Before the Newcastle Arena the Whitley Bay ice rink put a lot of bands on. We had Sting, Def Leppard, AC/DC – who had a massive bell and cannons on stage and when it went off all the ceiling tiles came down on the crowd. They thought it was part of the show but it wasn’t a stage effect, all the staff were running round collecting the polystyrene tiles off the floor (laughs).
I lived across the road from Whitley Bay ice rink. In 1986 I worked in ticket sales at the rink then went to the box office at Newcastle Theatre Royal in ’88 – I had good times there.
I was working on box office when someone phoned up and said he had lost his tickets for a show – he said he’d accidently thrown them in the fire – I asked for his name, he said ‘A.Pratt’ – yes it was his real name (laughs).
I used to love standing in the theatre gallery watching the show’s and the audience laughing along. There was school outings and I used to love knowing I had arranged tickets for them to see the shows.
It was all about helping people and going out of my way to make sure the person who is buying the group tickets is being looked after because I know how much hard work it is getting people’s money in.
When I was Duty Manager our matinees are Thursday and Saturday afternoon. The theatre is dark when they are not in use and you’re not allowed to go in them when the show isn’t on.
One day in the box office I heard a noise coming through the speakers so I went into the theatre and there was a line of mature ladies sitting in the Grand Circle with their bags of sweets waiting for the show to start.
I went over and asked them what they were doing as there was no show on until tomorrow. They showed me tickets for the matinee on that day but they were for a different venue – they had come to the wrong place, they needed to be in the Tyne Theatre.
SUNDAY FOR SAMMY
I work with Ray Laidlaw who runs the Sunday for Sammy production and Tyne Idols, I help out backstage and in the production office – I love being part of it. I often watch the DVD’s because it’s a good Geordie show, just like the Geordie grand performance – a great laugh.
The show is in rehearsal for a week before the production, Saturday is the fit up day in Newcastle Arena and two shows on the Sunday. I think they were only going to do one but it was so successful they’ve kept going over 20 years and raised a lot of money to support young creative talent in the North East.
It was so exciting to be part of the 2018 show, I had a small walk on part and shared a dressing room with Vera the TV detective and ex-ITV newsreader Pam Royal.
The future of Sunday for Sammy is looking great with the younger generation of local artists like Jason Cook, Joe McElderry and many more keeping the Geordie Command Performance fresh and current – long may it continue!
We get seventy people on a tour for our North East music, film and heritage tours. The double decker that we use is forty year old this year and now classed as a vintage bus.
With Ray Laidlaw (Lindisfarne) at the helm of most of our tours, The Coastal Heroes Tour taking us along the beautiful NE Coast, The Newcastle Tour is best at night, the lights on the river really showing the town at its best, crossing the bridges singing ‘Fog on the Tyne’ is an unforgettable experience.
The Sting Tour, Punk Tour and Viz Tour are also very popular. All tours are very different, we usually visit an iconic music venue and historic drinking dens as part of the tour It’s a very unique experience.
Have you any events planned for the rest of the year ?
Because of Covid I had gigs pencilled in last year and it took five attempts to re-book the dates. A lot of people cancelled their tickets because they didn’t want to be amongst people – now we are seeing them slowly come back. For Dirty Dusting (Friday October 1) at Whitley Bay Playhouse it was more or less full.
We’ve a couple of events happening soon at The Crescent Club in Cullercoats, there is electric skiffle on Saturday 13 November with the Peter Donegan band – the son of Lonnie.
On Thursday 16 December we’ve got a Christmas event with the beautiful voice of the Caffreys and their band plus a local choir at St Georges Church in Tynemouth, we can get about 300+ people in there.
It’s raising money for MacMillan cancer support and a local charity. So slowly but surely we are looking to get music back on and people performing again.
Tickets available from Julie Clay: 0191 253 1618 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Check the official websites: tyneidols.com
Interview by Gary Alikivi October 2021.