North Shields Town Centre

As part of our work in North Tyneside we have been working with a range of partners across primary care, public health, the voluntary sector, the arts and creative sector, and design, to help turn unloved spaces into more vibrant, peaceful, enriching places to be – healthier happier places! The focus of this project was North Shields town centre, following on from the recent design and implementation of a new masterplan for the town.

This initiative is a collective between Sally Southern – Artist | Facebook, Nicola Lynch, Cedarwood Trust, North Tyneside Council, Changing Lives, HI NENC and the ICS.

This project and Healthy Happy Places was made possible through funding and support from the Integrated Care System Mental Health Programme and Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria.

It was fantastic to work with Nicola Lynch and Sally Southern, Community Artists and we are hugely grateful to the citizens of North Shields, as well as Changing Lives, Cedarwood Trust and The Beacon Shopping Centre where creative sessions were held.

As part of the first phase of the Healthy Happy Places approach, we worked in collaboration with North Tyneside Council public health, regeneration and planning teams to gather insights about the local area through conversations with different individuals and organisations.

In response to this, a creative brief was developed with the following theme:

‘Places of Sanctuary – how can our towns create and nurture positive mental health and wellbeing for all?

Sally and Nicola designed the work in 2 phases:

Phase 1: Dedicated workshop sessions with Changing Lives and Cedarwood Trust to gather ideas and information, and work with participants to create an installation based on their responses.

Phase 2: Creation of an installation that general members of the public could interact with and give feedback. This allowed ideas to be tested out and to gain a wider insight in an existing location in North Shields.


Phase 1

Enquiring and discovering what people thought about…..

the regeneration going on in North Shields, specifically The Beacon Centre

how the physical space affects our interaction and enjoyment of the centre, and how ‘safe’ it feels

what kinds of imagined indoor or outdoor spaces make us feel happy and welcome, and improve our mood and wellbeing

what the priorities are in a shared communal space in a town centre – what would be our ideal ‘sanctuary space’….if you had an imaginary sanctuary space, what would be in it?

Making Workshops: Based on discussions, the focus was on creating a calm, sanctuary space. The elements that were prioritised were creating a welcoming zone, filled with nature, texture and comfortable seats. Plants, twinkling lights, places to sit and rest and chat, cushions, mindful activities and bringing some warmth were priorities for older residents. Large paper star lanterns, macrame planters, wooden leaves (featuring words that were important to participants) and fish shapes were cut to transform a bare and boring old window. Young families priorities were spatial and activity based, e.g. somewhere safe to ‘let the kids out of the buggies and run around or sit about’. Colourful bunting was created to decorate a home specially for younger children where they could feel calm and welcome.

Print making was also used as a technique responding to some of the ideas that the group came up with to make spaces more welcoming. The focus was on identity and belonging, and what it means to be part of a community where you feel safe and welcome – to give the space colour and show it some love, by linking it to the Fish Quay and decorating the “horrendous grey walls of the old Barclays Bank”.

EVENT DAYS: Thursday 24th and Friday 25th February 2023

An installation was created at The Beacon Centre, North Shields, an indoor shopping centre. The intention was to create a ‘space within a space’ based on peoples feedback and thoughts from the workshops.

The aim of the installation was:

To create a welcoming, joyful sanctuary space based on participants feedback, that could cater to different needs, be used as a pilot for ideas, and gather further information and feedback on the day.

The artists considered harmony and proportion and a sense of scale, and how the environment we created would form a pathway through the open space of the shopping centre. This ‘wayfinding’ was key in the installation.

Different zones were created that could allow for choice and preference.

Both groups were invited to take part in a special workshop on both days, to make felt succulents as well as drop in interactive group activities.

Preliminary workshops – Number of people who engaged at Oaktrees and Cedarwood Trust = 62

Event Days – Number of people engaging actively in workshops = approx. 60 per day (120+ over 2 days)

Numbers interacting and viewing the space (talking/sitting/ taking photos) = 200+ over both days

 Feedback about the installation and the workshops:

‘I could just nip in there now and lie down!’

‘It’s beautiful’

‘He doesn’t usually settle anywhere for long, but this is very sensory and he seems very happy in here’ (an adult with learning disabilities and his carer in the dome)

‘It was so nice to go somewhere where you don’t think about things you need to do. Just enjoy!’

‘I like how it has different seating for children and older people’

‘It feels welcome and friendly’

“Thank you so much for your time, our clients have loved working with you and I hope we get the chance to work with you again.” (Andrea, NTRP/Oaktrees)

“The peers really enjoyed it and the outcome is fab! I hope we get the chance to work together again.” (Lori, NTRP/Oaktrees)

“It takes your mind off stuff. You forget you are in a shopping centre, you go into a zone.” (Participant from the Cedarwood Trust who visited the installation)


We hope you enjoy reading, watching and listening!

Special thanks to everyone who took part and is continuing to take part in this project.

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You might also be interested to check out our webinar series

Thanks for reading.