasure Box
We commissioned Eco Treasure Boxes, (who are a fantastic local business that create hand sourced sustainable and ecofriendly gift boxes) to make us 55 boxes for all of the young people that we worked with on a weekly basis, pre COVID 19. These young people were from youth theatre and Ours/Us/We and the care packages comprised of craft activities, as well as self-care items. These arrived on 8 December and we’ve been thrilled with the response and that we’d been able to reach out and let them know that we’re thinking of them and that we can’t wait to be back in our regular sessions soon.
The Treasure Group
The Customs House have worked with care experienced children and young people since 2008 working with our partners at The PLACE, South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Fostering Services. Our most recent project was for children aged 13 and under who took part in an urban arts project, in which they learned grafitti art, DJ-ing and rapping/MC-ing.
Youth Theatre’s 10th Birthday
In 2019, The Customs House Youth Theatre celebrated its 10th birthday by commissioning two new plays for the two groups to perform. These were, ‘Bite Me’ by our former Takeover Young Writer in Residence, Reece Connolly, and ‘How to Explode’ by Alex Oates. Both shows were performed in April and May 2019 in our Main House.
The Room of Small Things
Inspired by the book The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, we worked with sixteen migrant women with our partners Apna Ghar to capture and find a way to share women’s diverse stories of ancestry, heritage, childhood and recollection using “small things” (memories, objects and things that reminded us of rites of passage). They learned creative photography skills and exhibited their work at The Customs House at a celebration event. This project was made possible by generous support from The Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund.
Ours/Us/We Pilot Phase
In 2019, we identified a gap and a need to provide a space for LGBTQ+ young people who identify as LGBTQ+ and to offer them the opportunity to explore diverse art forms in a nurturing environment. We received a small grant from The Tyne and Wear Community Foundation to facilitate a two-hour weekly session during term time as a pilot with a hope to develop the project into something permanent if we demonstrated that we were successfully meeting the unaddressed need in the area.
We identified a young leader to assist with session facilitation. Melody is non-binary and an emerging presence in the North East art scene. Melody believed in the importance of this project as they were a young person who openly says access to quality arts participation and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ people `saved their life”. As this was a pilot and something completely new for the organisation, we committed to working with a minimum of 5 young people over twelve weeks. 16 young people attended our first session which exceeded our attendance expectations and validated our evaluation that there is a need for safe spaces for LGBTQ+ youth within the North East.
This project started in November 2019. So far, we have worked with 46 LGBTQ+ young people, some travelling 20 miles each week to attend. The group includes young people who are neuro-diverse, BME, home-schooled and Looked After. This queer-led project is now permanent provision at The Customs House.
Pulse (Step Up and Dance/U.Dance)
Over the last 10 years, we have hosted the North and South Tyneside Pulse Dance Platform event; an opportunity for dancers aged 11-19 to perform and share their work at The Customs House, meet other dancers and have the chance to perform at a national dance showcase. This project is in partnership with Dance City, Newcastle and One Dance UK.
Arts in Libraries
Arts in Libraries in an Arts Council England funded initiative to bring creative projects and events to libraries around the country. Over three years, we worked together with frontline library staff from The Word, and Hebburn and Jarrow Libraries to plan and deliver arts-based events at The Word including creative STEM workshops for children, dance workshops for older people and live music events.
The Customs House Youth Theatre at Jarrow School
Thanks to generous funding from Hays Travel Foundation, we were able to deliver a weekly youth theatre session at Jarrow School for their pupils in Years 9, 10 and 11. During this two year project, the young people performed ‘The Dome’ which was a piece of new writing commissioned for the group by Laura Turner, which they performed in The Customs House Studio. The following year, they took part in National Theatre Connections, performing, ‘Chaos’ by Laura Lomas, which they performed in a specially created immersive theatre space at The Customs House, and at Northern Stage in Newcastle.
National Theatre Connections
The Customs House Youth Theatre have participated in National Theatre Connections since 2011. As part of Connections, the youth theatre works on a new piece of theatre each year, performs at The Customs House and are visited by an associate director from the National Theatre to provide feedback on their work, before transferring their show to the north east partner theatre, Northern Stage. The youth theatre were chosen to perform their interpretation of Cloud Busting, by Helen Blakeman at The National Theatre. Previous shows include, Cloud Busting; Helen Blakeman, The Prince of Denmark; Michael Lesslie, What Are They Like?; Lucinda Coxon, Hearts; Luke Norris, Drama, Baby; Jamie Brittain, Takeaway; Jackie Kay, Musical Differences; Robin French, The Ceasefire Babies; Fiona Doyle, Chaos; Laura Lomas and The Changing Room; Chris Bush.
The Takeover Young Writer in Residence
Now in its third year, The Takeover Young Writer in Residence is an opportunity for an emerging writer from or based in the north east, aged 25 and under to have their play produced and performed at The Customs House, as part of Takeover.
The young writer is mentored by a more experienced writer, (Laura Turner, Tamsin Daisy Rees, Tom Wells) and their work is directed and produced to a professional standard by eight young actors from the region.
Alumni of the Residence are Reece Connolly with WORMTOWN, and Elijah Young with Isolation.
This year’s appointed writer is Andrew Finnigan with Cherryade Supernova, which was due to be performed in May 2020, and will now be on in May 2021.
Ongoing- this is a rolling programme of activity
In the months of preparation and planning that lead up to the week of Takeover, a core team of young people aged 13-18 (recruited from local communities) are mentored and educated to undertake the process of programming a dynamic week of events. For more information or check out The Takeover, or email Izzy to get involved.
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Weekly sessions (term-time) Wednesdays 6.00-8.00pm, free
Ours/Us/We is an LGBTQ+ Arts group for anyone 14-21 years old to come and try new art forms in a safe space.
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Fridays / 4:30pm - 6:30pm / £3.50
The Customs House Youth Theatre is for 10 to 21 year olds with an interest in theatre, devising and acting.
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