Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist Paul Benneworth

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist Paul Benneworth

Article excerpt

THE North Shields I was born into was a very different one to the North Shields of today. For a start, the maternity ward doesn't exist, Brock Court estate is now where Preston Hospital once stood.

Visiting the North East for a well-deserved late Easter holiday, I was reminded that change continues apace to this day. Nexus have done an excellent job in renovating the Metro station, and from its trains you can see that investment and regeneration work continues apace.

Dealing with the on-going change in North Shields - as in old industrial communities in the North East and beyond - was an uncomfortable experience for those at the sharp end. As the mines, shipyards and wharves associated with industry disappeared, those who had made their lives around working there experienced deep threats to their way of life.

The story of the North East's industrial decline will be familiar to you, but what is often forgotten is that some places were hit harder than most, the so-called 'inner cities'.

They became locked into a vicious cycle of declining quality of life, with those able to leave moving elsewhere - residents, shopkeepers, schools, doctors - making life incredibly hard for those left behind.

In the early 1980s, a number of inner city districts in London, Birmingham and Leeds saw riots, as a result of these communities feeling cut off from everyday life and trapped in appalling circumstances not of their own making. In 1991, just before I set off to university in the south, riots hit North Shields.

Police attempts to clamp down on illegal racing with stolen cars, then called 'joy-riding', saw two youngsters tragically lose their lives whilst fleeing police, triggering three nights of unrest.

Public authorities and community alike rallied admirably to address the situation. Community organisations flourished, public investment rebuilt the troubled Meadow Well estate, and new jobs were created.

Even Royal Quays, originally planned to create a Docklandsstyle yuppie gated community, embraced 'more than bricks and mortar', in their local academic consultants' words. …

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