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Reviving memories of Greatham Creek

A forgotten piece of the region’s little known history is to be brought to life by a Teesside University film-maker and academic.

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For around a century, Greatham Creek near Hartlepool was a popular destination for families and individuals from across the region who would to set up temporary homes in houseboats and cabins along the river where they fished for salmon during the summer months.

Warren Harrison, Principal Lecturer (Media Production) in Teesside University’s School of Arts & Media, is working on a film to recapture those days in a documentary film.

He is hoping to speak to people who have memories of spending time at Greatham Creek or were told stories about life there by relatives.

Warren said: 'People were living there for nearly 100 years, but knowledge about it is very generational. A small handful of people will know about the Creek, but it was a unique community which deserves to be understood as an important and little known part of Teesside’s history.'

He added: 'It was a popular place from as early as the 1900s right through to the 1980s. Most people didn’t live there permanently, they would spend their summer holidays there. Many of the houseboats and cabins remained there until the 1980s until they eventually started to fall into disrepair as they became no longer used.
“The documentary will be look at the community who lived there while also considering why they were there and how it came to an end.'

The area was documented visually during the 1970s and 1980s by photographer Ian McDonald, with photographs from that time featured in his book Images of the Tees.

'It was a place which was very much of its time, but there is very little documented to look at why people lived there and why did they eventually leave,' said Warren.

'People who lived there would fish for salmon, but it was not a commercial venture, they were simply catching fish. Most people only spent weekends or a few weeks there at a time.'

Dobbin Fletcher, who featured in Ian’s photographs and Bill Blackwell, now aged 82, are among former Greatham Creek residents Warren has been able to track down and interview for the documentary.

'Bill’s early memories are of going to Greatham Creek with his dad. He said when his dad wasn’t working, they would go there for the day to fish for salmon,' said Warren.

Warren, who has a background in television production and is part of the University’s Institute of Design, Culture and the Arts, hopes to have his film completed by the end of the year.

He is working with Heritage Lottery funded project River Tees Rediscovered Landscape Partnership, who are gathering written history about the area with the aim of sharing content. The documentary film will be shown publically and entered into film festivals.

Anyone who would like to share their stories about Greatham Creek can contact Warren at w.harrison@tees.ac.uk or 01642 342376.

22 April 2016

In the News

Can you shed light on creek?
Evening Gazette, 23/04/2016; Hartlepool Mail, 23/04/2016: Northern Echo online, 27/04/2016; Northern Echo. 27/04/2016
Warren Harrison, principal lecturer in media production at Teesside University, is working on a film about Greatham Creek.