What began as an idea, captured the imagination of a region, and went on to become the biggest half marathon in the world.
GNR40 Heritage tells the story of the run and the region.
Over the last four decades the Great North Run has become an inextricable part of the fabric of North East life. A badge of honour, a source of pride and the ultimate celebration of all that makes us great; perseverance, determination and a lot of heart.
As the run celebrated its landmark 40th staging in 2021, GNR40 Heritage told the history of this iconic event and the region that made it great. A lot has changed since 1981, but like the race itself, the North East keeps moving forward.
The project, funded by a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, shone a light on the region, its places and people, through the story of the Great North Run.
Our feature film ‘GREAT NORTH: A Run, A River, A Region’ connects the experiences of real runners with incredible archive footage that brings those memories to life. Narrated by award winning local actress Gina McKee, the film also includes interviews with lots of local legends including; Sting, Alan Shearer and Ant & Dec.
Segments were broadcast on the BBC during the 2021 race day coverage, with a premiere taking place in Newcastle. A special edit screened at libraries in Newcastle, Gateshead and South Shields, together with an exhibition at St Mary’s Heritage Centre. For information about screening GREAT NORTH, please contact email@example.com
Library screenings in Newcastle, Gateshead and South Shields, and exhibition at St Mary’s Heritage Centre.
Photographs by Mark Pinder. Stills from Great North: A Run, A River, A Region
Throughout 2021 we worked with communities along the route of the run to gather memories and develop new creative responses to the heritage of the Great North Run.
The heritage group at Women’s Health in South Tyneside and artist Roweena Russell used photography, group discussions, food and the planting of a tree and time capsule to explore heritage and women’s history in South Tyneside since the early eighties.
Animator Sheryl Jenkins worked with Route2Work College to produce a short film which explores the heritage of South Tyneside, the importance of community and how the area can build on its past to provide facilities, resources and support for young people in the future.
Young people from Central Jarrow Detached Youth Project learnt about drawing cartoons with artist Suzy Vardy, producing a poster exploring stories of the Great North Run and the changes in North East over the alt forty years.
Speaking Up Together are a group of learning disabled and autistic people who speak up for the rights of others. They worked with artist Melody Sproates to produce a zine – a hand-made publication – which explored how disabled people’s voices been heard or not heard, over the last 40 years in South Tyneside.
Oral history involves ‘gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events’. They are wonderful way to capture stories from the people in their own words and with their own voices.
Over 50 people contributed their stories about the North East region and the Great North Run to the Great North film, but much of their interviews could not be included. We worked with volunteers to edit and share some longer versions of these conversations.
Richard Coates, Judith Wood and Rosalind Woods co-edited these excerpts with support from Amanda Drago and Kit Haigh.
IONA SWEENEY: Ran the Great North Run after breast cancer diagnosis. She’s also a volunteer with Gateshead Harriers. Iona ran the Great North Run to fundraise for MacMillan, paying them back for the support they’d given her after her breast cancer diagnosis
DAN CUNNINGHAM: Newcastle-based Drag Queen, known as Miss Rory. He ran the Great North Run in 2019 raising money for the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation.
Dan talks about that last bit of the Great North Run – you can see the sea, but there’s still a long way to go! Listen here: Part 1, Part 2
Dan’s run the run with his seventy-year-old auntie, who looked after him the whole way. Listen here
Dan discusses the greatest place on Earth – the North East of England. Listen here: Part 1, Part 2
RT REVD CHRISTINE HARDMAN: Former Bishop of Newcastle. Rt Revd Hardman was one of the first female bishops, having campaigned to make this possible.
Christine came out of retirement to move to Newcastle. She talks about the friendliness of the people of the North East. Listen here: Part 1, Part 2
Christine describes the electric atmosphere at St James’ park on match day. Listen here: Part 1, Part 2
Christine talks about Brendan Foster’s vision of the Great North Run being for everyone. And running the race as the Bishop of Newcastle! Listen here: Part 1, Part 2
Christine talks about hope and a bright future for the North East. Listen here