Whitley Bay's
first 3-Day
Reggae & Ska

May 13-15 2010
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Whitley Bay & Tynemouth Guide 2009 Archive

Peter Mortimer is an author and playwright. His latest book, 'Camp Shatila', was published in 2009 by Five Leaves Publications. See Peter's website at www.peter

Peter has also written an article for our 2008 Whitley Bay Guide which may be viewed here.
The Beach, the Cliffs, the Tides and the Barnies...
by Peter Mortimer
Some years ago a postcard arrived from Turkey, addressed simply to "The Biggest Mouth in Cullercoats, England".

The postie knew which letterbox straight away. The reference I hasten to add was to the giant open mouth painted on the front door, not my own high-decibel tendencies. I've always had a yen for distinctive colours on the house front in keeping with Cullercoats artistic tradition which saw the village once labelled as 'little Bohemia'.

Not that all the neighbours professed Bohemianism. One neighbour once laid about me, claiming the colour schemes and murals were bringing down property values something the nation's greed has managed to do much better in the interim.

I arrived in Cullercoats intending a stay of a few months and have been here a third of a century. It's the smallest place I've lived, which means there's more community spirit, but also a greater likelihood of ructions.

So although it's now my spiritual home, though I did set up a football team here (Cullerbay Dynamikz fancy name, terrible team), and despite establishing both a small publisher and a theatre company in the village, there have been various barnies, all stemming from something I have written. The mega-disagreement was with Cullercoats Crescent Club, which saw me banned for 20 years (now reinstated), but I've also had run-ins with The Community Centre, and the residents of Winslow Court.

All part of life's rich tapestry, and of little consequence compared to Cullercoats' attractions, the therapy of walking its beautiful crescent shaped beach, or standing silently in its caves, whose rocks, in writer Tom Hadaway's memorable phrase, "are streaked with the tears of long weeping." Or rushing down to catch the most turbulent high tides, the waves rearing then plunging over the North pier like some Grand National charge over Bechers Brook. The madder the sea, the better our sanity, so that after a while the thought of living removed from this element is unbearable. And where could you get so much sky for the same money? And still the same size in the recession!

Artist of all types still live here. At a recent literary event, I realised our table comprised four professional writers, all Cullercoats-based. How many small villages can equal that? My own street (14 houses) boasts three writers, two painters and two musicians.

Even at the risk of getting banned, once here, we Cullercoats arty types tend not to leave.
Photo credit: Gemma Marriner
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