Fifty shades of Gray

A covering of snow on the Sir William Gray statue in Church Square.
A covering of snow on the Sir William Gray statue in Church Square.

THE legacy of a famous Hartlepool shipbuilder is set to feature heavily during a major festival celebrating North East heritage and culture.

Sir William Gray will represent Hartlepool’s heritage during the Festival of the North East, a month-long celebration running throughout June next year.

Organisers say the festival will act as a fanfare to welcome the arrival of the Lindisfarne Gospels to Durham on July 1, which are on loan from the British Museum until the end of September.

The aim is to showcase the region’s “distinctive creativity and heritage” and it will bring together the arts, science, heritage and creative industries across Tees Valley, County Durham, Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.

While other areas in the Tees Valley are focusing on the industrial past including the heritage of bridges, Hartlepool will focus on the legacy of famous shipbuilder Sir William Gray.

John Mennear, the council’s assistant director of community services, said: “In Hartlepool it is appropriate to give focus to the legacy of Sir William Gray, in regard to the industrial achievements and the social legacy which are coinciding with major anniversaries.

“2013 will see two complementary anniversaries of Hartlepool’s shipbuilding heritage; the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Denton, Gray and Company in 1863, and the end of the company as William Gray and Company in 1963.”

Hartlepool’s contribution to the festival includes:

l Exhibition of Sir William Gray’s donations to the town in Hartlepool Art Gallery between March 26 and May 31;

l Events on PSS Wingfield Castle in June and a Heritage Open Day, in September, on board;

l In June, a launch of Fabulous Books Fabulous Places with book artist Theresa Easton.

Meanwhile, the youth services and cultural services are working together on a book art project for young people in town.

The aim is to explore the subject of ‘identity’ that young people growing up in town face.

Grays shipyard held a number of national records for ship production.

In 1878, they broke the British record for ship production by launching 18 ships in a year, and did it again five more times before 1900.

The yard built the PSS Wingfield Castle, which is now preserved at the Museum of Hartlepool as a “lasting legacy” of the town’s engineering skill.

Independent councillor Cath Hill, portfolio holder for children’s and community services, backed the project.

She said: “I endorse the project and I hope that it is successful and brings some good publicity to the area and also brings some money.”

The original concept came from Northumbrian piper and composer Kathryn Tickell, who has now been joined by others including Billingham-born musician Paul Smith, of Maximo Park.