I’M from a town called South Shields. It sits at the mouth of the River Tyne in the North-East of England, the region recently characterised by The Guardian newspaper as the UK’s Detroit – a grim metaphor for urban decay. Despite its size – it’s a town of about 90,000 people – it often seems few people have heard of it. “It’s near Newcastle,” is our reluctant last resort.

It was a coal mining town, a shipbuilding and repairing town. It’s where County Durham’s miners and their families went for a summer day out. Long before that it was famous for glass – and salt. And before that, the Romans built a fort there to protect the river mouth that gave access to Hadrian’s Wall. It’s where the lifeboat was invented.

In recent years its biggest exports, via TV talent shows, have been the likes of  Joe McElderry, half of Little Mix, and, last week, a small percentage of Collabro. The comedians Sarah Millican and Chris Ramsey are from Shields, as is the journalist and political commentator Kevin Maguire.

It’s struggled since the demise of the heavy industries and the town centre isn’t the best. I moved away in 1980, but when I go back, and that’s been more often recently, I marvel at the coastline and the seafront. Here are some recent views from my grim Northern town…

 

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