Innovative audio programme will make local South Shields history accessible and exciting for all children

AN INTRIGUING audio programme that seeks to make local history accessible and engaging to all children and their families is being launched by South Shields Museum and Art Gallery.

You can help by sending in any stories you have about smuggling activity in South Tyneside or about J. Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey.

The programme is called Sensory Sounds – Stories from Our Collections, which is aimed at children and their families with a particular focus on being accessible for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND).

Online storytelling sessions will teach children how to use every day props they can find at home to create sound effects, a creative process called Foley Art, to re-tell these stories in a new audio form.

Each session is planned to ensure all children can join in including those able to freely move and those with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

The museum is calling out for any local stories regarding Tyne Dock born John Kirkpatrick and his World War One heroics, rescuing ANZAC soldiers for the Australian army on the back of a donkey, as well as any stories about the historic smuggling activity in South Tyneside.

Print, ‘J. Simpson Kirkpatrick’, by artist Horace Millichamp Moore-Jones, 1915

Kirkpatrick’s bravery was commemorated in a statue that stands just across the street from South Shields Museum. This South Shields hero was a stretcher-bearer who was shot dead at 22-years-old after rescuing hundreds of soldiers over 23 days under gunfire on deployment for the Australian Army in Gallipoli.

Children and their families will be able to explore stories like Kirkpatrick’s along with histories of coal mining, Roman characters and local heroes.

Some of the local stories will be told by local artist and coal miner Robert Olley, as well as North East writer Bronwen Riley who will write a work of creative non-fiction about Regina and Barates, from the collection at Arbeia Roman Fort.

Leslie Palanker-Jermyn, assistant learning officer at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, said: “This is a much needed inclusive programme benefitting all children, especially SEND children who are unable to leave the home or go to school, due to Covid-19, and provides an opportunity for museum engagement, and learning in a sensory and fun way.”

Becki Morris from the Disability Collaborative Network said: “This is such great collaborative work for creating inclusive learning and engagement in these untested times.

“Sensory approaches benefit so many audiences particularly families, young people and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities to engage with fun, inclusive sensory storytelling in art and culture”.

The programme idea came out of discussions between museum staff, and leaders in the SEND community who said they would like more inclusive museum programming for children and young people with SEND, especially at a time when Covid-19 is disproportionately affecting disabled people.

The Sensory Sounds – Stories from Our Collections digital programme will be available to access for free via Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ (TWAM) new online platform Must-see Stories from summer 2021. Must-see Stories tells compelling stories inspired by TWAM’s collections and communities. 

If you have any historical stories regarding smuggling activity in South Tyneside or about J. Simpson Kirkpatrick and his donkey that you would be happy to share (and be recorded as audio) with the museum then please contact

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