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Heart of the House


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The Customs House which is located in South Shields offers arts and entertainment for all, serving residents of South Tyneside and beyond with a varied programme of live performance, cinema, visual arts and projects for young people. The venue is open 363 days of the year and is situated on the south bank of the River Tyne. It comprises of a 437 seat theatre, 145 seated studio/cinema, gallery spaces, a restaurant, private dining room and an events suite.


As the name subjects, The Customs House, was formerly a customs post, built in the 1860’s for commercial shipping. This was 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 1960’s and 1970’s. In the 1990’s, Tyne and Wear Development Corporation funded capital development of The Customs House, turning it into an arts and entertainment centre for the people of South Tyneside and beyond. 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 its first theatre and cinema in twelve years.


A campaign was launched almost a year ago in support of the Venue’s 25th Anniversary Celebrations and with The Customs House being a registered Charity, a range of Hearts were made available for sponsorship. Since its launch, over 100 people have shown their love for The Customs House by giving their backing to its ‘Heart of the House appeal.’ couples and families have used them to share their memories of the building, or have dedicated them in memory of loved ones. Community organisations and local, national and international businesses have also thrown their weight behind the scheme.


Local Freemason Kevin Carter is a frequent visitor to The Customs House and over time he has built up a friendship with the Executive Director, Ray Spencer. Following advice from Kevin, an application for a Community Support Grant was made to the Benevolent Committee of the Freemasons of the Province of Durham. A financial donation was being sought to help fund a project to provide subtitled movies for the hard of hearing. Accompanied by fellow Freemason Carl Baker, Keven presented a grant of £750 to Ray, who was overwhelmed with the generosity. The Local Freemasons were presented with a Heart which has been placed on the wall as you enter the building and it is planned that at the end of 2019, all the Hearts will be moved to a permanent display within the building.

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