Remembering Spanish’s City history

New additions are helping to tell the story of a Grade II-listed building.

Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 10:03 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 10:07 am
The Lego funfair made by students from John Spence Community High School now on display at the Spanish City, in Whitley Bay.

Following the redevelopment of Spanish City on Whitley Bay’s coastline, North Tyneside Council has been working with the community to chart its history, thanks to help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Information displays telling the fascinating story of the iconic landmark and its rich history have been added inside the building, as well as outside in Empress Gardens.

The mosaic created by artist Sue Slater and children from Marine Park First School on display at Whitley Bay's Spanish City.

Items uncovered during the restoration are also on display, including original features, a funfair poster and wartime drinks bottles.

There is a Lego funfair, painstakingly made by pupils from John Spence Community High School, on show, as well as a mural created by local artist Sue Slater and children from Marine Park First School.

A digital screen has been installed featuring a selection of Spanish City-themed short films, plus Romance in the Dome, made by North Tyneside VODA and Remembering the Past Resourcing the Future in partnership with North Tyneside Council. The piece is a short documentary celebrating romance, love and friendship in the dome during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Spanish City Storydome, produced by Whitley Bay Big Local, is a collection of video and audio clips featuring people’s fascinating recollections of the old Spanish City funfair, amusements, dances in the Empress Ballroom and day trips to the seaside.

Some of the new additions now on display at Whitley Bay's Spanish City.

And, Putting the Heart Back into Whitley Bay, produced by North Tyneside Council, features interviews with the elected mayor, local residents and businesses, and staff from Spanish City telling of their pride at the building’s renaissance.

Mayor Norma Redfearn CBE said: “I am delighted to see these latest additions, which nicely round off all the hard work to restore the building and provide something extra for visitors, telling the story of this magnificent landmark and how we, alongside our partners, brought it back to life.

“I’m sure that everyone who comes in will really enjoy the new features, and I’d like to say a huge well done to all the schoolchildren who helped to create the wonderful Lego funfair and Spanish City mosaic.”

Jamie Spence, from Whitley Bay Big Local, said: “We are grateful to all of the people and agencies that helped gather local memories about the dome, Ballroom and Spanish City.”

Some of the new additions now on display at Whitley Bay's Spanish City.

Robin Fry, chief executive at VODA North Tyneside, said: “It was a real privilege making the Romance in the Dome film, being able to capture the precious memories of people who had met their future husbands and wives at the Spanish City over 60 years ago.

“When we were asked to produce another documentary as part of the Spanish City restoration project we were aware that everyone and his dog were filming and photographing the restoration project from the outside (and from the sky).

“We decided to focus on capturing the ‘inside story’, exploring how some of the heritage trades have evolved over time and what it meant to the local workforce to be part of such an iconic restoration project.”

Kyle Mackings, chief executive of Spanish City Ltd, said: “We’re really pleased with the new additions at Spanish City. It’s great to continue adding to the offering for our guests, making sure that there’s lots to see and do here.

“The heritage of the building is incredibly important so preserving history and teaching generations about how special Spanish City is is a real priority.

“It’s been a brilliant project that we’re very proud to be involved in alongside our partners.

“The pieces that have been installed are really community focused, which is what Spanish City is all about. We’re looking forward to seeing the public reaction.”

Ivor Crowther, head of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in the north east, said: “This iconic building holds an incredibly special place in the hearts of all of us who live in the north east and beyond so it’s fantastic to see its revival and return to its place at the heart of Whitley Bay’s life and economy.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, time enjoyed at Spanish City no longer has to exist in memories.”

Meanwhile, copies of the recently-released book The Dome of Memories by Mick Sharp, published by North Tyneside Council in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund as part of the Spanish City reopening celebrations, are still available.

It is on sale for £10 from a number of council buildings, including North Tyneside libraries, Keel Row books in North Shields, Waterstones in Newcastle, Old Low Light Heritage Centre and at Spanish City itself. It is also available from www.joylandbooks.com