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South Tyneside – Our Communities Are The Key

South Tyneside community groups and associations support a new document called Catch The Spirit, highlighting the Borough's priorities for culture and leisure activities over the next five years.

Ian Gibson from the Federation of Community Associations in South Tyneside (FOCAST) who is working on the development of the cultural strategy said: "Our communities have a major part to play in the new document. Many ideas and leaders emerge from our community groups and associations and this has a major part to play in providing many opportunities to participate in a huge range of activities from table tennis to circus skills and art clubs."

He continued: "Putting Culture at the heart of our communities is the key to regenerating the borough. Engaging more people in the development and ownership of facilities and provision of activities is essential. People must be able to shape what they want and where they want it if more people are to get involved in these activities."

Marilyn Archer helped to establish the Lifestyle centre in 1999 for the whole community at the Hebburn site of South Tyneside college she says: "Our priority at the centre is social inclusion we have a community focus and anyone is welcome to come and join in with our activities for people of all ages. Our classes are inexpensive friendly and casual. What we do is the essence of Catch the Spirit; this is the cultural strategy in action. It is important to get more people involved. "

Sylvia Brown, South Tyneside Council's Head of Building Stronger Communities voiced her concerns that not everyone knows what's going on in their own community she said: "We don't want people thinking that there is nothing to do or that activities and opportunities are not for them we must challenge these perceptions. Clearly co-ordinating all the good work that goes on through community groups and associations and making sure everyone knows about it is not easy. The new strategy will look at many ways to let more people know what's going on and how they can to get involved in the activities themselves and even organise their own."

She added: "We want people to contact us with their ideas on how facilities, events and activities could engage with our communities more successfully as part of the strategy."

The strategy is available from leisure centres, libraries and attractions across South Tyneside or by telephoning Heather Walton on 0191 424 7850. It can also be viewed on line at www.southtyneside.info . Ideas and feedback on Catch the Spirit will welcomed.

Catch the Spirit will be launched on April 4th at the Customs House in South Shields where the Circus skills group from Hebburn community association will perform.

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