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                                                     Developing a picture of Newcastle's west end

An intergenerational project in Newcastle, is helping develop a picture about the west end of the city.

Pupils from St Michael’s Roman Catholic Primary School and residents from Your Homes Newcastle’s Tish Murtha House, have teamed up with Ella Murtha – the daughter of the late and renowned North East photographer, Tish Murtha – to capture the spirit of Tish’s work.

Organised by Amethyst Homes, which is building 45 new homes at Vallum Heights nearby St Michael’s RC School and Tish Murtha House, the project aims to encourage different generations to integrate, whilst capturing photographs showing relationships between people and their environment.

A group of 12 – five pupils from the school, Macda, Daniel, A.J, Alisha and Livinia-Rose, joined residents of Tish Murtha House, Colin Baker, Kevin Bannon, Tom Storey, Susan Storey, Bob Ingham, Joanne Morris and Chris Graham, using a polaroid camera to take images of one another, exploring their interactions. 

​Ella Murtha said: “It has been really special for me to be invited to take part in this project, bringing local children and residents of Tish Murtha House together with a Polaroid camera to build new photographic representations of their community. There is something so magical about holding a print in your hands that you have created, and to see the bonds that were formed in the process was lovely. My mam believed that photography was a powerful tool for change through empathy, trust, and connection, and I think she would be thrilled that the kids are taking the camera back to school with them to continue documenting the area as they see it and the growing relationships with their neighbours at Tish Murtha House.”

Richard Bass, Managing Director at Amethyst Homes added: “Wherever we develop, we strive to engage and collaborate with the local community and neighbouring businesses, schools, and organisations.

“The area has a rich and diverse history, and we feel that engaging with the generations that live here in memory of Tish Murtha, is a fitting tribute to this long-established community.”

Amethyst Homes is building 45 properties, using modern methods of construction - including closed timber frame - which is a first for the Consett based builder. Working in partnership with Kirkwood Timber Frame, based in Aberdeen, this method of construction enables each home’s structural frame to be erected on site within a day. In addition, benefits to the buyer include highly efficient insulation – in line with latest industry Building Regulations – resulting in cost savings on energy bills. A number of the homes will also have photovoltaic solar panels fitted.

Through the lifetime of the project there will be investment in training and employment, over 25 jobs will be safeguarded, and a new homes sales executive recruited. In addition, parks and recreation and local community initiatives, which will include allotments and open space developed at the south of the site, next to Wolsingham Street, will also be delivered. Among the new trees and shrubs will be butterfly bank features to encourage biodiversity in the area.
Tish Murtha House resident, Susan Storey, who grew up in Elswick and was childhood friends with Tish, said: “We had a great time and it was a delight to spend time with the schoolchildren. I really enjoyed taking pictures with them, sharing stories about growing up in this area, and hopefully it inspires them to take more pictures of their lives and surroundings. It was a wonderful event.”

The school children commented: “Looking at the photographs showed us that children had more fun outside than we do, but we would love it if we could play out on the street like this.   Taking the photographs with the polaroid camera was great, and the older people were quite funny how they acted (photobombing). We were nervous to start with but when we relaxed, looked at the photographs and used the camera, we got in the mood.   We can't wait to use the camera again - showing our local area and all the lovely things we have around us.”