Major BBC radio drama focuses on wartime life in the borough

Back in summer 2014, the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project was contacted by the producers of an ambitious radio production.

It is a series of 15-minute broadcasts at noon from Monday to Friday on BBC Radio 4, with an omnibus edition at 9pm on Fridays.

The project was able to assist the writing team with background to the contribution of the local community and the wider arsenal economy that was the north east throughout the period of the Great War.

The format of the series is based on a number of locations in the UK as the setting for blocks of programmes of arouond eight weeks; with storylines developed and characters established.

After a break in broadcasts of about four weeks, the series will resume with the next block of programmes beginning on February 2 set in Tynemouth and North Shields.

Using both fictional characters and events – with settings around real locations and personalities of the time – Tynemouth as a location will feature in about four blocks of programmes over the next four years.

Season three is set in Tynemouth and North Shields with a fair amount of the stories being centred on a fictional factory, Marshalls, which has recently been converted to making munitions.

Many of the workers live in North Shields and some drink in the notorious Ballarat.

Actor Shaun Prendergast plays the landlord of the pub – a job held by his grandfather in the past although not in the First World War.

The series will feature ‘appearances’ from real people, Coun Maud Burnett, who started the trial scheme for Female Scavengers, and the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin.

Some returning Home Front characters appear as well as a new group of native Geordie actors including Deka Walmsley, Joe Caffrey and Dean Logan (whom readers of this column may remember as the shell-shocked soldier Len Smiley in Peter Mortimer’s play Death at Dawn).

Further information on the series can be found at www.bbc.co.uk/homefront

The next evening in the project’s programme of talks at the Low Lights Tavern will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday, February 17, when Tynemouth MP Alan Campbell will consider the impact of the war on the political landscape of Britain – The Great War and the Re-making of British politics will be a ticket only event as interest in the talk is already strong.

Tickets (free) must be collected from the project workroom at Linskill Centre, Keel Row Bookshop or the Low Lights Tavern, Brewhouse Bank, Fish Quay, North Shields.

Reinforcements of the project’s ale Tyneside Tommy, specially brewed by local brewer Three Kings, will be on the shelves this weekend at a number of outlets across the region including The Wine Chambers in Tynemouth, which also has copies of the commemorative book The Response available.

The six different bottle tags telling the story of local men in the war are now numbered so avid fans of the very popular brew who wish to have the complete set will find it easier to locate the ones needed to complete their collection.

The Information Centre in Front Street, Tynemouth, is closed until the spring.

Anyone with information about anyone who was killed or died as a result of the war is asked to contact the project.

The project workroom at Room B9, Linskill Community Centre, Trevor Terrace, North Shields, is open from 10am to 4pm each weekday for visitors and for anyone interested to learn more about the project or how to get involved.

The address for correspondence is c/o Essell, 29 Howard Street, North Shields NE30 1AR.