The visit by Martin Luther King to Newcastle in 1967 will link America’s fight for civil rights and battles waged on our own doorstep in a major exhibition making its national debut in the North next month.
Former US civil rights worker Marcia Heinemann Saunders will be over to cut the ribbon at the launch of Journey to Justice on April 4 – the anniversary of King’s assassination – at Discovery Museum where it will run for a month ahead of a national tour.
And it’s set to get everyone talking with its fascinating mix of archive film, photographs, music, poetry, oral histories and high-profile speakers including former ANC freedom fighter Archie Sibeko, now settled in the region.
It’s the culmination of nearly three years’ hard work and fund-raising by former teacher Carrie Supple whose initial idea, inspired by a trip to the US, spiralled to include a huge range of local organisations and supporters as well as volunteers.
The London-based 56-year-old, whose mother was from Newcastle and who herself taught history in the region for 10 years, is delighted how it’s taken off.
“I’m very excited about it,” she said.
“I went to America in 2012 and visited the civil rights museums. I thought it would be great telling the story in the UK when I came back.”
Newcastle was a natural choice for it, with her own links, the visit from King when the civil rights leader received an honorary degree from Newcastle University, our own historic struggles and the scale of support she found here which includes some university funding.
Running until May 4, the focus of the exhibition will be on stories rarely heard.
Those of the American civil rights movement in the sixties include Marcia’s support in helping African Americans in Tennessee to register their vote; six-year-old Ruby Bridges who had to be escorted to school under armed guard because of the fury caused by allowing her entry to an all-white school, and the Greensboro sit-in where students were refused service at a “whites only” counter in a Woolworth store in North Carolina. The exhibition will recreate the counter where visitors can sit and learn about the story.
And the backdrop to it all will be the stirring church music of the civil rights era.
“Many said the music gave them the strength and the hope to get them through,” said Carrie.
Tyneside’s social justice story will feature The Jarrow March and fights for better health care, housing, mining conditions, pay and trade union rights, and local young people have played a part by recording memories of the older generation.
“There are people who recall being in the room with Martin Luther King in 1967,” said Carrie.
Source – Sunday Sun, 15 Mar 2015
Visitor numbers at museums in the North East have dropped as funding cuts force shorter opening hours and hit exhibitions, new figures have revealed.
Government statistics show that annual visits to the facilities run by Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums were down by more than 26,000 in the first nine months of this financial year compared to the same period a year earlier.
That slump included a 17% fall in visitors at Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery, a 14% reduction at the Laing gallery in Newcastle and a 10% fall at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum – all of which suffered cuts in opening hours as a result of budget reductions.
The Great North Museum and the South Shields Museum also saw a drop in visitor numbers, though there were encouraging rises at Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend and Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, both of around 18%.
The downward trend has been attributed to a reduction in museum opening hours in the region, introduced last year as a way of cutting costs.
And last night one former council leader said the region would start to realise the true extent of its cuts.
Liberal Democrat council David Faulkner said the cuts to Newcastle’s arts scene would be damaging.
He said: “The cuts by Newcastle City Council to the museums service was camouflaged last year by all the publicity surrounding Lee Hall and the arts venues. The chickens are coming home to roost now. They had to take their share but we still say that cuts to arts and museums should have been more proportionate and spread over a longer period to allow more time to absorb them.
“Our museums are among the best in the country and attract huge numbers, including many thousands of young people who get an appreciation of their heritage, of science and engineering and of arts and crafts. The value of this work is underestimated by the council, it seems to us.”
Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums director, Iain Watson, said: “At many museums and galleries visitor figures will vary year on year and this can be due to a complex range of factors including popularity of individual exhibitions, major programmes in a particular year with significant external funding, particularly successful events, and even the weather.
“In April 2013 opening hours at Discovery Museum, the Laing Art Gallery and the Shipley Art Gallery were all reduced as a result of the very difficult funding positions of the supporting local authorities.
“Not surprisingly this has had an immediate impact on visitor numbers but measures have been put in place to mitigate this. For example, at Discovery Museum, in October we reorganised the weekend opening hours to spread the available hours differently over Saturday and Sunday to make sure that the museum is open at times that best suit our users.”
Tyne and Wear Archieves and Museums said the upward trend of Segedunum was “very pleasing” and that it works hard not just to maximise visitor numbers, but also to ensure that it reaches members of communities who are less likely to use museums.
And commenting on the visitor numbers at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture said: “If we look at figures for April to November there was an increase of over 40,000 visitors compared to the same period for the previous year.
“The Museum and Winter Gardens programmes a wide variety of high quality exhibitions to accommodate the needs of all of our visitors, whatever their interests. All exhibitions are engaging and accessible and fulfil our aim to be a cultural centre for everyone in Sunderland and the North East region.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 10 Feb 2014