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Preview: Customs House


Home-grown productions and local talent take centre stage in this year’s summer programme at The Customs House.

My Uncle Freddie is being brought to the stage for the first time by the acclaimed writer and fellow of The Customs House Academy, Alex Ferguson. The Jarrow writer penned the original BBC Radio 4 series, based on the adventures of 10-year-old Lecky and his family, including his imaginative Uncle Freddie, set in 1930s Jarrow.

Uncle Freddie will be played by Chris Connel, while The Customs House Youth Theatre alum Andrew Finnigan, from South Shields, takes on the role of his nephew. The cast also features Georgia Nicholson (The Cinder Path, The Dolly Mixtures) as Mam, Paul Dunn (I Left My Heart in Roker Park, Seriously Dead) as Dad and Jill Dellow (Horrible Histories, Vera) as Aunt Bella. It will be directed by Gareth Hunter. My Uncle Freddie runs from Tuesday, July 17, to Saturday, July 21.

It will be followed by another world premiere, with the first stage adaptation of the iconic TV drama, When The Boat Comes In, sponsored by Colmans. It has been written by Peter Mitchell, the son of the original creator, South Shields-born James Mitchell, and specially commissioned by The Customs House to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The gritty drama explores the struggles of life on Tyneside during the inter-war years, seen through the eyes of Jack Ford, a soldier who returns home from active service to find his hometown facing poverty, ill-health, unemployment and discrimination. When The Boat Comes In runs from Thursday, August 15, to Saturday, August 25, and will be directed by Katy Weir.

Other north east tales being told on stage include Woven Bones, about the 2013 discovery in Durham of the remains of the long-lost ‘Scottish Soldiers’ from the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, and The Desert Queen, about north east heroine Gertrude Bell.

The third annual South Tyneside Comedy Festival runs from Friday, July 27, to Saturday, August 4, featuring Gary Delaney, Brennan Reece, Britain’s Got Talent winner Lost Voice Guy, Paul Sinha, Carl Hutchinson, Jo Caulfield, Angela Barnes, Scott Bennet, Justin Moorhouse, Steffen Peddie, Festival Director Jason Cook and Johnny Vegas.

Family entertainment includes the return of Arbuthnot’s Super Silly Happy Fun Game Show as part of the South Tyneside Comedy Festival, giving kids the chance to win prizes as well as the usual madcap entertainment, on Saturday, August 4.
There’s also Arbuthnot and Puddles’ Pirate Adventure, from Tuesday, July 24 to Thursday, July 26, The Customs House Summer School production of The Addams Family, from Friday, August 10, to Sunday, August 12, and Once Upon a Storytime, from Tuesday, August 26, to Friday, August 31.

Mini Makers and Mega Makers sessions will also be running every Monday throughout the summer holidays, featuring creative challenges for children aged 11 and under with their grown-ups and 11 to 13-year-olds respectively.

Music includes Encore for Charity, an annual fundraising performance in aid of the Rotary Club of Jarrow with Harton, on Thursday, July 12, Bee Gees tribute Stayin’ Alive, on Friday, July 13, and Little Mix tribute Little Mix Magic on Sunday, September 2.

Ray Spencer, Executive Director of The Customs House, said: “The word iconic is often overused, but this season has a fair smattering of icons and world premieres.  When The Boat Comes In resonates with so many people of a certain vintage, who were gripped by the unfolding fortunes of the central characters every Sunday night.  This BBC television drama, produced between 1976 and 1981, launched the careers of many household names and changed the face, or rather the sound, of British television forever. This was a breakthrough for regional accents.  The funny and heart-warming BBC Radio 4 series My Uncle Freddie ran for six seasons and won the comedy/light entertainment (radio) category in the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain Awards 1996. I hope people will attend in large numbers to celebrate work made by our own, about our own.”

The new What’s On Guide for July and August at The Customs House is now available from the box office and usual outlets. It can also be downloaded via the website at

To book tickets, contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit the website.

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