Memories of the rink

Video artist Neil Armstrong.
Video artist Neil Armstrong.

TO a lot of the older generation it was a place where romances were made and broken.

Yet to others it was the venue to see the bands of the day.

The Queens Rink, in Hartlepool, will always be a cultural icon in the town’s history and stir fond memories.

The former ballroom, which closed in 1968, is set to be immortalised in a video project being run in partnership with Hartlepool Borough Council to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Year.

Newcastle-based artist Neil Armstrong is shooting a video piece about the much-loved venue and wants to hear from anyone who has film or photographs of the Rink.

As well as creating a videographic piece, he will be staging a number of filmed dance pieces at locations around the Hartlepool area.

He will also be making a video installation which he plans to give national and international exposure.

Neil, 56, whose father Richard, 85, is originally from the town, but left when he was 17 and now lives in Horsforth, near Leeds, said: “I want to make a direct appeal to the people of Hartlepool for any film or photographic documentation relating in some way to the Rink ballroom.

“There seems to be very little in any archives I can find considering how popular it was and I feel sure there must be more material out there.

“It would be great if people could search their albums or loft spaces for any old film footage of the Rink.

“I notice from the Hartlepool Mail website that there is a fair amount of interest in the Rink and that many people met their future partners there.”

The former ballroom, which was built as a skating rink in 1910, was based in Clarence Road, next to Hartlepool United’s ground.

It was a favourite haunt for dancers after 1933 as skating was limited to the winter months.

But time was called on the venue in 1968 and it sadly had to be demolished in 1972 after a vandal attack left it in a dangerous condition.

The production side of Neil’s work has so far been funded by £10,000 from Arts Council England.

Neil, who describes his work as “video art”, says residents from sheltered accommodation who remember the Rink are also on board, as well as college students.

He added: “My dad comes from Hartlepool and he remembers the Rink well.

“It was the biggest social centre in Hartlepool for a lot of years.

“They had so many big bands on there, with the likes of The Kinks and The Shadows in the 1960s.”

Neil, who graduated with a fine art degree from Newcastle Polytechnic in 1977 and has shown work all over the world, including in the Tate Modern Art Gallery, will be travelling to Hartlepool over various weeks in the run-up to the finale of the Jubilee event, in June.

He will be talking to people about their experiences of the Rink.

He plans to use various sites including the PSS Wingfield Castle, the land where the Rink stood and the Borough Hall as venues to stage the dances, which will be filmed.

“I am using places that had synergie with the Rink, but want to bring it into the here and now,” he added.

Although the project comes to a finale over the Diamond Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend of Friday, June 1, to Tuesday, June 5, Neil would like to hear from people with photographic or video footage as soon as possible.

He can be contacted on (0191) 3759020 or by emailing neil@neilarmstrong.me