Growing up with Tyne Tees

By Lucy Purdon

Distorted Tyne Tees logo

The local ITV station was at the heart of growing up in 1980s Newcastle

The Eighties was a very colourful era for a child to grow up in many ways. Domestic technology wasn't taken for granted (I don't think we had a remote control in our house until 1989), everything was still a bit clunky and electric kitchen utensils were a source of fascination. Everything was bright, from trendy green bathroom suites to rainbow jumpers and neon lipstick. Televisions took a few seconds to ‘warm up' before crackling to life, clouds and sunshine were manually stuck on to weather maps and Rent a Ghost was considered the latest in CGI technology.

Like most children, TV was everything to me. Yes, I had my bike, I climbed trees and ran around, but nothing sparked the imagination more than a decent cartoon or episode of The A-Team. I was mesmerised and often found behind the TV set playing with the wires, trying to discover how Supergran got into the box, quite a dangerous pastime which thankfully passed without incident.

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Everyone who grows up in Newcastle is instilled with a sense of pride and the belief that the city is a little different from the rest of the country. Visitors are amazed by our disregard of cold weather, our ‘rivalry' with Sunderland and unfailing dedication to a pretty rubbish football team. Also, we're the only English the Scots don't hate. Tyne Tees Television made the city all the more special: our very own TV station with presenters you might see walking down the street, familiar accents and places you knew.

My first brush with fame came on my sixth birthday, when Bill Steel read out my card on The Birthday Slot in 1986. I was sure I would be recognised in the street, and that my life of anonymity was over. It was as if Bill had reached out of the set and personally patted me on the head. The fact my uncle worked for Tyne Tees may had something to do with it, but I felt incredibly proud and showed off for days.

The Tyne Tees building itself was on City Road, in what was then an isolated area of the city. There wasn't a lot going on down City Road in the early days. Located at the fag end of the Quayside and heading dangerously close to Byker, these were the days before the Baltic, the new bridge, the huge cash injection and the footballers on the pull in Pitcher and Piano. My uncle worked as an editor at Tyne Tees which originally had a large team of in-house editors: I think there are now two. When I was 16, I enlisted his help with a video project for school. The building was a total maze of corridors and staircases: getting lost there would mean being lost forever, a feeling I would relive while on work experience at the ITV Tower in London. We edited my project on analogue equipment which looked complicated, but I pretended I knew what everything did. The stuffy rooms had an air of a Vegas casino with no windows or clocks - I discovered these were normal media working conditions some years later.

Members of staff frequented The Egypt Cottage pub next door, which was also the setting for the legendary Tyne Tees production The Tube. It was while propping up the bar that Paula Yates first met, interviewed and fell in love with Michael Hutchence in the early 1980's. The last time I was there in the late 90s, I watched a dog wander into the middle of the bar and throw up on the carpet, which was of such a pattern you couldn't actually tell. It has since been given a makeover of generic wooden floors and uncomfortable seating.

I moved to London six years ago, saluting the Angel of the North as I left. It's never been the same sitting down to the local evening news: the Thames just doesn't do it for me in the same way as the Tyne. I began to miss Mike Neville like an old friend. Even though the BBC had local newsrooms, Tyne Tees seemed to be more a part of the community, producing many programmes of local and national interest.

Today, the news bulletins are the main output from the company and Tyne Tees itself has moved to premises outside the city. The presenters are gone and even the links are no longer regional. It seems such a shame that a city now so committed to the arts and media has lost one of its main outlets. Maybe Ant and Dec could put a good word in?

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1980s

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Article ©2006 Lucy Purdon

Compilation ©2006 Transdiffusion Broadcasting System

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